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.
What is your favorite, do you like sweet, tangy, KC style, Carolina style? Have you tried enough variety to know?
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?
Test Subject: My famous "Idaho Burger" served on a toasted onion roll
KC Masterpiece: Created in 1977 and originally called K.C. Soul Style Barbecue Sauce, it was renamed KC Masterpiece in 1978 and really took off in sales, becoming a go-to sauce for a lot of folks. This is a Kansas City BBQ style sauce which is perhaps the most popular off-the-shelf style found in most grocery stores. That this particular sauce has been around so long, in addition to some saavy marketing, is what has aided in its popularity. In full disclosure it was the sauce of choice in my house growing up as a kid. When I ventured out on my own, in the military and into BBQ on the weekends with my buddies, KC Masterpiece was the base for a sauce we used on a plethora of meats, doctored with some bourbon, onion, Louisiana Hot Sauce and a few other ingredients. But I digress....
How is KC Masterpiece? Here's the description from the bottle: KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce is kettle cooked to produce rich layers of sweet, smoky flavor. This award-winning sauce has the perfect blend of tomato, onion, molasses and spices to please your whole family. KC Masterpiece is now owned by the Kingsford charcoal division of The HV Food Products Company, formally known known as Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products, Inc.
This sauce is almost the literal definition for a KC BBQ style sauce, it's thick, big on the tomato and heavy on molasses, so heavy in fact, the sweet from the molasses is a bit overpowering. That's probably why I liked it so much as a kid, because of the sweetness of it. As is typical of KC BBQ style sauces, it really doesn’t penetrate the meat and is more like a frosting than a marinade or something you would want to mop that beautiful cut of meat with. It glazes real nice though when put on the meat about 10 minutes before pulling off the grill. But when it comes down to it, this sauce by itself is too sweet, it needs to be doctored before putting it on anything. Tastes change going from childhood to adulthood and when it's all said and done, KC Masterpiece is what I would politely call an introductory BBQ sauce. I give KC Masterpiece just 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars. It's too sweet, not enough spice or vinegar twang.
Sweet Baby Ray's: There's no ingredient teaser description on the bottle, just a blurb about the sauce beating out 700 other competitors in a riboff leading to the creation of the company. Enough said, the sauce lives up to the award hype. Around since 1985, Sweet Baby Ray's is a very good all-around sauce, balanced in sweet, spice and twang. No doctoring of the sauce is required. When I cut my Idaho Burger in half and topped each half with sauce, one half with the KC Masterpiece, the other with Sweet Baby Ray's.... Guess which burger half I finished and which half went in the fridge for later? Yep, the Sweet Baby Ray's half was the half I enjoyed far more. I took a bite of the KC Masterpiece half first, then took a bite of the Sweet Baby Ray's half and couldn't put it down. Sweet Baby Ray's gets 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars. It's an off-the-shelf sauce that deserves a place in your pantry or fridge.
Both brands cost under $3 per bottle, but the KC Masterpiece weighed in at 28 ounces and the Sweet Baby Ray's was 40 ounces. So not only does Sweet Baby Ray's taste much better, you get more sauce for the buck! And it's all about the sauce in this challenge!
Stay tuned for more sauce tastings!
$pend Wisely My Friends.....