We are gathered here today to talk about barbecue, specifically the sauces that make it so lip smacking good. Barbecue is such a personal thing. A connection between pit master, meat, sauce and seasoning. We can spend all day talking about cuts, smoke, temperature, resting and everything else that comes with barbecue but lets focus on one thing. Now, I can tell you the perfect recipe for Kansas City Barbecue sauce and I’m wrong before I publish it. No one agrees on what makes the perfect sauce but there are some key aspects that make each area a little different. When you’re talking barbecue, you’re talking about the recipes from the American South. Its Kansas City, St. Louis, South Carolina, Memphis, and Texas that people talk about. I’m going to throw in Florida and Alabama as well because their sauces are unique in the wonderful world of barbecue.
Let’s start with the king of sauces, the Kansas City BBQ sauce.
Kansas City. Kansas City BBQ sauce is what most of us think of when we think about BBQ sauce. Its that thick, sweet, tangy, ketchup-based sauce that we all know and love. It’s the go-to on my barbecue for almost anything from chicken, to pork, to beef, and beyond. It’s got everything I like on my BBQ. Ketchup, vinegar, sugar or honey, molasses and seasoning. See what I mean? It’s got everything a classic BBQ sauce needs. Why go further? Well, theres more to life than one sauce. Let’s have a look at its close friend, St. Louis BBQ.
St Louis. St Louis BBQ sauce is similar to Kansas City sauce with the difference mostly in the proportions of what’s in the sauce. St. Louis BBQ sauce is thinner and tangier than Kansas City sauce due to having more vinegar to the sauce. I tend to think of it as a sweet and sour BBQ sauce. It’s got that tang from the vinegar but also has a sweetness from brown sugar or honey. It’s lip smacking, tongue punching goodness that you can’t argue with. You can try, but wipe the sauce off your face first! Still not what you’re looking for? What about South Carolina? Is it different because it’s a little further away? The answer is simply yes.
South Carolina. South Carolina BBQ sauce is a little different than most of us think of as a barbecue sauce. Why you ask? It traditionally has little to no ketchup and is a mustard-based sauce. Plain yellow mustard and vinegar are the stars here. It’s a rich, flavorful and spicy sauce that lends itself to chicken and pork the most. The extra acid and tang will cut the fattiness of a pork butt and turn it into something wonderful. Try South Carolina BBQ chicken wings and let me know how it goes. While I await your undying gratitude for that tip, lets check out Memphis.
Memphis. They like their sweet sauces in Memphis. I personally love Memphis style BBQ because they usually do a dry rub on the meat first, smoke it and then start doing layers of sauce while it’s in the smoker. Their sauce is thinner than a Kansas style sauce and sweeter than a St. Louis style sauce. This is basically the best of all the other sauces put together. With ketchup, vinegar, mustard, paprika and brown sugar, this sauce (in my opinion) rules them all. I love that sweet, sticky BBQ with lots of smoke and a beautiful bark on the outside. I’m drooling on my keyboard, lets move on!
Texas. Texans love their beef so its no surprise that their BBQ sauces tend to lend themselves to beef the most. Being so far south, Texas style BBQ has a Tex-Mex feel to it. With cumin, chili powder, garlic and Worcestershire sauce it’s a pretty flavorful sauce. They often mix in the juices from the smoked meat itself making it a thin but flavorful sauce that just simply works on something like a brisket. Let the meat shine and give it some love to make it better. Love or not, Texans do some great BBQ. Now, lets have a look at the oddballs in the group.
Florida. Personally, I had never heard of Florida style BBQ but after doing some research I want some. Like now! They usually use a tomato-based sauce but with such a large Cuban presence in Florida they have some fantastic bright flavours. Using Orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and any other citrus they can, they produce a very Latin America inspired sauce that is unique to Florida. They don’t add any sugar into their sauces and love their spice as well. Ketchup, citrus and garlic are the base ingredients here. Mixing BBQ with Cuban flavours? Its definitely unique in the world of BBQ but is worth a honorable mention. I’m looking forward to sourcing out some so I can get my fix of beautiful, fresh, vibrant BBQ from a place I would never have thought. If that isn’t unique enough for you, I have one left.
Alabama. Who would have thought they would be different in Alabama? Lock up your cousins because these guys come to party. First off, they love their smoke in Alabama and its almost always a hickory smoke. What makes it really unique is that its white! It’s a mayonnaise-based sauce that they add vinegar, pepper, lemon juice and cayenne to making this unusual but delicious sauce that can not only be used on the meat, but as a great coleslaw dressing or simply a dipping sauce. It’s the all-round multi-tool of American BBQ - one sauce to rule them all. Who wouldn’t want a thick, rich, acidic and spicy sauce to dip your smoked chicken in? Seriously, anyone? I’m making a batch tonight to go with my smoked chicken.
That’s a quick tour through the differences in BBQ styles as I know them. There are so many that I couldn’t cover and some I just didn’t even know about. From Kansas to Alabama, they all have unique and amazing flavors, different styles and suited to what the population is and the rest of us just get to sit back and enjoy. I can’t wait any longer. I’m off to find me some BBQ!