Summer’s that time of the year when you get to celebrate and have some fun times with your family and friends in the outdoors. The best way to enjoy the sunny weather is by engaging in outdoor activities with friends and family, especially if you have kids. This is the prime time to pull out those BBQ grills and have a great picnic or camping adventure. Or, maybe it’s simply just a BBQ cookout at home in the backyard. And if you’re gonna BBQ, do it right, with nothing but the best BBQ sauce.
A BBQ cookout is a great way to bond with family and friends and enjoy a deliciously cooked meal at the same time. An item that can make or break your BBQ game is the sauce. Many people discount or don’t give full credits to the sauce, but eventually, it is the sauce that distinguishes your lamb chops or beef steaks and gives them a unique flavor profile.
Now if you know anything about BBQ, you would know that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to whip up a decent BBQ sauce. But most of us don’t have the time, energy or simply the will needed for creating a sauce from scratch.
What Makes a Good Barbeque Sauce
There are mainly two broad categories of sauces out there, namely the spicy vinegar type and the sweet, thicker Kansas City-style sauces. There a few essential components that should be present in any decent BBQ sauce. These are:
- The texture can be thin and runny to even molasses-style thick. No particular texture makes or breaks the sauce. However, you must get a level of consistency in the texture as inconsistencies indicate poor craftsmanship.
- Vinegar-based sauces should have that acidity level along with a peppery kick contained within the sauce and to round it off should be mellowed down with a tomato paste. Kansas City-style sauces should be sweeter and thicker but with just the right amount of heat. The spice shouldn’t overpower the sweet element.
- The smell is the element that really beckons the stomach to dig right in. It is so crucial that it can make or break the whole BBQ. You can have an amazing cook on your barbequed food but if the smell is off, it just leaves a bad memory no matter the taste.
Popular Styles of Sauce
Let us take a close look at the different styles and flavors of sauces available.
We mentioned these tomato and vinegar-based sauces earlier.They are also referred to as mop-style or mop sauce. They are generally thinner than Kansas City-style sauces but not as light as Carolinian sauce. They should be applied in lower amounts as they contain a kick of garlic, Worchester sauce, and heat from black pepper.
This is the commonly available sauce in most supermarkets and grocery stores. It is a mix of tomato paste (often ketchup), sweetness, and a slight tang. The reddish-brown sauce you see your ribs drowning in is this one.
Though an earlier version of the Kansas City-style sauce, this sauce is now native to the state of North Carolina and contains more tomato and spice than the Kansas City version.
East North Carolina
This sauce is a vinegar-based one with pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. One of the thinnest sauces out there, it derives its flavor profile mainly from the vinegar, pepper flakes, and other spices such as cayenne.
How to Choose the Best Sauce?
Now that we have covered the basics, it is time to delve deeper in how to make the best selection for your BBQ sauce from hundreds of choices.
The success of your BBQ depends on the sauce as it can elevate your dish to whole new levels of a pit master. The success of the meat lies in the balancing of the profile flavors, letting no particular ingredient overpower; otherwise, too much hot sauce can ruin the whole meat. It is imperative to choose the right sauce and put it in the right amount.
When deciding to choose the barbeque sauce, you can either opt to make one or buy but some people prefer doing both to get the right flavor. They get several sauces off the shelf and mix them to get the flavoring they prefer.
If you aren’t sure how to go about the selection process here are some tips to help you.
- Choose a BBQ sauce that is a known brand if you don’t want to experiment with something new.
- Knowing your preferences is important. You can read the sauce styled mentioned above to see what kind of taste you did like to go with your
- Read the labels on the bottle carefully as the ingredients listed will give you a good idea of how the sauce tastes like.
- There are specific sauces out there for specific types of foods so be sure to read the intended purpose of the sauce. For example,a sauce meant for seafood like cod might not go with beef.
- Be sure to check for allergens as some sauces might contain peanuts or gluten.
Our 10 Favorite BBQ Sauces: Try ’em All!
The only flaw associated with Daddy Sam’s BBQ Sawce is the intentional spelling error on the label but even that gives you a sense of closeness with the sauce. This sauce has been around for some time and has made quite a name for itself. Ready to be used on just about anything, any BBQ fan would appreciate the flavor that’s packed within the sauce. It is a great starting point for beginners and a safe bet when rolling out BBQ for larger crowds. The sauce is versatile and works with just about everything from veggies to meat and even seafood.
A Kansas City classic, Sweet Baby Rays is probably the most widely consumed and known sauce on this list. This sauce has been around for decades and has a sweet, cinnamon tasting and tangy brown look to it. It is a little thicker relative to similar BBQ sauces on the market but it gets the job done. It is a strong sauce but sometimes that is exactly what is required; using Sweet Baby Rays sauce at the last second on an under-seasoned BBQ item brings the dish back to life.
Enthusiasts looking for a kick in their steaks, ribs, and chops should look no further than Pappy’s Hottest Ride. It is a mix of hot sauce and BBQ sauce for meat lovers looking to kill two birds with one stone. The sauce is indeed quite spicy and the makers have warned about this in their promotional content as well. This sauce is meant for true connoisseurs of the spice.
This is one of the few sauces that retains the flavor expected from a high-quality sauce served at a well-known restaurant like Sonny’s Real. Sonny’s restaurant is well known among BBQ enthusiasts and this sauce of theirs contains a bit of sweet, a bit of tanginess, and a little more kick than Kansas City-style sauces. It is the perfect sauce for wanna-be pitmasters as it elevates the BBQ game to another level.
Not only does Blue Hog carry the best bottle label on the list, but it really is a game changer taste-wise, especially for ribs. Blue Hog will work on any kind of meat as promised by their makers, such as hot wings, steaks, and chops but the sauce does wonder for ribs. It has an addictive, delicate stickiness to it that even making licking off your fingers enjoyable even after the meat is long gone.
Bone Suckin’ Sauce might have a pretty aggressive name but the versatile sauce has a milder flavor profile than most other sauces out there. It goes well with any food item you might consider to BBQ such as salmon or steak. It even goes well with veggies. (But why would you want to make enemies by barbequing greens?)
Firstly you should understand that the flavoring of this sauce is unique and not everyone’s cup of tea. But being different has worked well for this sauce. This sauce stands out with its distinct combination of flavors by blending the sweetness from peach with the spiciness of habanero pepper. Although there are many sauces out there that offer a combination of sweet and spicy, this one just has the perfect balance between the two opposite flavors.
With quite a long history behind this sauce, Stubb’s sauce is one of the more premium vinegar-based sauces available on the market today. The sauce has visible strands of garlic and pepper which are a contributing factor to the slight kick. It also features a blend of tomato and vinegar but not the sweetness that is characteristic of ketchup-based sauces. Instead, this sauce gives you more of a deeper tomato paste, one that leaves a smoky, spicy after-taste.
One of the most used sauces at cookouts and barbeques, Bulls-Eye is a household name when it comes to Kansas City-based sauces. It carries a little acidity, some heat, the familiar smokiness of a BBQ sauce, and major sweetness. The sweetness can be overpowering for some palates though. Some may find its taste to be very generic but even they would say that it’s not bad. Available in 9 varieties, this sauce can be found at almost all grocery stores.
One of the most underrated sauces in BBQ is perhaps the white sauce. This sauce is a North Alabama classic and is a white meat specialty (chicken and pork). It is not meant for steaks or burger and why would it? It is a creamy sauce not a tangy brown one, folks! Lillie’s Q Ivory BBQ sauce is an acquired taste but once you know how to use it and how much it can really elevate your white protein game at your next cookout, you won’t have a barbeque without it.
Our Final Thoughts
There are hundreds of BBQ sauces out there, each with their unique flavors. Some preferred because of their features such as no preservatives, others are preferred due to allergy concerns (gluten and peanuts) but the flavor is the top priority when most people are seeking the best BBQ sauce.
The list above honors the top sauce from each flavor category such as Kansas City, hot and even a white sauce. You should keep in mind that your taste preference might be different from that of your friends or family and if you are buying a sauce for a cookout or gathering then it would be best to ask them to help in deciding the sauce.
You can also opt to create the best of both worlds by combining BBQ sauces. For example, if there is a particularly spicy BBQ sauce you enjoy but your guests can’t bear that much heat, you can try making things mild by mixing the sauce in tomato ketchup or even fresh tomato paste. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Be creative and be bold with your flavors.