At this point in the series we've talked about goals, motivations, cookers, butchers, meats, and rubs.
The time has come to discuss bbq sauces.
The popular styles of making BBQ include Memphis-style (using a tomato based sweet sauce), Kansas City-style (thick and sweet tomato based sauce), Texas-style (spicy tomato based sauce) and North Carolina-style (vinegar with either pepper or catsup).
Of course there are many variations of all of the above.
I like mustard-type sauces that appear to be popular in South Carolina, but I've noticed they are not prevalent in many other areas.
For contests, it's been my experience that a sweet sauce will consistently outperform a sauce that has a little kick to it. Also, in cooking for friends, family, co-workers and clients, I've noticed that the closer to mainstream you stay with your bbq, the better it's received.
If the sauce is too spicy, you risk alienating folks that prefer sweet sauces; if it's too sweet, you risk alienating those that prefer spicy and on and on. A sweet sauce that is a little tangy versus very spicy (i.e. hot) seems to be a pretty good choice.
One option is to take your favorite sauce and tweak it a little bit by adding some brown sugar, honey, molasses, vinegar, or a combination of the above.
For starters you might want to experiment with K.C. Masterpiece or Kraft and add honey in various amounts until you reach a flavor and consistency that you like. You can do some "informal" taste tests with friends to help you gauge the appeal of your particular ratios of sweet versus hot versus tangy.
Or, you can choose from a variety of sauces sold by any number of bbq competitors and use them straight from the bottle if that fits the bill.
I've included a basic sauce recipe you can experiment with.
Basic BBQ Sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 1/2 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Here's some more information about bbq sauces found on the South Carolina Barbeque Association web site: South Carolina BBQ History
It's a pro-mustard bbq sauce article, but it will give you an idea about how passionate folks can be about their bbq sauce.
Click here to read the previous article in the series