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Eamon Burke

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:bbq:
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.
:addsalt:
 

Eamon Burke

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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!
:bbqsmoker:
 

Eamon Burke

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

DWSmith

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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.
 

Customfan

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Could you venture your favorite recipes on a few variations?

Thanks!
 

El Pescador

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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.
 

PhaetonFalling

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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.
 

Seth

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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
 

rahimlee54

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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.
 

Lucretia

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No tomatoes in a lot of vinegar sauces.

None in white bbq sauce, either.
 

ecchef

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Gotta go along with that Eastern NC school. Most memorable 'Q' I ever had was in Spivey's Corner about 25 years ago.
 

Eamon Burke

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The main thing I was getting at was that if you are making a BBQ sauce, and calling it a BBQ sauce, and it's sweet and tart and nothing else, you failed miserably.

I've eaten more than one "BBQ Sauce" that is pungent and sweet, and got nothing else going for it(hello, gourmet food store "habenero pineapple red wine jalapeno peach sauce"). I've also had many a coworker make a sauce and say "this needs something...fix it" and it's got no tartness at all, and they've heaped on the heat and the trick flavorings, and forgot to add any kind of acid other than what few tomatoes remain in it.

Whether you have tomatoes or not, and even if the smoke comes from the meat it gets put on(though why deprive the sauce of some smokey love?), it's gotta have the fantastic four! Or else you are serving smoked meat and a spicy syrup, hot vinegar, or a fancy ass ketchup.
 

Doug Seward

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One of the characteristics I like in a good sauce is the time dimension. I like a sauce that starts out with a sharp vinegar tang(cider/wine/balsamic), which then fades into sweet(brown sugar/Honey/molasses) while developing its complexity(worcestershire/garlic/candied ginger/black pepper) finishing with a lingering heat (various chiles/hot sauce/chili oil). Bourbon rounds it out. I usually include some of the rub I use on the meat to tie it together.
 
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SpikeC

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I think that sauce is a crutch for inadequate meat.
 

Namaxy

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I don't mind sauce on pulled pork, and my preference is similar to yours, but I really don't like sauce on ribs. I prefer a dry rub and a mop during the smoking, but no sauce at the end.....just a personal preference.
 

ajhuff

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There are three Carolina sauces, east , west and mustard based.

-AJ
 

Chef Niloc

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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.
I thought Carolina's were known for there mustard Q ??
 

knyfeknerd

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I thought Carolina's were known for there mustard Q ??
That would be South "by God" Carolina mustard BBQ sauce, and it's really not that good. Any respectable Que spread in NC is going to offer the Western(sweet tomato based) as well as the Eastern(aka Lexington) Vinegar sauce as a condiment.
You apply the sauce. If the Que is really good, it probably doesn't need either one.......
 

El Pescador

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The main thing I was getting at was that if you are making a BBQ sauce, and calling it a BBQ sauce, and it's sweet and tart and nothing else, you failed miserably.

I've eaten more than one "BBQ Sauce" that is pungent and sweet, and got nothing else going for it(hello, gourmet food store "habenero pineapple red wine jalapeno peach sauce"). I've also had many a coworker make a sauce and say "this needs something...fix it" and it's got no tartness at all, and they've heaped on the heat and the trick flavorings, and forgot to add any kind of acid other than what few tomatoes remain in it.

Whether you have tomatoes or not, and even if the smoke comes from the meat it gets put on(though why deprive the sauce of some smokey love?), it's gotta have the fantastic four! Or else you are serving smoked meat and a spicy syrup, hot vinegar, or a fancy ass ketchup.
I still don't know about this...some of my favorite BBQ is W Texas BBQ...and there's no tomatoes it in either Eamon. Come to think of it the only sauce on my white bread is the fatty au jus from the brisket. But if you think there needs to be tomatoes in your BBQ sauce more power to you...to each his own I say!
 

DWSmith

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King's BBQ. I remember it well from trips to Goldsboro to visit relatives. While in Goldsboro I remember Winburs, terrific pork BBQ. That was one of the favorite places my uncle would take us to.

There are three types of BBQ sauces in the Carolinas - Lexington style, tomato based with a lot of smoke flavor from the slow cooking; eastern with the heavy vinegar based sauce and smoke flavor from their slow cooking and mustard based primarily from SC. Personally, I can't stand the mustard based sauce because it takes away from the smoky flavor of the pork. I like the Lexington style so much I will go to Lexington, about 25 miles away, once or twice a month to get a chopped sandwich.

There is a new restaurant in High Point called BBQ Joe's and their sauce is on par with Lexington.

A good sauce will enhance the smoky slow cooked pork flavors but, IMHO, is not 100% necessary.
 

RobinW

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My wife hates all smokey flavours and i love a good bbq sauce.... As always i loose out.

Now i'll just go and cry in the corner. 3 years in the US and we're now going back to Sweden. And i have not been able to explore all the variants of bbq sauce:(
 

Duckfat

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...some of my favorite BBQ is W Texas BBQ...
From what I've seen in Texas BBQ sauce can be heresy in some areas. If you ask for sauce they just look at ya funny. Austin might be slightly .....different.
Deer season is just not the same with out a stop at Coopers in Llano even if there is better Q in the state.
All I wanna taste is meat and smoke.


Dave
 

Eamon Burke

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I still don't know about this...some of my favorite BBQ is W Texas BBQ...and there's no tomatoes it in either Eamon. Come to think of it the only sauce on my white bread is the fatty au jus from the brisket. But if you think there needs to be tomatoes in your BBQ sauce more power to you...to each his own I say!
I was trying to shut down the tomato thing. I wasn't talking about tomatoes!!

That's the point, arguing over mustard, tomatoes, coffee, thickness, etc is all distracting from the core of what makes a BBQ sauce what it is.

As far as having tomatoes, that's really not up for debate--the VAST majority of que sauce has tomatoes in it. Google "BBQ sauce" and see what color the page is. BUT the roots of que sauce are not in tomatoes--it's in a flavor balance. The precursor to modern que sauce is Mojo which is made from sour oranges, garlic, oil, and spices. Not everyone had tomatoes, but everyone cooks meat.

I will, however, be as bold as to say that if you make a sauce that is spicy vinegar with no sweetness to it, it isn't barbeque sauce.
BBQ sauce is:
tart
pungent
smokey
sweet
And can be made from anything.

I only mentioned tomatoes because it's in massive majority, and I concede I should have said "most" not "all", but my kids were crying and I was rushed. Sorry for the textual crit failure! :lol2:
 

Eamon Burke

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From what I've seen in Texas BBQ sauce can be heresy in some areas. If you ask for sauce they just look at ya funny. Austin might be slightly .....different.
Deer season is just not the same with out a stop at Coopers in Llano even if there is better Q in the state.
All I wanna taste is meat and smoke.


Dave

That's up to the cook. Some cooks don't like to see salt shakers on the table, or butter dishes. IME it's not regional(unless it's a thing in the panhandle, the one part of Texas I've never spent time).
 
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