In one area of the Carolinas it is vinegar based with a bit of cayenne and black pepper and in another area it is mustard based and yellow. In the deep south, it is a tomato based, tangy sweet sauce and they are not adverse to spicing up. In Alabama, where I am from, there is also a white sauce that is mayonaisse and vinegar based that is considered a regional classic and I don't think I have seen anything like it anywhere else. Memphis is known for their dry rub barbeque but also has a sauce similar to Kansas City but is not as sweet and is thinner, but still tomato and vinegar based. Texas barbecue is not so easy to categorize.
Texas really sets themselves apart from the rest because of the smoked meats which can be simply incredible with or without barbeque sauce. Brisket is king but is accompanied by pork, sausage, chicken, turkey, duck, beef and pork ribs. If you can catch it, they probably will barbeque it. They take prepping and smoking their meats very seriously. "Low and slow" is a popular saying meaning keep the heat low and cook for a longer period of time. There are variations from one pit master to another but that is the beauty of Texas barbeque. It is unique and innovative. You can eat your way across Texas and not have the same barbeque twice. It is quite the culinary adventure completely delicious. It may even challenge what your favorite barbeque really is although I think most are beholden to what they grew up with. The sauces can be any style and many times they are recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. On the subject of barbeque, you cannot mess with Texas. There are barbeque trails you can drive to experience some of the longtime, famous spots and they range from roadside stands or dive to fine dining. One spot west of Austin which is dear to my heart (or maybe just my stomach), I don't hesitate to mention is Salt Lick. They have a unique barbeque sauce that is delicious and quite the secret. All I know about it is that it is not tomato based, has mustard and sugar in it and has regional spices in it. Their barbeque is some of the best I have ever had.
Now you might think that Texas barbeque is my favorite and you would be right, but I love it all. Where ever and when ever I am having delicious barbeque, it is the best! Since I can't get to some of the many barbeque places I love because they are in Texas and I am not, I make do by making my own barbeque sauce and do the grilling myself. I have not found a favorite barbeque place in Pennsylvania yet, but I am still looking.
Now that I have shared my opinion on barbeque, I would love to hear your opinion so please leave a comment if you have one. Amazingly, there is always something new (or old!) to learn about barbeque and it is a lot of fun.
adapted from The Southern Living Cookbook 1987
makes almost 2 cups, this recipe easily doubles
1/2 cup water (fruit juice such as orange or peach can substituted)
1/2 cup of ketchup
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar or honey
1 tablespoon of molasses
1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of unsalted butter
2 tablespoon of lemon juice or 1/2 of a large lemon
2 teaspoons of dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons of pure chili powder (ground new mexico, chipotle or your favorite)
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika or sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon or pinch of garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon or pinch of Mexican oregano
1/8 teaspoon or pinch of ground cumin
Place all together in a sauce pan and gently simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until well combined. Now all you have to do is decide what meat or veggie to use it for. Nice.
I made barbequed chicken with this sauce and this is how I did it. I bought a few chicken thighs and legs (our favorite) seasoned them with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Allow them to marinate in the lemon juice for about 20 to 30 minutes. ( I usually don't add fat to thighs and legs since they already have plenty but will lightly oil the grill before cooking.) Heat or prepare your grill and sear the chicken and allow to cook until almost done. This should take 30 to 45 minutes according to the heat of your grill. Brush them several times with the sauce and allow the sauce to thicken on the meat which will take another 10 to 15 minutes to do. Watch for flair ups if your grill is still very hot. If you are using a propane grill then place the chicken on a flat pan or foil while you are saucing the chicken. Enjoy.
Notes: Use pure ground chili powders such as chipotle, New Mexico or pasilla. If you are not into a spicy sauce then leave off the chili powder altogether or add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne for a touch of heat. I do like mine spicy.
Use peach juice or fresh orange juice in place of the water for a touch of fruit flavor in the sauce.
Enjoy and Happy Barbecueing! or BBQing?