Brushed on while grilling and/or served on the side, barbecue sauce is America’s favorite cooking sauce. Photo by E.Z. Foryu | IST.
ERIC DANTIS is a professional chef in New York City.
Best Barbecue Sauce Part IV
Gourmet BBQ Sauce For Grilling Season
Page 1: BBQ Stu’s Pennsylvania Gold Barbecue Sauce
Overview: Types Of Barbecue Sauce
It’s that time of year where we Northerners polish the grill, buy loads of charcoal and stock up on meat for those outdoor barbecues. And what barbecue is complete without that sweet, tangy, smoky condiment we call barbecue sauce?
Whether it’s Carolina-, Kansas City- or Texas-style or a simple mop sauce or marinade, almost every grill master has some form of barbecue sauce at hand. We’ve tried dozens of new sauces over the past year, and here showcase the ones we think are the best.
A quick comparison of the major barbecue sauce types from the experts at Ribber City Sauce Company. All are based on tomato paste (or in cheaper recipes, ketchup):
- East Carolina-style barbecue sauce: A thin, sharp vinegar sauce seasoned with black pepper and chile pepper flakes, with little or no sugar. It it penetrates the meat when used as a basting sauce; as a dipping sauce, it cuts the fat.
- Kansas City-style barbecue sauce: A tomato-molasses based sauce that is thick and sweet, seasoned with vinegar, spices and often brown sugar or other sweetener. It sits upon the meat, rather than penetrating it.
- Kentucky-style barbecue sauce: Vinegar and lemon juice join the tomato paste to provide a good acid backbone and a flavor profile that is tart, tangy, sweet and spicy. It is a thinner sauce that can be used as a marinade, salad dressing or dipping sauce, and is equally good with seafood and meat.
- Memphis-style barbecue sauce: Vinegar and onion are incorporated into the tomato paste. This style of sauce works with all types of barbecue, but is especially good on brisket or lamb.
- North Carolina-style barbecue sauce: This vinegar-based barbecue sauce is the traditional sauce for pulled pork; but it works with all types of barbecue. You can also use it as a marinade or sauce for grilled seafood.
- South Carolina-style mustard barbecue sauce: A barbecue sauce made of yellow mustard, vinegar, spices and sugar. This sauce was popularized by German settlers on the coast.
- Texas-style barbecue sauce: Generally made without tomato, these sauces are heavily flavored with southwestern ingredients: bell pepper, chile powder, cumin, hot chile peppers and smoke flavors.
Let us start off by saying that we receive a lot of barbecue sauce. No, wait—let us rephrase that: We receive more barbecue sauce than any other savory product. Yes, really. And, unfortunately, most of them are not distinct. But a few we tried this year were true standouts.
For this story, as in years past, we tested several sauces at a time on several occasions. We tried them side-by-side both on a spoon and on our favorite chicken, Murray’s Chicken. This truly allowed us to distinguish the difference between a good sauce (and in some cases, a not-so-good sauce) and a great sauce worth being on this list.
Our criteria was simple: So many sauces are so simplistically sweet, we call them “meat sugar”—and avoid them. We looked for a balance of sweet, tangy and heat and other notable flavors such as herbs, spices and smoke. We also selected all-natural products and eschewed high fructose corn syrup.
This is Part IV of our Best Barbecue Sauce series. See Part I, Part II and Part III for other favorites, including kosher and sugar-free barbecue sauces. This is Page 1 of a four-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages. Products are presented in alphabetical order. All prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.
BBQ Stu’s Barbeque Sauce
BBQ Stu’s barbecue team has competed in BBQ competitions throughout the country with their Original, Pennsylvania Gold, Steel City Blast Furnace and Steel City Blast Furnace X-XTRA Hot flavors of barbecue sauce. Of these, Pennsylvania Gold was our pick as the best in the line. Plus, it’s gluten- and fat-free.
We appreciated this sauce because we thought it brought something different to the table besides a sweet, smoky, mustard-based sauce. It has by far the most aggressive mustard flavor of this year’s selections, so if you appreciate a good spicy mustard, chances are that you’ll like this sauce.
The mustard flavor is strong and brings a good amount of heat, which dissipates quickly. You’re left with the sweet finish of classic barbecue sauce flavors balanced nicely with spicy mustard.
INGREDIENTS: Select mustard seed, sugar, water, vinegar, fresh peppers, modified food starch, fruit juice for color, turmeric, natural flavors and spices. CALORIES: 2 tablespoons, 45 calories.