The Ultimate Barbecue Sauce Taste Test Slideshow
May 3, 2013
10) Open Pit
This sauce was the reddest of the bunch, the least expensive at $1.89, and also the least favorite. "It tastes like a combination of hot sauce and ketchup," one taster said, and all agreed that there was no discernible smokiness. It had a thin consistency and was a bit too spicy, but one taster felt that it would be a better match for chicken nuggets or wings than barbecue.
9) The Shed
This brand-new offering from pitmaster Brad Orrison didn’t rank as highly as we hoped it might. Our tasters thought that it might work better as a marinade, as it was a bit heavy on the sugar and vinegar, giving it a sour flavor profile. One taster found that it was well-balanced, however.
This sauce had a bit too much of that "fake smoke" flavor, and also was cloyingly sweet but just sour and spicy enough. It was quite run-of-the-mill, as could be expected from Kraft, and most agreed that it was "nothing special."
Most of the testers found Hunt’s sauce to be a bit too "ketchupy," with an overly viscous consistency. Surprisingly, we found it to have some notes of fruit, including apricot and citrus, as well as Worcestershire sauce, but it was "dull otherwise."
This sauce was a bit too sweet, without much in the way of smoke or spiciness. It was nicely balanced, though, and had a good consistency, but was considered to be "middle of the road." One of our tasters ranked this as number one, however, saying it’s "everything I look for in a sauce."
5) Jack Daniel’s
This sauce was heavy on the smoke and black pepper, without much of a spicy kick. "It kind of tastes like a campfire," said one taster. The smokiest of the bunch, and an all-around good choice.
"Tangy and sweet, well balanced, and lots of flavor," said one taster, and just about everyone else agreed. Cattlemen’s had a nice blend of spice and a hint of brown sugar, but one taster found it "mono-dimensional."
3) KC Masterpiece
The original Kansas City barbecue sauce, this one still stands tall among the pack. Heavy on the smoke and not too sweet, spicy, or acidic, the only negative was that the smokiness was a bit too overpowering for some.
A very popular pick, this bottle was also the most expensive. "A nice balance of sweet to spice," one taster said, and it had a noticeable spicy kick ("hot in a not very interesting way, but it grows on you," said another). All agreed that it tasted like its base was a good spice rub, and that it would be very good on brisket.
1) Sweet Baby Ray’s
The dark horse of the bunch, Sweet Baby Ray's emerged as the near-universal favorite. "A perfect balance of sweet to spice to smoke to tanginess," said one taster. It had a good acidity and a well-executed blend of spices, and it all came together without being overwhelming in any aspect. "It has all the quintessential characteristics of a perfect barbecue sauce," another said.