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Thread: BBQ sauce theory

  1. #1

    BBQ sauce theory


    I have made and eaten quite a few BBQ sauces in my short life and I have had a job for a few years now where I am constantly given open ended challenges and no clear instructions. As a result, I have found that there is a sort of simple concept behind barbeque sauce--ALL of them. It is the key to cutting through everyone's nonsense grandpappy recipe or regional secret ingredient hokum.

    All BBQ sauce, as the american south knows it, is a tomato sauce balancing 4 tastes:
    Sweet
    Pungent
    Tart
    Smokey

    Depending on where you go, the balance is shifted one way or another--Kansas city, sweet and tart, Texas, pungent and smokey, Carolinas, smokey and sweet. You have to have all four, and if you balance the four right down the middle, you end up with a least-common-denominator sauce that will be passable to everyone and beloved by none.

    It also is totally personal preference. There is a guy here in Fort Worth who locals treat like some kind of food genius because he sells a bbq sauce that is Carolina style, and these Texans feel it is just so crazy and new and different!

    Then there's other things like how thin it is, whether you start with ketchup or not, if there's floaters in it like onions or peppers, or if you should put fruit in it like pineapple, or how you get the smoke flavor. But I've found this to be universal in the structure of bbq, and people could save a lot of time trying to describe and understand and relate different sauces by just remembering to focus on those four--and now get distracted by the bourbon or the paprika or the temperature.



    As for me, I go for pungent and smokey, because my favorite bbq is beef ribs. I like to start with a mild mannered ketchup--nothing too sweet or tangy(that means no HFCS)--or tomato paste and water, thin it down a bit(with water, sometimes a little whiskey, sometimes meat drippings if available), and then add a little apple cider vinegar for my tartness, but I only like a very small amount, just to brighten it up. Then my sweetness is all from molasses. I add the smokey from smoked paprika and liquid mesquite smoke. My pungency is cayenne, cheap pepper, and raw garlic. I also like worchestershire sauce in it.

    I'll do it different for different foods, a little more of that caramelized sweet for brisket, thinner and sweet/smokey for pulled pork, etc. Makes life a lot easier to have the concept in your mind when trying a new place, having to improvise or(as I often find myself doing) fixing other people's sauces.

  2. #2
    I should add that the basis for BBQ sauce may well be the Canary Islander-by-way-of-Cuba Mojo Sauce. Which, exhibits the same balancing act, minus the smoke flavor. But we all know that everything is better with smoke!

  3. #3
    Engorged Member
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    no tomato in Carolina sauce...

  4. #4
    Yeah, although tomatoes are very very common, they aren't part of the four keys! There's no tomato in mojo either.

  5. #5
    Still Plays With Blocks
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Pescador View Post
    no tomato in Carolina sauce...
    I will respectfully disagree, there is indeed tomato in Carolina BBQ sauce in one form or another; ketchup, tomato sauce, tomato puree. Lexington style is tomato based where the eastern NC style is vinegar based. Since I live within 15 miles of Lexington, I believe I know a few things about Lexington tomato based sauce and have eaten my fair share.

  6. #6
    Could you venture your favorite recipes on a few variations?

    Thanks!

  7. #7
    Engorged Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by The BoardSMITH View Post
    I will respectfully disagree, there is indeed tomato in Carolina BBQ sauce in one form or another; ketchup, tomato sauce, tomato puree. Lexington style is tomato based where the eastern NC style is vinegar based. Since I live within 15 miles of Lexington, I believe I know a few things about Lexington tomato based sauce and have eaten my fair share.
    I stand corrected. While vinegar based there is a touch of tomato product for flavoring. Having gone to school on the eastern side of the state I was taught that it was a sacrilege to use tomato products in your sauce.

  8. #8
    If we're talking about non-traditional BBQ sauce additives, my favorite thing to add to BBQ sauce is finely ground coffee (only coffee you would drink, and put it in immediately after grinding, use a burr grinder).

    The result is a great earthiness to the BBQ sauce, and a fair bit of depth, without being over powering.

    The coffee, being a dry powder, will help thicken the sauce, and it will not extract much. I think it's a great ingredient that you should try if you have a burr grinder at home.

    Don't use a blade grinder though, you will not have even and consistent particle size, and the result will be some acridity and grit in the sauce instead of a mellow earthy flavor.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Seth's Avatar
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    Could be a coincidence that I am sitting on the sofa with my main squeeze eating trader joe pork with her sauce? She is borned, bred, and raised in Eastern NC and she is screaming "vinegar, vinegar, vinegar...not sweet either." Dave, thanks for pointing this out. I think I'll go hed and buy me one of them there boards again right there.

    King's BBQ http://www.kingsbbq.com/ordereze/1000/Page.aspx

    Get some hush puppies too
    Everywhere you go, there you are.

  10. #10
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    Oh man King's BBQ we used to stop there a couple times a month on the way to visit my Family, good times. They also had a pig you could ride for free, like one of those horses at the grocery stores.

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