Thursday, September 01, 2011

Barbecue Sauce Reviews

barbecue sauce
Right now I have three open bottles of barbecue sauce in my fridge. I received each one as a sample to try. Welcome to the life of a food writer and frequent specialty food reviewer. So here's my feeling about barbecue sauce, the best barbecued meat doesn't need any sauce at all. It's smoky, spicy, tender and succulent (I'll post soon about Franklin Barbecue in Austin and you'll see what I mean). But for those of us who do not live in Texas or have a smoker, barbecue sauce is a great way to add flavor to all kinds of meat. You can cook with it or add it at the table to chicken, ribs, beef, whatever you like really.

I have three bottles so I figured why not compare them in a blind taste test? I cooked some boneless beef short ribs (flanken) very plainly. I like cross cut short ribs because they are flavorful and tasty even without any sauce and don't require a marinade. Flanken is a relatively inexpensive cut of beef, if you can find it. It isn't as tender as steak, but cut thin it is equally delicious cooked rare or well done. Really.

Each of the sauces were good, and each had a different flavor profile but for me and my other taster, my husband, there was one clear favorite.

The first bottle was 1849 bbq sauce (14oz $5). I don't know much about this brand, even how I ended up with it. But I can tell you I like it. If you're wondering why it's called 1849, according to the website, it's because in 1849, the average man ate 6 pounds of meat a day. Unlike the others, it has a strong smoky flavor, though by comparison it does seem a bit sweet. It has both molasses and brown sugar in it. If you like smoke, this is a good choice.

The second bottle was Pendleton mesquite bbq sauce (18oz $6.50). This sauce is more vinegary, so perhaps it would be better for cooking than for using at the table? It's also much thinner and seemed spicier than the others, but I think that may just be the vinegar. Or it could have been the whiskey, one of the more unusual ingredients. While it is called mesquite, and it has "natural mesquite flavor" listed as one of the ingredients, I didn't get much wood or smoke flavor.

The third bottle was SFQ (the original San Francisco-style barbecue sauce) (8oz $5). What is San Francisco-style bbq? Well the idea is that it includes some signature flavors of San Francisco, namely coffee, chocolate and in a bit of a stretch, red wine in the form of red wine vinegar. This sauce is very complex but well balanced with just a hint of heat. It was the clear favorite when compared with the others and I highly recommend you try it. I have no doubt some serious work went into getting the formula just right because no one flavor dominates, the spice and seasonings all meld together beautifully. I couldn't stop dunking my short ribs into this sauce. I'm convinced it would make just about anything taste good.

So why buy bbq sauce instead of making it? Convenience, plain and simple. It's a great to have on hand for when you have limited time or energy for making sauce from scratch. I sometimes use it to dress up sandwiches too, though having 3 bottles is probably more than anyone needs...Do you have a favorite bbq sauce? Let me know which one you prefer in the comments.