Barbecue and Grilling Sauces

Types of Barbecue Sauce | Barbecue Sauce Application

Types of Barbecue Sauce

The ingredients used for barbecue sauces may vary greatly based on different regions of the United States where particular ingredients are more popular. The earliest known barbecue sauce was simply vinegar into which pieces of roasted pork were dipped. This originated in the late 18th Century in Virginia and North Carolina. Many varieties of barbecue sauce are still based on vinegar as an ingredient, but gradually other ingredients such as tomatoes, mustard, sugar, peppers, herbs, and spices have been added. The consistency of some sauces may still be quite thin, just like the original vinegar dipping sauce, but many varieties are very thick. Barbecue sauces may be sweet, sour, spicy, or any combination of these.

  • Sweet Ingredients: Sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, or maple syrup.
  • Sour Ingredients: Vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, wine, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Spicy Ingredients: Mustard, onions, chilies, garlic, black pepper, curry powder, and cumin.
North Carolina and Virginia A thin, vinegar sauce with sugar, black pepper, and crushed red pepper is popular.
South Carolina Sweet mustard and vinegar sauces are common.
Smoky Mountains Sauces are usually thin and are prepared with ingredients that including tomato, ketchup, sugar, and vinegar. They tend to be a bit sweeter with a little less vinegar than sauces that are popular along the coast of North Carolina and Virginia.
Georgia A thin tomato, vinegar, and mustard sauce is preferred.
Florida Lemon and lime juice are added to a sauce with a tomato base.
Northern Alabama A white barbecue sauce prepared with a mayonnaise base is popular in Northern Alabama.
Kentucky Worcestershire sauce and vinegar are the basis for a dark sauce popular in Kentucky.
Texas The influence of Mexico is apparent in barbecue sauces popular in Texas and the Southwest. They may be very hot and spicy with the addition of hot peppers in a sauce with a tomato base.
Midwest and Plains Barbecue sauce with a tomato base tends to be thicker and sweeter than in other regions and it may also be quite spicy.

Barbecue Sauce Application

  • Glaze: Barbecue sauce can be used as a glaze for barbecued or grilled meat by brushing it on the meat at the end of the cooking process.
  • Condiment: Barbecue sauce can be also be used as condiment or as a dipping sauce. Its purpose is to compliment food, but not to overpower the natural flavors of the food.
  • Proper application: When barbecuing or grilling ribs, the barbecue sauce is usually not added to the ribs until the end of the cooking process or after the ribs are removed from the heat source. This is because the sugars in many barbecue sauces tend to burn if the sauce is cooked with the meat, especially when grilling. Barbecue sauce can be spooned over hot food as soon as it is removed from the heat source or it can be served on the side.
  • Basting: A marinade or other liquid can be used to baste meat while it is cooking to keep it from drying out. Do not use the barbecue sauce for this purpose.
  • Cooking: The best tomato based barbecue sauces are slow cooked over low heat for several hours in order to provide the best flavor.

Note: The best barbecued meat does not require a barbecue sauce to improve its flavor. The smoked quality of the meat and the herbs and spices that are added to the meat before cooking provide ample flavor. Barbecue sauce can be used sparingly to further enhance the flavor.


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