Sauces left to right; North Carolina East, South Carolina Mustard, Kansas City, Alabama White, North Carolina West

Sauces left to right; North Carolina East, South Carolina Mustard, Kansas City, Alabama White, North Carolina West

Summer may have only a few weeks left, but it’s never too late to fire up the back yard grill. Whether grilling burgers and dogs, ribs, “brats” or smoking pork or beef brisket, those of us that love grilling are always searching for the quintessential BBQ sauce. Opinions about the best style of BBQ sauce is all over the board—while some people prefer a sweeter sauce, others enjoy something more spicy or vinegary. When it comes to BBQ sauces, people can be as loyal to a style of sauce as they are to their favorite sports team. For some, friendly arguments about why their style of sauce is the best or “the only real BBQ sauce” are not uncommon.

Let’s take a look at six of the most popular styles of BBQ sauces in America and the ingredients that make up a base for that style.

 

1. North Carolina East

This style has the consistency of water and has a spicy, tangy, vinegary kick.

A basic recipe (makes 1 ½ quarts):

  • ¼ gallon cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Mix all ingredients together and let rest 3 hours before using.

This is a great marinade and can be used to baste chicken and pork.

 

2. North Carolina West

This style has a consistency a little thicker than water and has a spicy, tangy, sweet taste and like its neighbor, the North Carolina East, also has a vinegary kick.

A basic recipe (makes 1 ½ quarts):

  • ¼ Gallon cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Place all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn down heat; bring to a low simmer for 30 minutes. Let rest at room temp for 30 minutes then place in containers and refrigerate.

This is a great sauce to glaze as you cook, for dipping or on either a pulled pork or beef brisket sandwich.

 

3. South Carolina Mustard

This is a great change of pace from all the red BBQ sauces out there. The mustard got its influence from a heavy German population in South Carolina. It is said that the Germans love mustards on their meats. Instead of relying on tomato products as a base, this sauce uses yellow mustard giving it a more tangy and less sweet flavor.

A basic recipe (makes 1 ½ quarts):

  • 3 cups yellow prepared mustard (not Dijon)
  • 1 1/3 cups cider vinegar
  • 14 ounces brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to a low simmer and for 30 minutes. Let rest at room temp for 30 minutes then place in containers and refrigerate. Wait 2 days before using.

This is great with pork and chicken.

 

4. Alabama White

This tangy and spicy was created to accompany dark smoky meats and smoked chicken. It is used more as a dipping sauce than as a basting or mopping sauce due to the oil content in the mayo, which will cause it to break under high heat.

A basic recipe (makes 1 quart):

  • 1 ¼ cups mayo
  • 7/8 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup ground black pepper (fine grind)
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper or (I like to use 1 teaspoon ground chipotle)

Mix wet ingredients together then add dry and mix well. Baste your meats within the last few minutes of grilling and reserve a majority of the sauce for dipping your fully cooked meats.

This sauce is great on grilled pork chops and on bone-in-skin chicken.

 

5. Kansas City

This is the classic BBQ sauce, the most widely recognized and popular style of BBQ in all 50 states. It’s a sweet and tangy sauce and is much thicker than the other styles. Even the most basic of recipes for Kansas City style BBQ offers a lot of depth and complexity in the recipe.

If you’ve ever enjoyed BBQ at WSS, this is the style of sauce we’ve used and you’ve had while here with us. Here’s White Sulphur Springs version of a Kansas City BBQ sauce:

WSS House BBQ Sauce (Kansas City style) (makes 1 ¼ quarts):

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 1/8 cup tomato paste
  • 2 Cloves fresh Garlic Smashed
  • ¾ tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ cup of brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 tablespoon ground dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf

Add all ingredients together in a heavy bottom pot and mix well. Quickly bring to a boil stirring frequently. Turn heat down to a light simmer. Simmer for 1 hour stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool. Using a perforated spoon retrieve the garlic and bay leaves. Refrigerate for 1 day before using. Is best served slightly warm.

 

6. Texas Style

As I researched this style, what I learned was that Texas has as many variations as there are counties in the state. What I did see as common throughout was that most BBQ joints serve two types of sauce: one being thin and vinegary (do I dare say it most resembles the North Carolina East) and the other being a thicker tomato based style (much like a Kansas City style). In speaking to some Texans, what sets their thicker sauce apart is that they will take a large piece of well-seasoned and smoked fat cap from a brisket in with the other ingredients and simmer it together.

In this part of the article I would be offering a basic recipe. And in doing so, I will find disagreement with the other 253 counties in the state of Texas. So here is my cop out…

Basic thin and vinegary recipe:

  • Choose your Favorite North Carolina East style sauce add a large piece of well-seasoned and smoked fat cap from a brisket in with the other ingredients and simmer it together.

These sauces should be served room temp and never cold.

 

In closing, I hope you are challenged and intrigued to find the style of BBQ sauce that you like most and experiment and make it your own. The great thing about BBQ is that there are so many different styles out there that you can mix, match, get creative and have fun designing your sauce that you and your family and friends will love. To help you with that, listed below are some different ingredient ideas than what I’ve already shared that I’ve seen in other BBQ sauces that you may consider adding to your own sauce:

  • Orange juice
  • Hot sauce
  • Ancho chili paste
  • White sugar
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder,
  • Honey
  • White or red wine vinegar
  • Fresh ginger
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce

I must say this was very challenging and informative as I researched and wrote the article. Thank you to Sean, Rodney and Jim for sharing your input and experience during my research!

Remember: Be a blessing to others and seek the face of God.