The Best BBQ Sauce Region by Region
A little while back we opened a can of worms when we introduced the whole East vs. West North Carolina BBQ subject. We are about to delve deeper into a sticky territory and talk sauce. A BBQ purists will cringe as they see folks slather a slow-cooked-buttery-smoky-hunk of delicious meat with sauce. But, there is no denying, people love sauces. So what is the best BBQ sauce? These days it may be hard to decipher as it seems like just about everyone is in the sauce business. And while we are not here to say which is the best BBQ sauce (our of course!), we will give you the info so you can decide for yourself.
Kansas City Style
The sauces found in the region are tomato-based, with sweet, spicy and tangy flavor profiles. The sauce typically gets its sweetness from molasses. Kansas City sauce is thick and sticky and really coats the meat. Kansas City traces its barbecue history to the late 1800’s very early 1900’s. Legendary tales of Henry Perry, who first operated out of a trolley barn. But it is Arthur Bryant’s secret recipe that most people relate to KC BBQ. When you think of finger licking sweet sauce, it is more than likely Kansas City style.
Alabama White Sauce
Made famous in 1925 by the infamous Big Bob Gibson. The family tradition continues today. While it seems most people outside of Decatur, Alabama may never have heard of the sauce, these folks have been winning BBQ competitions for years. This Alabama White Sauce is mayonnaise based, with a mix of kinds of vinegar, apple juice, garlic, horseradish, mustard powder, salt, red and black and pepper. This sauce is typically for chicken only.
Eastern North Carolina
For the BBQ purist, this sauce is where it’s at! Eastern North Carolina BBQ goes whole hog into it. Because they use the entire animal the meat is a bit buttery. The sauce of the East is a perfect compliment to the rich, fatty meat. Made with the bare essentials: apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar to balance the tanginess, this thin sauce is like a palate cleanser. It cuts through the savory, fatty layers, and never overpowers the flavor of the real star, the meat.
Western North Carolina
The Piedmont area in the western region of the Tarheel state is famous for its version of BBQ. And it is no stranger to debate or controversy. The epicurean antagonist to the Eastern NC style and often referred to as a dip. Small amounts of ketchup and sugar mix with the vinegar, red pepper flakes, and sugar of its Eastern cousin. The result is a thin and penetrating sauce, not thick like Kansas City Sauce. The sauce soaks into the meat, rather than coats it.
South Carolina Mustard Sauce
In the mid region of South Carolina, around Charleston the mustard sauce is king. It pays homage to the area’s population, which is primarily German descent. In Germany, mustard and pork are one in the same. While it may seem strange to bite into a pulled pork sandwich topped with a yellowish sauce, the taste is remarkable and memorable. When making this sauce, it is important not to get fancy with the mustard; avoid the dijon variety and stick to basic old fashioned yellow.
Most see Texas-style sauce as ketchup based with hints of smoky mesquite and sting of hot peppers. It is described as a sweetened tomato-based sauce with a good kick. But travel deep into Texas and you may find something unexpected. The first sauces in Texas showed up in the late 1800’s and used butter, with a mixture of pepper, salt, and vinegar. There are many joints still mixing up sauces like their kin did way back in the 1930’s. Those sauces used vinegar, water, butter, rendered beef drippings, black and red pepper, salt, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, onions and sometimes lemons.
Our Two Cents
We believe you should never trust a BBQ joint that slathers on the sauces for you. With exceptional BBQ, the sauce is secondary. But that is not to say it is unimportant. It should compliment the meat, never drown it. Chad’s takes the time to slow cook all of our BBQ. We are proud of our process. While we recommend and serve up Eastern North Carolina sauce, we feel the best BBQ sauce is a personal choice. We would never dream of telling you how to dress your ‘Cue. We are just honored you love ours as much as we do!