How to finesse your BBQ sauce


Steak covered in BBQ sauce on white dinner plate with asparagus
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If you’re in pursuit of barbecue sauce perfection, check out these tips and recipes—just in time for Labor Day!

Do store-bought barbecue sauces leave you dissatisfied? Often, they’re too sweet. Other times the taste is overwhelmed with artificial “smoke” flavoring. That’s why so many people spend years perfecting their special sauce. To discover what makes a delectable, mouth-watering BBQ sauce, we scoured the web. It turns out there are lots of way to finesse your sauce!

The basic mix

BBQ sauce is easy to make. Start with a tomato base, then add a blend of sweet, salty, spicy, smoky and acidic ingredients. However, easy doesn’t mean simple. There are lots of ingredients to layer in for a lip-smacking sauce.

The base

Many DIY BBQ recipes start with ketchup for the base, like this Very Popular BBQ Sauce from All Recipes. (You likely have all the ingredients on hand for this one).

However, if you really want to customize your sauce, make everything from scratch. Bon Appetit provides directions for making your own base, complete with garlic and onions, and tips on what kind of beer, wine or whiskey will enrich your sauce.

Hitting the sweet notes

One reason store-bought sauces lack panache is because they’re made with high fructose corn syrup. For sweetness with depth, try brown sugar, molasses or honey.

Tip: If your sauce is too sweet, try adding an acidic ingredient to balance it out.

Layer in the salt and spices

Of course, salt makes things salty. So do ingredients that already have salt in them—like ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and teriyaki sauce. Keep overall salt content in mind as you concoct your sauce.

Remember, when using Worcestershire sauce, it adds multiple layers to the flavor profile including salt, vinegar, spice and sweetness—don’t overdo it.

Chefs, cooks and backyard BBQ kings and queens use a wide variety of spices to add savory flavors to their sauce. A few of the most popular are dry mustard, paprika, black pepper, hot pepper sauce, pepper flakes, chili powder, celery seed, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and even a touch of cinnamon. Plus, chipotle and smoked paprika lend a subtle smokey flavor.

Experiment with the spices to get just the right amount of savory and heat.

Acidic flavors to try

You wouldn’t get the tang of BBQ sauce without an acidic element like white vinegar. Switch up your favorite recipe with apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or fresh orange juice.  

Tip: If you go overboard with acid, eHow recommends taming the taste with bacon fat. Watch how it’s done.

Make extra and freeze it

If you’re going to take time to make your own sauce, make a double or triple batch and freeze the extra. In an airtight container, Well Plated says it will last up to three months. Let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator when you’re ready to use it to create another BBQ masterpiece for your tastebuds.

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