Having lived in Kansas City for seven years in my youth, I confess to being partial to Kansas City-style barbeque sauce. Thick and red-brown, it’s a sweet, tomato-based sauce. Too thick for a basting sauce during cooking, it works best applied just before it comes off the grill or as a table sauce. In Kansas City, if you’re a Gates barbeque lover, you’d never eat at Arthur Bryant’s barbeque restaurant, or vice versa (much like a Ford man would never drive a Chevy, or a Pepsi drinker shuns Coke). BTW: You can count me on the Arthur Bryant’s team.
Here’s my favorite recipe from a long, online conversation thread of KC barbecue lovers trying to recreate Arthur Bryant’s sauce (bbq.about.com/b/2006/06/21/arthur-bryants-bbq-sauce.htm) courtesy of someone named Appie. (Others in the conversation suggested far less tomato paste.)
Kansas City Barbeque Sauce
2 cups water
1.5 cups white vinegar (that’s right, you fancy bastards!)
1 (8oz) can tomato paste
1/4 cup lard
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tablespoons paprika
1 Tablespoon ground celery seed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
But here’s the thing about barbeque sauce: everybody has his own favorite, and Kansas City style may not be yours.
There are several dramatically different kinds of barbeque sauce in the U.S. Kansas City’s is just one. Another comes from eastern North Carolina, where barbeque means pork (forget the beef!) and the sauce is thin, spicy with red peppers and vinegary. It is more of a basting sauce than a table sauce.
Here’s an example from John Egerton’s cookbook “Southern Food.” Note that it contains no tomato ingredients or sugar, and is thus less likely to result in burned or charred meat.
North Carolina Barbeque Sauce
2 cups cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon hot pepper flakes
1 onion, chopped fine
1 cup water
Combine all in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour. Then strain the sauce if you like, to remove the peppercorns. Apply generously to your meat, before, during and if you prefer, after cooking.
A third style of barbeque sauce is yellow in color and is made with mustard. Here’s a very simple recipe from the Low Country of South Carolina:
Low Country Mustard Barbeque Sauce
Makes about 1½ cups.
½ cup prepared mustard
½ cup honey
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup distilled white or cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine mustard, honey, sugar and vinegar in a nonreactive saucepan and whisk to mix. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until flavors blend.
Remove from heat and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature. Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
The basic recipe can be enhanced by adding a splash of hot sauce and by using different types of vinegar (white or cider), mustard (yellow, brown, Dijon, etc.) or by substituting molasses for honey.
Finally, I recently stumbled upon a mayonnaise-based barbeque sauce. Reportedly, it’s best used with barbequed chicken.
Alabama White Barbeque Sauce
2 cups mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons black pepper
6 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons white sugar
Mix all ingredients together and stir well.
I found other recipes for Alabama white sauce that included horseradish.
The truth is that there are countless recipes for barbeque sauce. I have only scratched the surface. Other variations include Memphis style, Kentucky style, Texas style, and I haven’t even considered Asian barbeque.
If you have a favorite, share it with us. We’ll publish our favorites from the recipes you send us in our Food section over the summer.