By Mike Thayer
What is the most popular thing to add to meats cooked outdoors?
The person who invented BBQ sauce is unknown, but whoever he was, he was a genius! References to the sauce started appearing in 17th century English and French literature about the formation of the American colonies. The rest is history and boy has BBQ sauce been kicked up a notch with all kinds of flavors and varieties created over the last 400+ years!
A traditional flavoring for pork, beef and chicken, sauce can range from watery to thick, from being heavy on the vinegar to being loaded with spice. Ranging in flavor from sugary to savory, to HOT!, heck, there’s even mustard and mayonnaise based BBQ sauces. It’s a regional thing, there’s Carolina BBQ; Tennessee whiskey BBQ; Texas BBQ; and the favorite of many, Kansas City Style BBQ.
Kansas City BBQ Style: This is a thick, rich tomato based sauce that’s got some spice but is heavier on the sweet. Tomato, brown sugar and vinegar are the base ingredients. It really doesn’t penetrate the meat and is more like a frosting than a marinade. It glazes real nice though when put on the meat about 10 minutes before pulling off the grill, a beautiful finish. This is the most popular style of BBQ sauce in the U.S. and what you see the most of in the bottled varieties on the grocery store shelf. Be careful with the store bought stuff though! The high sugar content of the ‘ready’ varieties tend to burn real quick so keep an eye on your dinner.
Texas BBQ Style: This has more kick than Kansas City style. It has less tomato, less sugar and a lot more spice such as cumin, black pepper, chili pepper and even chili powder. Meat drippings and hot sauce - Tabasco - are always part of this style and fresh veggies like green bell pepper and onion are often added.
East Carolina Mop: This simple but tasty sauce was pioneered by the African slaves of Scottish settlers in the region. It’s a straight forward combination of hot pepper flakes, ground black pepper and vinegar. The reason it’s called a mop is because this thin concoction is literally mopped - basted - on the meat throughout the cooking process, the flavor really penetrates! With little if any sugar and no tomato in this style, East Carolina Mop is a sharp contrast to other sauces.
Western Carolina Dip: From the hilly areas of North Carolina, most American sauces can trace their roots to this one. The recipe usually consists of a base of black pepper blended with tomato paste or tomato sauce, or ketchup, with vinegar added to balance it out. Like the East Carolina Mop, this is a thin sauce that is mopped on the meat throughout the cooking process.
South Carolina Mustard Style: This is a whole new BBQ sauce experience. Early German settlers developed this one and while good on chicken, it’s tailor made for pork. A little thicker than its Carolina cousin sauces, a simple recipe consists of mustard, vinegar, spices and a little sugar. It’s fantastic on a pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw!
Tennessee Whiskey Style: Made famous by the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Barbecue Invitational, this method of flavoring meats is also referred to as ‘Memphis Style’ has become so popular it now deserves its own category. This combination of vinegar, whiskey, molasses, spices, and Worcestershire sauce gives BBQ a whole new flavor profile.
There are all kinds of variations and morphing of styles out there, there are probably all kinds of choices available at your favorite grocery store.
In the coming weeks, I'm going to be sampling it all, making comparisons and letting you know what I think the cream of the crop is. Will it be KC Masterpiece? Sweet Baby Ray's? Stubbs? Something else?
Stay tuned..... First up to be sampled, two of the most popular out there, Sweet Baby Ray's vs. KC Masterpiece.
$pend Wisely My Friends.....