The Secrets of Barbecue Sauce
May 01, 2012
For me, the highlight of this coming weekend will be the Truman Heritage Festival BBQ Championship on May 4 - 5, a collaboration between the City of Grandview and MCPL. Barbecue competitors are fiercely protective of their techniques and recipes. For instance, one might get to read the NSA secret files on Area 51 before a barbecue competitor might divulge the exact composition of their spice rub. Similarly, the exact makeup of barbecue sauce varies greatly between and within geographic regions.
There are four basic types of American barbecue sauce based in the four major centers of barbecue culture in the United States. Most include vinegar, sugar, and a spice mix. Our Kansas City style barbecue sauce (the most popular) is tomato-based and usually quite sweet. The Memphis style is similar to the KC style, with the addition of molasses as a sweetener. The South Carolina style is unique in being mustard-based, while Texas style is much less sweet and usually contains Mexican spices such as cumin and chili powders. Which is best? I prefer KC style, but I also enjoy the Carolina style, especially on pulled pork.
In order to distinguish themselves from the pack, many barbecue competitors create their own unique sauces. An incomplete list of "secret" ingredients includes: apple juice, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, teriyaki sauce, garlic, black pepper, honey, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, ancho powder, and more. I am currently developing a sauce based on entirely East Asian components. I will not, however, tell you what they are.