Barbecue Sauce 101 -- Making the Perfect BBQ Sauce
If you buy your barbecue sauce from the grocery, you can't even imagine how much you're missing. Making your own BBQ sauce takes all of 5 minutes and the freshness of the ingredients add a depth and complexity to the flavor you won't believe possible. Read on to find out how truly easy it is to prepare your own BBQ sauces. Ingredients: If you're talking about BBQ sauce in Texas, people immediately think of ketchup. That's where you start, and you go from there. If, on the other hand, you're in the Carolinas, BBQ sauce is made with mustard. And if you're from California (yes, they eat a BBQ of sorts there,) the base might be any kind of fruit puree from papaya to Mango. Whatever you use (and you owe it to yourself to try them all,) use fresh ingredients and don't be afraid to experiment. Following are some basic ingredients to all BBQ sauces. Mix and match to your heart's content. Ketchup. It doesn't matter which ketchup you start with. In fact, start with what you have in the pantry. But remember, every brand of ketchup has a different flavor, so don't be afraid to try something new. Ketchup is the base in many bbq sauces, and if you're using it as the base, start with at least a cup. Mustard. This is also a base, so when you use it, use at least a cup. Now, you can use regular old French's yellow mustard, or you can use sweet mustard, spicy mustard, dijon mustard, etc. Just use whatever you have and have some fun. Fruit. This can be mangoes, pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, grapes, kiwi fruit, peaches, pears, whatever. The sky is the limit. Like mustard or ketchup, this is the base, so don't be stingy with the compote. Depending on the ripeness of your fruit, you'll have to add more or less sugar to get where you want to be for sweetness. Vinegar. Vinegar isn't a base, it's a flavor additive. So don't get too jiggy with it. Start with a tablespoon and taste it. If you want a little more, add it in a tablespoon at a time. Again, there are a lot of vinegars out there. Don't be afraid to try something new. Sugar. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, or both. I suppose you could use corn syrup (although I'm not sure why you would want to since it's not good for you.) And you could even use fruit sugars or invert sugars. Again, go to the pantry and use what you have. Start with a tablespoon and work up until you're satisfied with the level of sweetness. Honey. I listed honey separate as it adds unique flavors to the sauce. Start with a tablespoon or two and work up. Sugar is pretty forgiving. Honey, not so much. Too much sugar won't be nearly as noticeable at too much honey. So use it, for sure. Just proceed slowly. Onions. Usually white onion is best, but sweeter varieties like vidalia, etc. will work just fine. Just mince it finely. Also, if you're using fresh onion and garlic, etc. you're going to want to let this sauce rest while the flavors come together. Start with a couple of tablespoons of freshly minced onion and add more to taste. Garlic. It's said garlic is one of just a handful of things you can't get too much of. I tend to go with that philosophy. Start with a couple of cloves finely minced and work up. Fresh garlic is infinitely better than powder. Worcestershire sauce. This is one of those things that adds a ton of flavor, but which can easily get away from you. Start with a teaspoon or two and work up. Don't get carried away with this one. Salt. Keep in mind that salt cancels sugar and vice versa. You can't keep a sweet flavor if you add too much salt. Decide where you want to go on the sweet / salty continuum and add accordingly. Sea salt has a different flavor than morton's iodized salt. Get rid of the cheap stuff and get some real salt. It tastes better on everything. Pepper. You can crack your own fresh. Pick a variety of colors of peppercorns, and use liberally. Hot Peppers. These come in red pepper flakes, sriracha, Mexican-style chiles (like jalapeno, serrano, habanero, etc.) Use whatever you like and experiment. Keep in mind that as the sauce sits in the fridge, it's going to pick up heat from the chiles. So go cautiously. I remember asking the server at the BBQ joint why the sauce was so hot. She replied that the boss figured if it was hot people wouldn't eat so much. Don't use that as your guide. You want your guests to eat your sauce, so that when it's gone you can try something new. Make it spicy, but edible. Chipotle. I listed these chiles separately as they are used more for a smokey flavor than for heat. This is another item where a little is great and too much is terrible. Go slowly. Usually, I just use the adobo sauce the chiles come packed in and not the chiles themselves. You do whatever your spirit fancies, but proceed with caution. Chile powder / paprika. I don't use these much, but you can try them if your sauce seems to be lacking in something. Again, I'd use smoked paprika, and I'd use it more for smokiness than flavor. Mixing: Mixing is easy. Put something in and taste it. Then adjust. Then put something else and taste and adjust. Just keep in mind that the flavors will intensify as you let the product rest. BBQ sauce is best made the day before you want to serve it. You make it, let it rest in the fridge for 12-24 hours and you're ready to go. Keep in mind that making BBQ sauce isn't something you do with measuring cups and spoons. You do it with your nose and with your taste buds. Don't get caught up in how much of everything you put in. But, you say, how will I be able to reproduce it if I like it? Easy. The same way you made it the first time. With your nose and with your taste buds. Trust yourself. You'll be able to make it the same every time if you trust your senses. And that will allow you to make a smaller or larger batch without any calculations. The key here is have fun. Hopefully, by now you've figured out these sauces make a great gift. They are part and parcel of you. They aren't available anywhere else. Only you can make this one. Try it. It's fun and very rewarding and your friends will love you for it. Make several different styles and let us know what your favorites were.