Almost all barbeque sauces can be broken up into three basic categories, vinegar based, tomato based, and mustard based. The average Joe may not even recognize the difference between the sauces but as these 8 regional sauces are discussed remember how proudly these areas serve their special barbeque.
The first, and possibly most popular, barbeque sauce comes from Kansas City. This sweet sauce is rich brick red in color, tomato based, with tart notes from vinegar and sweated with molasses or brown sugar. Although this is traditionally a sweet sauce, all too often commercial manufactures make this sauce way too sweet with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. A good Kansas City barbeque sauce will be sweet but balanced with the tartness of vinegar and occasionally liquid smoke. Kansas City sauce is served on a variety of meats as well as used for dips instead of ketchup.
The next regional barbeque sauce powerhouse is South Carolina. South Carolinians are so passionate about barbeque they have three sauces that widely represent their small state. All of the sauces are strictly served with pork, burgers and chicken do not deserve their hand crafted sauces. Also, in South Carolina there is no such thing as ‘going to a barbeque’ you go to a cookout and you eat barbeque. “Barbeque” is preciously used only to refer to the pork and sauce, not an event or gathering. While keeping that in mind, throughout the middle region of the state a traditional mustard sauce is served. The mustard sauce was created by early German immigrants and consists of yellow mustard, vinegar, sugar and spices. It is a very simple but possibly the most distinct sauce in the country. The state’s counter point sauce, known as East Carolina Mop-Sauce, is found along the coast of North and South Carolina and is used more as a mop or baste for the pork. The sauce is vinegar based with pepper flakes and fresh ground black pepper. Although it is also served with the meat, this sauce is traditionally used during the cooking of the pork. The third Carolina sauce extends itself up to North Carolina and down to Georgia and is referred to as the Lexington Dip. This sauce is very similar to the Carolina Mop-Sauce but with tomato sauce or ketchup added. It is balanced with the sweetness from the tomato similar to the Kansas City sauce.
Texans have very different feelings than Carolinians about barbeque. Beef brisket is the end all be all in Texas and their sauces were developed to nicely compliment the cooking process as well as the flavor of the cut. Texas Mop-Sauce, as it’s commonly called, is vinegar based with chili powder, black pepper, cumin, hot sauce, fresh onion, a touch of ketchup and most traditionally, beef drippings.
While some of these regional sauces date back to early settlers, the Alabama White Sauce originated in Decatur, Alabama at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q joint. The world barbeque champion, Chris Lilly, created and served the sauce he grew up on. It is a creamy mayonnaise based sauce with vinegar, salt, and black pepper and although can be served on pork or beef, it is most traditionally served with chicken and as a table sauce.
Tennessee and Kentucky offer their own varieties of whiskey and bourbon barbeque sauces, respectively. These bold sauces have varying strengths of whisky flavors added to traditional barbeque sauces and are slathered on almost all barbeque fare. In fact, the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbeque is one of the most respected barbeque competitions in the world and each sauce must feature the high end whiskey.
Similar to Texans, Louisianans don’t discriminate when it comes to barbeque. They even extend their sauces to crawfish and seafood. In addition to their variety of meat choices, their barbeque sauce is kicked up with a variety of hot sauces. Sometimes the sauces are popped with capsaicin for the burn of a chile pepper or the pepper itself, ground white or black peppers, or simply hot sauce from the bottle. Either way it is then lightly sweated with tomato and served with the meat and/or seafood of choice.
Several argue that their region makes the best sauce — I’d aruge to eat barbeque every day until you find your favorite.
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