I have been asked to participate in a discussion on BBQ sauce at the upcoming Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, so I’ve been brushing up on my BBQ history. During that research, I was surprised to find that the first BBQ sauce was bottled in Atlanta by the Georgia Barbecue Sauce Company in 1909. There is evidence to support that folks have been cooking haunches of meat over open flame since the 1700, and for the next few centuries BBQ sauce consisted largely of butter, pepper, salt and vinegar—which is pretty much the way folks in the Carolinas still like it. Alabama also has its place at the sauce table with Alabama White Sauce: a mixture of mayo, pepper, vinegar, sugar and lemon. Everyone has their own version, and I call mine “Kowaliga Sauce.”
Kansas City BBQ sauce, which is what many associate with when they think of BBQ sauce, is a sweet, tomato-based sauce. For me, this isn’t my favorite; it’s more of a “candy” sauce. When you think about sauce, you need to know its purpose, or—more importantly—the purpose you want it to serve. Really good BBQ shouldn’t be swimming in sauce, and you certainly don’t want to taste only sauce when enjoying it. The sauce has a purpose, and that purpose is to help cut through the fat of the meat.
BBQ with a higher fat content such as beef or pork needs a sauce that is acidic in order to cut the fat. In the case of chicken, I like to use white BBQ sauce, which is mayonnaise based. The white sauce adds a little acid and fat to the already lean chicken. BBQ sauce should be used to enhance the flavor of the meat, rather than be the star attraction. Making BBQ sauce isn’t very difficult, and the end result is worth it.