We’re bringing back Laura Davis’ favorite barbecue sauce just in time for Labor Day Weekend.
By Laura Davis
If you have ever witnessed conversations or been a part of one about barbecue preferences, you know it can get kinda heated like when people start talking politics or religion. It is a subject that evokes a lot of passion. In the US everyone has a favorite barbecue sauce or style. 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 mayonnaise 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 barbecue 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 easily defined.
Texas really sets themselves apart from the rest because they tend to smoke their meats which can be simply incredible with or without barbecue 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 barbecue 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 barbecue. It is unique and innovative. You can eat your way across Texas and not have the same barbecue twice. It is quite the culinary adventure and completely delicious, and it may even challenge what your favorite barbecue 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, so on the subject of barbecue, you cannot mess with Texas. There are barbecue trails you can drive to experience some of the longtime, famous spots and they range from roadside stands or dives to fine dining.
One spot west of Austin which is dear to my heart (or maybe just my stomach) is Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX. It is the Texas barbecue experience at its best and they have a unique barbecue 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 barbecue is some of the best I have ever had and we are already making plans to go back.
Now you might think that Texas barbecue is my favorite and you would be right, but I love them all. Where ever and when ever I am having delicious barbecue, it is the best! Since I can’t get to some of the many barbecue places I love because most are in Texas and I am not, I make do by making my own barbecue sauce and do the grilling myself. I have not found a favorite barbecue place in Pennsylvania yet, but I am still looking.
Now that I have shared my opinion on barbecue, I would love to hear yours, so please leave a comment if you have one. Amazingly, there is always something new (or old!) to learn about barbecue and it is a lot of fun.
This recipe was adapted from Fiery Barbecue Sauce in The Southern Living Cookbook 1987. I have used this sauce on everything from ribs to chicken, burgers to vegetables and it works really well. It has good tang and sweetness and I love spicing it up. I have been making this sauce for years and I have probably never made it exactly the same twice. The chili powders can be tweaked by using different kinds and I don’t use a commercial blend but use pure chili powders like ground chipotle or ground New Mexican chili. Honey can be substituted for the brown sugar, peach or orange juice can be substituted for some or all of the water and so forth.
- ½ cup water (fruit juice such as orange or peach can substituted)
- ½ cup of ketchup
- ⅔ cup of dark brown sugar or honey
- 1 tablespoon of molasses
- ¼ cup of Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoon of lemon juice or ½ of a large lemon
- 2 teaspoons of dry mustard
- 1½ teaspoons of pure chili powder (ground new Mexico, chipotle or your favorite)
- 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika or sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon or pinch of garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon or pinch of Mexican oregano
- ⅛ 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 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.
Laura Davis is the author of the blog Sweet Savory Planet and has a life long culinary passion with southern roots originating in her home state of Alabama. She has a degree in nutrition from University of Texas at Austin.