Picture this: The table is set with a red-checkered tablecloth, the corn has just been set down on a platter all perfectly buttered, and the ribs are almost done cooking on the grill. You’re ready to dive in, but as soon as those beautifully charred, juicy ribs hit the table you suddenly realize, there’s no sauce. Most likely, this nightmare of a scenario will never take place, but not only does it send a shiver down your spine, it also highlights the importance of something that’s usually in attendance at your summer cookouts: the barbecue sauce.
Barbecue sauce — it’s such a large part of so many things we love. What would barbecue chicken be without its sauce? How would your pulled pork be so juicy without a little barbecue mojo to go with it? And even for those chicken nugget lovers who prefer the tang of sauce over ketchup — what would they do without it?
As you can see, barbecue sauce is a pretty big deal, so it’s important that it tastes good, too. Sure, buying a bottle in the store is an easy solution, but you’ll often find it’s lacking a key seasoning that you love in your barbecue sauce; or its consistency is just not up to par with that award-winning one you tasted down in Texas a few months back. Sometimes there’s a certain specialness you’re looking for in your sauce, and you just want to know how to make it yourself.
That’s where we come in, because we’re going to show you how to make the ultimate barbecue sauce. This isn’t just a "put this amount of ketchup and this amount of brown sugar together in a pot" lecture, either, because we’re giving you concrete tools that you can keep in your belt for whatever barbecue sauce you’re trying to create. To help you create your favorite barbecue sauce recipe, we’ve dissected the sauce in its entirety and have determined the best practices for each step of the process.
We didn’t do this alone, either. To help us define how to make the ultimate version of the sauce, we consulted not one but three different barbecue experts who are known for their sauce-making capabilities. There is our trusted barbecue friend Clint Cantwell, editor-in-chief of Grilling.com, who we’ve consulted on previous barbecue expeditions. Cantwell doesn’t think it’s necessary to make the sauce entirely from scratch (and you’ll see he’s not alone), but he still finds a way to put his own special touch on it. And then there’s award-winning, nationally ranked Andrew Evans, dubbed "The Pit Master" by Food & Wine Magazine, who wouldn’t share his winning recipe but was willing to divulge some nitty gritty details about what went into concocting it. To round out our trio, we also have tips from the talented folks at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint, one of Mississippi’s proudest barbecue institutions, which is known for their finger-licking-good sauces and marinades.
And what would our tips be without seeing them executed in actual recipes? For that reason, we’re also sharing five trusted and delicious barbecue recipes from industry experts, including John Stage from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and Charlottesville, Va.’s Harrison Keevil of Brookville Restaurant.
The grilling has already begun this summer, so don’t forget the barbecue sauce. Master your own ultimate recipe with these tips from the pros.
Anne Dolce is the Cook editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce