Fuller Flavor to Maximize Your Meat
Ribs, a time-honored staple of barbecue pits everywhere, come in a few basic cuts: fatty spare ribs, carefully-trimmed St. Louis style, meaty baby back, and bite-sized rib tips. There are a few other regional variations, but there is only so much you can do to change up the meat itself.
The difference between good barbecue and great barbecue, as any pitmaster will tell you, is the sauce!
But what sauce do you use? Most people are familiar with the classic barbecue sauce you see at the store, but that’s a far cry from classic hand-made varieties. The biggest barbecue states in the US all have their own styles, which we break down for you here.
Sauce- the Lifeblood of Barbecue
The old standby from the earliest days of BBQ, and a tradition still upheld by some southern chefs. Basting Sauce is a simple mixture of butter, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Together it makes a flavorful, if uncomplicated, base-flavor that cuts through the charred, smoky flavor of the grilled meat. Some smokehouses in Texas still swear by this sauce recipe.
Tomato & Vinegar-
A Memphis original, Tomato & Vinegar barbecue sauce is runny, peppery, and has just the right amounts of sweet and sour notes. It took over from Basting Sauce in the early 20th century and still holds up today.
Tomato and sugar sauce, or “heavy tomato” as it’s known to the pros, is similar in theory to the bog-standard barbecue sauce you can buy from any grocery store. However, that comparison falls drastically short. This sauce is darker, sweeter, but should be used sparingly lest it overwhelm the meat’s natural taste.
Made famous by “Carolina Gold,” this sauce is tangy, sweet, and sour, serving to contrast the smoky meat flavors rather than compliment them. Be careful though, Mustard-based sauces tend to be a bit acidic, meaning they’ll turn pulled pork or brisket into a mess of pulpy meat if you use too much.
The newcomer to the smokehouse kitchen,from Alabama, white sauce is takes the familiar bases of vinegar, salt, and pepper, and uses mayonnaise instead of a tomato or mustard sauce. Usually applied as a drizzle over finished meat, white sauce adds a creamy, savory taste to smoked meat. It may be a far cry from traditional sauces, but it’s one that’s swiftly catching on.
So which will you choose this Memorial Day weekend? Will you grill up a full slab of baby back ribs and slather it in Carolina Gold? Or will you go St. Louis style with some heavy tomato on top? The choice is yours.