A Wonderful Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe
Barbecuing is all about building layers upon layers of flavors. From the way you cook things, to the fuel type that you are using, and from injections to rubs, there are countless ways that this can be done. The more you experiment, the more you understand, and from there, your BBQ becomes a canvas for you to create recipes on.
There are typically 2 elements that you can use to easily create layers of flavors when you are cooking: rubs and sauces. (Also, let’s not forget that you can sear food as it cooks to elevate its flavor factor.)
Of all of the possible ways to add flavors, sauces are one of the most efficient as they can add both flavors and texture to your food. The intricate thing with BBQ sauces is that they are somewhat of a blanket statement. I’m sure you’ve experienced it first-hand, but if you haven’t, just give it a try: buy 3 different BBQ sauces and test them back to back. Chances are, they won’t taste anything alike at all. Indeed, BBQ sauces can vary a lot in taste for multiple reasons:
- What are they intended to be used with?
- What region do they come from?
- What’s the quality of their ingredients?
All in all, a good BBQ sauce should be somewhat versatile, even though there is no such thing as a “one sauce fits all” recipe.
In order to create your own BBQ sauces, you must first test different styles to pinpoint what it is that you like and intend to replicate. Understanding sauces will allow you to get multiple variations of meals out of the same meat cut. This is great as it keeps you from feeling like you’re just doing the same things over and over again.
As a pitmaster, there are some key regional styles you should get to know and master to widen your range of options when you’re cooking. For example, most of the time, you can associate a BBQ sauce with specific BBQ cultures, such as Alabama, Texas, Memphis, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Hence, to help you identify what base ingredients would fit your own personal preferences better, let’s break down the main differentiators:
Kansas City is notorious for its BBQ sauce and is one of the most influential regions in America when it comes to BBQ competitions and flavor styles. Most of the restaurant BBQ sauces you have tasted to this day are developed in this style as it’s very versatile. Kansas City BBQ sauces have a sweet and tangy flavor, created mostly with tomato and some kind of sweetener such as brown sugar or molasse as its core ingredients. These kinds of sauces work well with pork and chicken as they’re usually pretty thick, but you have to be mindful that they tend to burn over high heat as they contain lots of sugar. They are a great fit for you if you like low and slow cooking sessions and/or if you are looking for a finishing lacquer.
North Carolina sauces have a dominant apple cider vinegar flavor profile, which fits well with sandwiches. Their texture is a lot more liquid than most sauces. Also, contrary to the Kansas City-style sauces, these are fairly low on sugar, which makes them work better as dipping sauces than lacquers. That said, their strong profile balances well with fatty meats and goes well with rotisserie chicken.
St. Louis-style sauces are similar to Kansas City-style sauces with the exception that they are thinned down with the addition of vinegar. It gives them a bolder sweet and tangy flavor profile, which is also often fine-tuned with some extra spices. Having a lower sugar ratio than the Kansas City-style sauces, you’re no longer at risk of burning the sauce over high heat if you are using this kind of sauce, as it helps build texture on your baby back ribs during the last few minutes of their cooking process.
If you only care about beef, then look no further. Texas-style sauces are going to be your favorite kind of sauces. They are often created by incorporating filtered meat drippings from previous cooking sessions as their base, with the addition of hot sauce, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. A good Texas sauce should be smoky and fairly thin, which is perfect for brisket mopping.
Oklahoma-style sauces are a safe bet for most people as they sit right down in the middle of Kansas-style and Texas-style sauces. The flavor profile of the Oklahoma-style sauces is bold and puts both ketchup and Worcestershire sauce at the front of the palate. It combines the smokiness of Texas-style sauce with the sweet and tangy dimension of northern regions sauces. It will usually catch you off guard the first time you try this kind of sauce with beef as it’s different from what most are accustomed to, but it puts a nice spin on a classic.
As you can see, there’s a lot of different options when it comes to BBQ sauces. Understanding these styles will help you get more clarity next time you shop for sauces or feel like creating your own.
With all of that said, I firmly believe in the fact that everyone should have at least one go-to homemade sauce recipe. By creating your own sauce, you will become more consistent and independent while creating your favorite meals. To inspire you and help you get started, here’s how to make my personal BBQ sauce recipe (that I designed for ribs and pulled pork), which sits between the Kansas City and North Carolina styles:
- 4 cups of brown sugar
- 1 ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 1 tbsp ground mustard
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 ½ tsp freshly ground mixed pepper
- 1 ½ tsp teaspoon chipotle (or chili) powder
- 1 tbsp celery seed
- 4 cups ketchup
- ½ cup corn syrup
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup molasses
- 2 tbsp House of BBQ Experts’ Sweet Kansas spice mix and rub.
- In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, make a gastrique by bringing the brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce to a simmer.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the thyme, mustard, garlic powder, cumin, pepper, celery seeds, and chili powder. Let sit for 15 minutes.
- Add the ketchup, syrup, molasse, and honey.
- Return the saucepan to the heat and let its content simmer for 40 minutes over low heat.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the Sweet Kansas spice mix and rub. Whisk and let everything cool down overnight.
There you have it folks. Creating your own sauce takes very little time and effort, and will last you a long time. It also fills up your house with mouth-watering aromas for days, which is a nice “side effect” that’s worthy of mention.
Have a great BBQ!