The secret’s in the sauce

If you ask two people what the best barbecue sauce is, you are likely to get three (or more) answers, and/or start a fistfight. Barbecue sauces are as individualistic as fingerprints, with people hewing to certain types based on their regional cultures and their own tastebuds, and preferring different sauces for different meats as well. I am a South Carolina mustard barbecue sauce person when it comes to pulled pork, while my husband prefers a sweet & smoky BBQ sauce for his ribs. Ask us about the best sauce for brisket, and our answers will change.

Barbecue sauces run the gamut from sweet to tangy, mild to spicy, and can have oodles of ingredients or just a few, depending on the style. Many sauces are tomato-based, but you will find many other fruits represented. Mango, peach, and berry flavors are popular, and pineapple shows up frequently too (as a bonus, the enzymes in pineapple act as a meat tenderizer).

Although the term ‘barbecue’ connotes the US and especially the South, sauces for grilled meats know no boundaries. Gochujang forms the backbone of many Korean barbecue sauces, caramel sauce provides a sheen as well as rich flavor to Vietnamese dishes, and sour oranges star in Caribbean mojo sauces, to name just a few examples. For almost as long as humans have cooked over a fire, we have looked for delicious sauces to accompany our chargrilled foods.

If making a sauce seems like too much effort right now – and if you are suffering through a heat wave like we just had, I completely understand it – Eater has compiled a list of the best barbecue sauces you can buy at a store. Remember, you can always tweak those store bought sauces to make them better.

Photo of Beef brisket with bourbon barbecue sauce from Donna Hay Magazine

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