The best barbecue sauce can provide some of your favorite summer foods with that mouth-watering, all-American, sweet-and-spicy tang, and what better way is there to find the perfect sauce than a personal taste-test?
First, select your main ingredient: will you test the various sauces on chicken, beef, pork, or all three? Next, decide how you will cook your meat. Grilling is a summertime tradition, but oven-baked, broiled, or crockpot-simmered meats are an option, too. For grilled or broiled meat, baste with your chosen sauces during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, to prevent the sauce from charring. If you like, you can also cook your meat first, then pull it apart into small pieces, and combine with the barbecue sauce. Slow-cooking in a crockpot results in very moist and tender chicken, pork, or beef, which is perfect for pulling apart into small pieces, mixing with the barbecue sauces, and serving on bread or crackers.
Now, onto the vast selection of barbecue condiments …. You can stock up on several well-known brands to sample in the grocery aisle, such as Kraft, Hunt’s or Heinz. Sweet Baby Ray’s has won awards, and K.C. Masterpiece is recommended as the best supermarket barbecue sauce by a review website that summarizes expert and consumer recommendations.
There are also some fantastic local barbecue concoctions made by smaller companies. One source for a list and reviews of unusual sauces, such as SuckleBusters’ Original (Texas Style) BBQ Sauce, is http://www.bbqsaucereviews.com/
You may also want to batch up some homemade barbecue sauce, which will let you better tweak the ingredients to tantalize your taste buds, or allow you to choose only the freshest, healthiest ingredients. Online recipe sites have lots of exciting options, such as the scrumptious-sounding, highly-rated Black Coffee Barbecue Sauce.
Different sauce recipes reflect regional variations (and even some creative and unexpected additions like root beer!) but typical ingredients include vinegar, tomato paste, mustard, assorted spices, and sweetening ingredients such as sugar, corn syrup or molasses. For those concerned with nutrition or watching their weight, there are some sauces available that leave out ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, MSG, and preservatives; reading the labels or doing a little online research can ensure you of a tasty sauce that won’t compromise your health!
There are five main categories of barbecue sauce popular in America, which can give you very different results in your taste test. The best-known type is Kansas City, which is a sweet, thick sauce that uses tomatoes or ketchup, sweeteners like molasses and sugar, vinegar and spices. These sauces provide a delicious glaze to the surface of the meat, but don’t penetrate much. Lexington Dip was an earlier style of barbecue sauce that formed the basis for the familiar Kansas-City-style ones. Popular in Lexington, Kentucky and western North Carolina, Lexington Dip featured the addition of tomato sauce, tomato paste or ketchup to the even earlier recipe of East Carolina Sauce. The East Carolina version was reportedly popularized by African slaves, along with the tradition of barbecuing itself. East Carolina sauces are thin and sharp, penetrating the meat when basted on during cooking with flavorful vinegar, ground black pepper, and spicy chili pepper flakes. South Carolina Mustard Sauce was apparently a variation by German settlers in the region, featuring mustard, vinegar, sugar and spices. Texas Sauces typically have more heat, with the addition of chili pepper, chili powder, cumin, generous amounts of black pepper, and less sugar and tomato than other types. Barbecue sauce Texas-style may also include bell peppers, meat drippings and smoke flavor. As a thinner sauce, the Texas style also penetrates the meat and flavors it during cooking.
Depending on the number of sauces you want to try, you might need to think of a way to identify which is which after cooking. For example, if you plan to try several types of barbecue sauce on grilled or oven-cooked meat, you could use different colored toothpicks stuck in the meat during cooking for each sauce.
With all the variety available in barbecue sauces, there’s sure to be one – or more – that will become a favorite after you explore the options with a taste test!