Know Your Regional Barbecue Sauce Styles

As much a meats, methods and flavors vary in the world of barbecue, one of the most varied parts of the cuisine may be its sauces. From the east coast to the west coast what people cover their meat in varies. Some states even have different styles of sauce within smaller regions.

Before you become a true master of the meat you should understand the different styles of sauces to match your taste. From the Carolinas to Texas the flavor, thickness and ingredients vary greatly.

Let’s take it back to the very beginning of American barbecue on the coastline of the southeastern United States. Anthropologists claim that the indigenous people living in the Caribbean and Florida around the time of Spanish colonization may be responsible for bringing the technique of slow roasting meats over open fires. Spaniards translated this technique to "barbacoa" and eventually the English "barbecue". Barbecue sauce in these days were most likely made from lime or lemon juice and hot peppers. The introduction of Heinz ketchup in 1876 was a major turning point in the history of barbecue sauce nationwide.

So lets break down the most popular styles in the United States.

Photo: AlenKadr/Shutterstock

Photo: AlenKadr/Shutterstock

Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Sauce

The spicy and acidic Caribbean sauce easily became eastern Carolina sauce. Considered the mother of all American barbecue sauces, it may have originated in North Carolina, where whole hog ‘cue reigns supreme. Unlike many modern sauces, the eastern style uses no tomato, relying instead on a tart combination of vinegar (usually cider vinegar) and added spices like cayenne, black pepper, crushed red pepper, hot sauce (often Texas Pete), salt, and sometimes water. This thin, watery wash is often mopped onto whole hogs as it cooks over the flame and then poured over pulled pork.

Once Heinz ketchup came into the picture it was added to the vinegar sauce by some in the western part of the states where Western Carolinians traditionally cook pork shoulder. This was the first introduction of tomato to sauce, a practice that is still highly debated in the state.

South Carolina-Style Mustard Sauce

Some say the German immigrants that showed up in South Carolina with mustard in tow are responsible for this tangy pork condiment. The mustard-based Carolina Gold is thinned with vinegar and doctored with added spices for a zingy flavor and used to dress pulled pork and other pork cuts.

Texas-Style Mop or Basting Sauce

Because Texas likes to be different, obviously they had to create their own barbecue tradition. And because beef is king in Texas, they lean to a savorier "mop sauce" which is less of a sauce and more of a thin "glaze" that moistens the meat and adds flavor as it smokes. Mop sauces may include beef stock, vinegar, Worcestershire, and spices like salt, pepper, and garlic.

Kansas City-Style Sauce

This is the most commonly found sauce in supermarkets. It’s sweet, and tangy. Often slathered on ribs at chain restaurants, and used to dip your chicken nuggets into. Ketchup and molasses give it a sweeter, thicker consistency and liquid smoke give it that barbecue flavor without actually smoking anything. Worcestershire, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and other spices are often added to the recipe.

Alabama White Sauce

This sauce has a strong following in the small region around Decatur, Alabama. Unlike the hog traditions of the Carolinas, this pasty mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar, and pepper is best used on smoked chicken It's served thick and creamy or milky.

So as you go forth in your barbecue journey implanting a few different styles of sauces can mix up your food from cook to cook.Or perhaps you can create your own sauce style because after all barbecue is an evolving spectrum of meats, rubs, sauces and smoke.

Whether it's smoking, roasting, baking, braising or grilling; with quality meats and some imagination, you can create some mouth water meals and memories with loved ones. As a barbecue addict myself I'm here to give you ideas to take your taste buds on a wild ride.

And if you are firing up the grill, please share! I'd love to try your recipes and see your photos! You can hashtag your grill photos #RiddersQclub.

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