Ribs & Potato Salad

Depending on your pick from our new crop of barbecue sauces, those ribs (or chicken, or pork) can taste smoky, sweet, hot or like strawberries. Photo by Ed O’Neil | IST.





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MARK CHRISTIAN is freelance writer in New York City.



June 2008

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Rubs, Marinades & Glazes

Best Barbecue Sauce

Gourmet BBQ Sauce: Delicious Diversity


Part III Of An Ongoing Series


So much barbecue sauce, so little time. Our box of bottles to try for Barbecue Season 2008 was so heavy, we could hardly lift it. As in previous years, we tested our products on chicken. (See Part I and Part II for other favorites, including kosher and sugar-free barbecue sauce.)

This year’s sauces that more than pass muster* are a widely-varying group of flavor profiles. Read each mini-review for details. This is Page 1 of a two-page article. Click on the black links below to read Page 2.

*The phrase “to pass muster,” meaning to be acceptable or satisfactory, comes from the military. Troops are gathered in a group to show officers that they are acceptably dressed and equipped. Muster refers to the gathering, so it is especially appropriate for our gathering of barbecue sauces.

Recognizing that preferences vary, we included some sauces this year that might not have passed our “moderate sugar standard” in previous years. You’ll see from our comments what we thought was good, and why people who look for sweeter foods should enjoy them.

All prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is generally additional.


Big John’s Ol West BBQ & Dippin Sauce

The editor in us is dying to put in a couple of apostrophes, to make this label say Ol’ West BBQ & Dippin’ Sauce. But despite questionable punctuation, this sauce rocks. In fact, flecks of fresh-cracked pepper and garlic bits punctuate the sauce and make it a winner for dipping fries, onion rings, fried zucchini and (to add a semblance of nutrition) raw veggies. Pour it over sloppy joes, burgers and shrimp cocktails, not to mention baked beans in need of some sass. The smoke, mid-level heat (it sizzles but doesn’t impair your taste buds), tomato and brown sugar all shout a classic yee haw! This is the most sugar-forward of the sauces in this review. Although we tend to steer away from foods packed with a lot of sugar, there is so much else going on flavor-wise that we were quite simply seduced. The sauce hails from South Dakota. The tin star on the label (you can see a corner of it above the “O”) doesn’t lie: There’s a new sheriff in town.

INGREDIENTS: Brown sugar, ketchup, prepared mustard, natural smoke flavor, salt, dehydrated garlic, black pepper, hot pepper sauce. CALORIES: 2 tablespoons, 50 calories.



  • 20-Ounce Bottle
  • Gallon Jug

Shop online at JamesValleyCompany.com

Don’t be perplexed by the home page, which also sells deer scents. The sauce would be great with venison, too.



Big John's Ol West BBQ Sauce
Big John makes a big, smoky, sizzling sauce. Photo by Saidi Granados.

Blender’s Barbeque Sauce, Marinade & Dip

Blender’s serves up three classic sauces: Original Barbecue, Spicy Barbecue and Chipotle Barbecue. Original is a spectacular allspice-flavored sauce. We give it the gold medal among this year’s sauces. We’d put it on just about any meat, eggs, turkey sandwiches, and, yes, definitely whisk it into a dip (we used fat free yogurt). There’s lots of zing with mild heat: Aunt Pauline Blender created a winner. The Spicy and Chipotle versions keep the same flavor profile but add heat that’s moderate, never searing. Interestingly, Chipotle is milder and sweeter than Spicy. The history of the sauce, made in Kansas City, is worth a trip to the website, even if you don’t plan to buy it. Jeri Blender says she’ll never sell the recipe, but she should sell the movie rights to her family’s story (a version of Fried Green Tomatoes).

INGREDIENTS: Tomato purée, sugar, distilled vinegar, salt, chile powder, crushed red pepper, spices, celery seed, garlic powder. CALORIES: Two tablespoons (32g), 40 calories.


Original Barbecue, Spicy Barbecue and Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

  • 3-Pack Bottle
    Mix & Match

Shop online at BlendersBarbequeSauce.com

Blender's Barbeque Sauce
We’d pour the thick, rich allspice-flavored Original Barbeque Sauce on almost anything! Photo by Claire Freierman.

Buz & Ned’s

From Richmond, Virginia, Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue Sauce isn’t what most folks in our neck of the woods think of as a barbecue sauce. A sweet-and-sour style, it has a heavy vinegar profile and a mild heat, and was a crowd pleaser at our tasting. It can easily become a “barbecue salad dressing” by whisking in some vegetable or olive oil (and if you want, some fresh-crushed garlic). The charming wax-like covering over the bottle neck is dipped in the same vat as the bottles of Maker’s Mark bourbon (it’s a polymer, not real wax).

INGREDIENTS: vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, unfiltered honey, molasses, mustard, salt, herbs and spices, garlic, red pepper sauce, corn syrup, onions, tamarind, anchovies, natural smoke.  CALORIES: One ounce (28g), 30 calories.


Real Barbecue Sauce

  • 15-Ounce Bottle

Shop online at BuzAndNeds.com

And if you’re passing through Richmond, stop by for some barbecue.


 Buz & Ned's BBQ Sauce
The tang of vinegar makes this sweet-and-sour sauce stand out. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.




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