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Kitchen & Cooking

Stop buying barbecue sauce—you can easily make these delicious recipes at home

Because it's not a real barbecue if you buy sauce from the store

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A few years ago, after a trip to Memphis to cover “real American barbecue”, I returned home and announced to my wife that I wanted to buy a smoker. I'd enjoyed ribs, pulled pork, and smoked chicken that were revelatory to my palate, so I was desperate to recreate them at home. My wife, never one to turn down smoked meat, took very little convincing. And so, for few years now, I've spent many a weekend in my backyard tending to my smoker while it slowly, slowly cooks up some delicious barbecue.

Three barbecue sauces
Credit: Reviewed.com / Mike Roorda

From left to right: Traditional Memphis brown, South Carolina mustard, and Eastern Carolina Vinegar.

Very quickly I discovered that good barbecue could be elevated to great barbecue with the application of the right sauce. Even better, good sauce can also salvage otherwise failed barbecue experiments. Let’s say, for example, that you didn’t listen to all the online advice and cheaped out on your first brisket. Let’s also say you ended up cooking that cheap brisket for close to 14 hours—to the point that it came off the smoker drier than week-old beef jerky. Should you find yourself in that position, it's good to know that you can chop that brisket into bite-sized chunks, soak them in sauce, and use it to make sandwiches. Delicious sandwiches.

Here are the only three sauces you will ever require for your barbecue needs. Between these three sauces there’s something that's sure to please everyone.

1. Traditional Memphis Brown BBQ Sauce

Traditional Memphis brown sauce
Credit: Reviewed.com / Mike Roorda

Made with a ketchup base, this sauce is sticky, sweet, and goes well with almost anything.

Ingredients:

2 cups ketchup

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 Tbsp. ground celery seeds

2 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Grind celery seeds in spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until uniform consistency.

  3. Test for flavor and make any adjustments. (I often make mine slightly spicier.)

  4. Store in a mason jar or similar airtight container in the refrigerator.

2. South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce (my favorite)

South Carolina mustard sauce
Credit: Reviewed.com / Mike Roorda

This tangy mustard-base sauce is my personal favorite, and you'll find in many parts of South Carolina.

Ingredients:

2 cups plain (like French’s) yellow mustard

2/3 cup cider vinegar

3 Tbsp. tomato paste

1/2 tsp. hot sauce

1 cube chicken bouillon

2 tsp. dried rosemary leaves (ground)

1 tsp. celery seed (ground)

3 tsp. mustard powder

2 tsp. onion powder

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Grind celery seeds and rosemary separately in spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until uniform consistency.

  3. Store in mason jar or similar airtight container in the refrigerator.

3. Eastern Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce

Eastern Carolina vinegar sauce
Credit: Reviewed.com / Mike Roorda

This sauce is loaded with vinegar and contains no tomato, so it's not as thick as the others.

Ingredients:

3 cups distilled white vinegar

2 tsp. hot sauce (like Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot)

1/4 cup white sugar

2 Tbsp. salt

4 tsp. crushed red pepper

4 tsp. ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

  2. Pour into mason jar or similar airtight container.

  3. Shake well.

  4. Store in the refrigerator.

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