Favorite BBQ Sauce?

foodonastumpAugust 19, 2014

I'm craving pulled pork, but have yet to come across a BBQ sauce recipe for it that I really like. What I'm looking for is something relatively thin, tangy, not too sweet. I got very positive feedback when I made the Neely's recipe; I like it ok but I quickly tire of it as it's too ketchupy and too sweet. Something like Tyler Florence's recipe is far too mustardy for my taste and I don't enjoy it at all. (Although I like the pulled pork itself.)

Please feel free to post your favorite recipe even if it doesn't fit the bill. I've come up with BBQ sauces that I like, but aren't what I'm looking for dump on a pulled pork sandwich.

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As I have mentioned here many times before, I am not a fan of BBQ sauces. Most of them are just two sweet.

The one exception is TBQ sauce. From the Tunnel BBQ in Windsor, Ontario.

I use to order it from the restaurant, but a number of years ago someone posted a copy cat recipe in the Windsor Newspaper and I have been making it ever since.

Great on grilled chicken, wings, ribs and on pulled pork.

TBQ Sauce
Source: Windsor Newspaper

1/2 cup Ketchup
1/2 cup prepared mustard
1/2 cup vinegar white
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons chile powder
1/4 cup white sugar.

Place all ingredients in a blender and mix.


The original recipe did not require refrigeration. I stored mine in the refrigerator. And it lasts for months.

I use less sugar than was called for, because I really do prefer a more savory then sweet sauce.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 2:18PM
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I do not use BBQ sauce either - if anything, I substitute chili sauce. When I want pulled pork, I make it Yucatecan style, which is never sweet. Here is my version of it:

Cochinita Pibil

2-3 pounds pork butt or pork shoulder (turkey thighs can be substituted)
4-6 cups water
3-4 Ancho chilies
2-3 Guajillo chilies
2-3 Pasilla chilies
2 oranges, sliced*
2 limes (or lemons) sliced*
8 cloves garlic
1 onion, cut in quarters
1 tbsp oregano

For the Sauce
3 tbsp rendered fat (or combination of fat with olive oil and/or butter)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 onion, chopped (optional)
2-3 Serrano peppers (optional), seeds removed
2 cups reserved stock
2 tbsp achiote paste, crumbled*
2 tbsp cumin*
3/4 tsp salt, to taste


Wash the meat and place in a stockpot. Add water, chilies, oranges, limes, garlic, and onion, and bring to a boil on high heat. Put the oregano in a tea ball or bouquet garni and add to the pot. Reduce the heat to simmer and allow to cook covered for two hours, or until meat begins to fall off the bones.

Turn off heat and allow the pot to stand covered for about 30 minutes more while the meat continues to cook. Strain off the liquid and reserve.

When the meat is cool enough (you can refrigerate it at this point), remove all the meat for future use. Save the bones and return to the stock and boil for another hour, if desired, to intensify the flavor.

To make the sauce, make a roux with the fat and flour, and cook to a medium brown stage, stirring constantly. Add the onion and peppers and stir to combine. Add the stock and cook on medium heat until thoroughly combined and simmering. Add the achiote paste, cumin, and salt, and stir to dissolve.

At this point, you can add as much meat back in as you want, and save the rest for other recipes. You will have leftover stock as well. You can omit the roux if you want a thinner sauce. Serve the meat over cooked rice. It can also be used in tamales or tacos.

*Note: Adjust the measurements of the spices and flavorings according the how much meat you are using.

In the Yucatan, they use sour oranges, but I substitute a combination of regular oranges plus limes. You can add tomato paste to make it more like a BBQ sauce, but that is not traditional. I use very little salt in this recipe, but I find that with the orange and lime, it does not need it. Most people over salt pork, reducing its sweet flavor, and then they add sugar to compensate for this. Better to leave out both the salt and sugar so that you can taste the pork itself. A lot of people cannot bring themselves to do this, however, but that is my personal preference.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 2:48PM
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I don't like pulled pork, or BBQ Sauce. LOL

Coll's is the only recipe hubby has used for years:

Coll's Slow Cooked Pulled Pork

Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 8-10 hours
Yields: 8-12 cups or 16-24 sandwiches

4-6# boneless pork shoulder-blade roast cut into 4 pieces, fat removed
1/4 C water
1 medium onion - coursely chopped
1/2 C cider vinegar
1/2 C ketchup
1/4 C light (mild) molasses
2 T sweet paprika
2 T spicy brown mustard
2 T worcestershire sauce
1 t red ground (cayene) pepper
1 t finely ground black pepper
1 t salt
1/2 t liquid smoke flavoring (opt)

Combine all ingredients, except pork.
In a 4-5+ quart crockpot, place the pork pieces, pour sauce over to coat.

Cover and cook with lid on for 8-10 hours until pork is very tender and falling apart. *Can cook overnight.

Transfer pork to a large bowl or platter, cool and pull apart with fingers or forks.
Place pork back into the sauce.

Serve on soft buns and smother with a scoop of creamy cole slaw for true Southern Style pulled pork samiches.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 3:10PM
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The reason a lot of barbecue sauce is sweet is that the sugar breaks down the connective tissue of tough cuts. But then you have to do low and slow so the sugar doesn't scorch. I've seen them do cookoffs on TV with pitmasters who do low and slow vs. fast and hot and both get good results...because they're using spice rubs rather than barbecue sauce!

I don't do pork so don't have a particular recipe to contribute for that, but I recently made some barbecue sauce as part of a bean recipe which was a revelation! The base is white balsamic vinegar. If you haven't seen it, it's actually a golden color, and not syrupy like normal balsamic. More people are putting it out now, so it's no longer too expensive to put in sauce. Big, wonderful difference. Not as sharp as really acidic vinegar, so doesn't need the sugar for flavor. It's the best thin, vinegary barbecue sauce I've tried (though probably not good enough for your purposes other than maybe trying the white balsamic).

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 6:33PM
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I'd like to try the TBQ sauce. What type of mustard do you use? TIA

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 2:37AM
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That's an easy one for me! The sauce for Sue's Roadhouse ribs.

Roadhouse Grill Baby Back Ribs

2 large racks pork baby back ribs
coarse ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced fresh onion
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1 teaspoon Jim Beam whiskey
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper -- coarse
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika

To make the ribs, cut each large rack of ribs in half so that you have 4 half-racks. Sprinkle a light coating of salt and a more generous portion of coarse pepper over the top and bottom of each rack. Wrap the ribs in aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours.

As the ribs cook, make the sauce by heating the oil in a medium saucepan over medium/high heat. Saut� the onions for 5 minutes or until they start to brown. Add the remaining ingredients and bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/4 hours, uncovered, or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and set aside until the ribs are ready. Preheat your barbecue grill.

When ribs are finished in the oven, the meat should have pull back about 1/2-inch from the cut-ends of the bones. Remove the ribs from the oven, let them sit for 10 minutes or so, then remove the racks from the foil and put them on the grill. Grill the ribs for 3 to 4 minutes per side. They should be slightly charred in a few spots when they're finished. Brush barbecue sauce on the ribs while they're grilling, just before you serve them. Don't add the sauce too early or it will burn.
Cookingrvc (Sue)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:35AM
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Thanks for the responses. All look good, though nothing stands out as what I'm specifically looking for. I worked in Charlotte, NC for several years and something from that time has got my taste bud memories going. Usually three plastic squeeze bottles on the table. Mild, medium and hot. None close to KC Masterpiece or Bull's Eye (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Lars - I often find myself liking the sound of your recipes and wish I had the variety of peppers you have available to you, in order to try them.

JC - To clarify, I'm looking for a condiment after the fact; my pork will be cooked with a dry rub. So no science involved, just taste!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 12:19AM
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looks so good

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:35AM
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FOAS, I cook my pork dry too. I don't like anything cooked in a bbq sauce.

The TBQ sauce is a table sauce, although it can be basted on meats near the end of grilling. I don't do that though.

Here is another one that I made with ingredients I had on hand. Moe loved it.

Vinegar Sauce

No recipe, just a general idea. All measurements are approximate. I didn't measure.

Use with Pulled Pork or Chicken Wings or Ribs.

1/2 cup black vinegar
3 tablespoons apricot jalapeno Jam
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon tomato paste
lots of fresh ground black pepper
tablespoon of oil

Mix all of the ingredients together. Refrigerate until needed.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:18AM
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As someone who cooks hundreds of pounds of pulled pork a year for friends and family, first let me say that good barbecue don't need no sauce. However, I always keep sauce available for those who need to hide the taste of perfectly cooked barbecue.

Ricky's secret (ha!) barbecue sauce recipe:
Equal parts Kraft Original and Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce with the juice of a freshly squeezed orange. (Hey, I live in Florida.)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:29AM
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From the local newspaper 1991: (I don't use barbecue sauce either. I haven't tried this recipe, but like the sauces I knew from NC, there is no tomato or mustard.)

North Carolina Barbecue Sauce
1 stick butter
1 cup cider vinegar
1 large sour pickle, minced
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon molasses
salt & pepper to taste
cook slightly and use to baste the pork while cooking and to moisten just before serving.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:46AM
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Oh! (I've seen pulled pork on TV, of course...) I do use a sugary barbecue sauce on bison ribs, low and slow, and they're divine!

What flavor do you want? Not ketchupy, not mustardy, sweet but not too sweet, and after the fact condiment (i.e, not a sauce that has to be cooked with the meat to be good). But there's probably still some fat in the meat, right? Or is it all crispy lean by the time you pull it?

I'm thinking molasses and tomato paste. Lots of spices. Maybe some bourbon or brandy. Onions, garlic and chili peppers. I don't have a lot of recipes. I just throw things at it until it tastes good...
Okay. I made you a recipe. I don't do pork, so I tried it on (cover your ears, Ann) some leftover chicken. I think it's good for pulled meat because it's not too assertive or too sweet, which can be hard to eat a lot of, and one can still taste the meat, not just the sauce. I don't think of vinegary as good in a condiment (unless it's just a conveyance, like in hot sauce) so I went with tomato-y. :) A little heat from the chipotle powder and a little bitterness from the ale, a little sweetness from the molasses and a little acid from the tomato.

This is a base recipe that can be customized (e.g., you might want to add a a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it and add a sour note) and doesn't require any special ingredients like the red jalapeños I just picked. I made it small because it's easier to scale up than down (watch the salt if you scale up).

JC's Condimentary Barbecue Sauce for FOAS

Spices (combine in one prep bowl)

ü tsp freshly and finely ground black pepper
â tsp granulated salt (omit if the meat is salted)
ý tsp chipotle chili powder
ü tsp coriander powder
ü tsp celery seed powder
ü tsp dried thyme, finger-crushed


1 Tbsp light olive oil (or any cooking oil)
Half of a small white onion (about 40 grams), minced
One large garlic clove (about 4 grams), minced
In a heavy saucepan appropriately sized for the quantity (one recipe fits into a 1 qt. saucier), sauté the onions in the oil until beginning to brown (brown all over, but not all the way through). Add the garlic and continue sautéing until cooked down, with most of the water evaporated.


ý cup tomato puree (adjust salt to taste if yours isn't salted)
150 grams dark ale
3 Tbsp molasses (I used unsulphered)
Add the tomato puree to the sauté first. Bring the heat up to medium and stir until well combined. Add all and molasses. Keep stirring. Reduce heat to the high end of low, when it starts to boil. Let the sauce reduce by about half, or until it just gets to a pleasing texture. Remove pot from heat and set aside. Let it continue to reduce a little in the warm pot. The longer it sits, the better the flavors will marry.

Add more black pepper and chilpotle powder, or chili sauce, for more of a kick. This has a note of heat, but it's mild...

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 2:59PM
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"-----As someone who cooks hundreds of pounds of pulled pork a year for friends and family, first let me say that good barbecue don't need no sauce. However, I always keep sauce available for those who need to hide the taste of perfectly cooked barbecue.----"

I totally agree.

Tyically a salad always need dressing. I have found that once you have the texture right, for pulled pork the only thing you need is a bit of salt. However I too have a few sauces made just for the fun.

Here is one:

1/5 hoisin sauce
1/5 A-1
1/5 balsamic
1/5 red wine
1/5 EVOO
A few drops of sesame oil
A few teaspoons of Siracha to taste.

I have pulled just about any kind of meat except fish. With a sous vide cooker, there is no limit. Lamb, chicken, corned beef, turkey, pork, duck ----

Tonight there will be pulled brisket, sous vided and smoked.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:41PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Hmm, I don't have a recipe as I prefer the thicker sauces, however, what you want is Lexington style bbq sauce. It is served at the table in squeeze bottles and is typically thin and vinegary.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:51PM
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Not precisely what you are looking for but I will add this one for other occasions.

Tare sauce

1 cup mirin
1 cup sake
2 cups Japanese light soy sauce (usukuchi)
3 or more chicken carcasses, and some skin

Chop chicken carcasses and skin into pieces, roast until pretty brown but not burned, crack open the leg bones if any to expose marrow

Combine roasted chicken pieces, the fond and fat scraped off the roasting pan, and the mirin, sake and soy sauce into a pot. Bring to boil then simmer for a couple hours. Strain the sauce. Thicken as desired with more simmering or, cheating here, with cornstarch.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 4:24PM
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Bumblebeez - I think you nailed it. Lexington BBQ Sauce seems to be what I'm looking for.

I appreciate all the responses; I've now got a bunch to try at some point. JC's might have to be the first as I've never had any food named for me that I can recall! (You didn't really just do that for my benefit, did you?)

As for pulled pork being good without sauce, I totally agree. Usually I accidentally eat so much while I'm shredding it that I'm not even hungry for the intended sandwiches. I think that can be said for toppings on a lot of things. Good corn on the cob doesn't need butter any more than lobster does, but that doesn't keep me from eating either with butter once in a while.

I do have a smoking question though while we're at it. I slow roast the pork in the oven but I would like to add a hint of smoke. Not a ton. So I was thinking about using the grill to achieve that. Which would you recommend:

1) Start the cooking on the grill with chips and then throw it in the oven? For how long? (I can't easily maintain a steady low heat on my grill so I have no intention of fighting it for hours.)

2) Smoke shredded pork in the grill at the end of the process?

3) ???

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:26PM
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Yep. Well, I did it for you because I thought it would be fun. It's not like you didn't have plenty of good choices.

It was. Fun. Making barbecue sauce, just for the heck of it, before breakfast, is fun! And since I didn't have to glove up and process the peppers (I have some orange and yellow chilis, too, as well as overripe serranos and the killer jalapeños) and grill/smoke them (which I will have to do for the black beans I'm supposed to be cooking), it was easy, too. I liked the part of the brief about not using ingredients that could be hard to get. That way it's all playtime! :)

There are lots of things that taste great without sauce. And that taste great without salt! I like sauces, though, and no matter how good it is, I get bored with the flavor of basic proteins. It's so easy to change it up just by adding a different spice or sauce.

I think my FOAS Condimentary Barbecue Sauce is going on bison burgers, or maybe in them!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:44PM
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Well thank you again then!

[150 gm dark ale, about 5 oz.That leaves 7 oz begging not to go flat, doesn't it? Before breakfast. I like it. I think the only thing missing from your recipe is the requirement that it be made precisely 12 hours before serving!]

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:11PM
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I do have a smoking question though while we're at it. I slow roast the pork in the oven but I would like to add a hint of smoke. Not a ton. So I was thinking about using the grill to achieve that. Which would you recommend:

1) Start the cooking on the grill with chips and then throw it in the oven? For how long? (I can't easily maintain a steady low heat on my grill so I have no intention of fighting it for hours.)
2) Smoke shredded pork in the grill at the end of the process?
3) ???

Meat in a smoker (or grill used as a smoker) will absorb smoke for the first 15% to 25% of the cooking process. Obviously, the more smoke you throw at it, the more it will absorb. But after a point, you just need heat to finish it.

Since you say "grill" and not what kind, I can only hope you have one with a vented lid. Put your pork in a throwaway pan that has several inches of water, and that pan on your grill. Your charcoal should form a ring around the edge of the grill, not directly under the pan.

You can dump your wood chips directly onto the hot charcoal, either dry or soaked in water or beer or whatever. Put the cover on the grill with the vents fully opened and cook the pork to at least 165 degrees; this is called the "plateau". Then wrap it in foil and finish it in the oven. Boston Butts or Picnic Shoulders are done when the deepest meat is 195 degrees.

Better yet, buy a smoker.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:57PM
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You're very welcome!

You can use the whole bottle of ale and tomato paste instead. :) I was just using what I had on hand. :)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:00PM
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Fawnridge - thanks for the advice. Not only do I not have a vented lid, I'm cooking on, gasp, Weber gas. So I'm thinking soak a few cups of chips, put them in foil, stab a bit, set on the "flavorizer bars" to hopefully get it going, cook the pork on as indirect heat as I can until it stops smoking, then throw it in the oven.

Ok, I know I'm not going to win any competitions here. I'm just trying to add a bit of smokiness to an oven recipe I'm already happy with. I know I need a smoker. And will need to learn to use it properly. My neighbor smokes his pulled pork and it tastes like ash tray to me.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:21PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I can get a consistent 250 on my weber and smoke butts on that for 15 hours with a foil package of chips ( I prefer hickory or apple) on the flavorizer bars. I also use a mop and rub. However, I think 4 hours would add a great smoke flavor with the rest of the time in the oven.
And, I prefer chopped not shredded with a mix of inside and outside crust. Not hard to please at all!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:35PM
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All such good advice above, but i think it's time to experiment. (it can be fun)
Creating your own 'home brew' bbq sauce.
I make a big batch and freeze. In pints labeled 1,2,and 3.
Our system and we know what it means...
And a good time to seasonally make bbq sauce with such good produce.

We stem off and quarter a dozen big ripe tomatoes...no fuss needed seeding or skins removed. An big onion quartered and a head of garlic cloves. A few peppers sweet and spicy...roast in the oven on a parchment lined sheet pan for an hour at 350.
Turn off the oven and let them cool down and get ready to grind. Sit in the oven for an hour or cool on the stove top.
(can be roasted on your grill on thick foil lined with parchment)

Blend in cuisinart or blender a 1/4 of your roasted and dump in a sauce pan and add some vinegar, 1/4 cup. Just simmer for 30 min. Thats #1. pour off into a container. Then grind another batch with more spice, maybe a dry rub spice mix...no need to get fussy about buying specific ingredients...use what you have on hand and no need to wash out your cuisinart or blender...just make a different flavored batch....
For our #3 bbq i add more spice and fresh herbs. Cilantro, chives, basil etc. More heat like smoked chipotle.
When we hit the freezer in November, we know exactly what we are heating up and can add a half a guinness or more vinegar or some rhubarb or maple syrup...but the base 'savory' sauce is consistently the same.

Had amazing soup dumplings in China town last night but the sauces on the bbq duck and all the meats at the table were sweet and thick like gummy bear sauce.
Not a fan of sweet and thick.

I still have a few baby pints of rhubarb bbq sauce i made in the early spring and need to make another big batch for the winter season....

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:54AM
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I made a variation of FOAS sauce tonight. I needed a lot for my project, so sextupled the recipe. Variation: Added the end of my bottle of Mexican oregano, about 2 teaspoons. Substituted two 440 ml-ish cans of lager (Stella Artois) for the dark ale (Blue Moon, I think), and reduced the molasses accordingly to half a cup. Everything else is a straight scale up by six. I was concerned about the salt but my tomato puree isn't very salty, and the end result is just right. It's the pepper that got away from me. Actually, I think it was the chipotle. I opened a new packet, and it does vary from crop to crop. It's mellowing now that it's cooked down. :)

This is lighter, sweeter and less complex than the original due to the lager instead of ale. It's going in barbecue flavor lasagna and I didn't think the ale would pair well with smoked cheese. :)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2014 at 12:14AM
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