One of my favorite parts about cooking and BBQ is the sauce. Sauce has the ability to transform your pulled pork , chicken, brisket, or other meat from Kansas City-Style to South Carolina Style meal with just a few spoonfuls. Traditional BBQ and the seasonings and spices they use on their meats change from region to region. Today we will be covering the different styles of sauces and dips that are commonly used in each region so you can try them out during your next cook.
Barbecue sauces combine a few key ingredients: tomato, mustard, and vinegar. Depending on the region you’re looking at, the sauce used will differ due to cultural tradition. We always think the meat should be able to stand on its own, but complimenting your brisket or pulled pork with a BBQ sauce can transform your BBQ into a little piece of the South or Texas for example. The sauce creates an identity to your BBQ due to the differentiation between regions.
Texas Style Mop Sauce
Texans have been basting their meat while BBQing for decades. “Mop Sauce” creates a nice flavor profile for your meat by adding ingredients like chipotle, cumin, chili powder, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, ancho, Worcestershire, meat drippings or beef stock, hot sauce, and vinegar. This sauce is applied while the meat is cooking and creates a thin, flavor-packed glaze on top of your meat. This sauce is thinner than the Kansas City-Style sauce.
Kansas City- Style Sauce
This is the most widely consumed version of BBQ sauce. This is going to be the type of sauce you typically pick up at the grocery store and throw in your cart. For BBQ novices, it’s what you think of slathered on ribs and coating your BBQ chicken.
Kansas City-Style Sauce is characterized by its thick, tangy, and sweet properties. The consistency is very thick and its ingredients range depending on who is making it. There are over 15 ingredients traditionally used in this type of sauce; the main ingredient being a ketchup or tomato base with molasses or brown sugar as the sweetener. Some other ingredients used are Worsestershire sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, spices, and liquid smoke (which if you’re smoking your own meat you don’t need much of this in your sauce since you’ll naturally have the smokey flavor). This style uses everything and the kitchen sink ingredient wise, rather than sticking to the simple simplicity of a vinegar based sauce like East North Carolina for example. It’s sweeter and thicker than most other sauces we’re looking at and will be much heavier / thicker when applied to the meat compared to the thin, watery vinegar based sauces from other regions. There are tons of variations of Kansas City-Style Sauce ranging from sauces that are spicy, peppery, and vinegary. There’s a lot more room for play with this one. Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce is great on a rack of ribs, your smoked brisket, or coating your burnt ends.
East North Carolina Vinegar Sauce
This sauce is defined by its spicy, acidic African flavor. This sauce is vinegar based (typically cider vinegar) and uses a combination of spices such as crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, black pepper, hot sauce, and salt. This is a watery sauce that is thin and doesn’t tack on the meat. This vinegar sauce is very popular while cooking pork. It’s got a nice tang to it.
West Carolina Vinegar Sauce / Piedmont or Lextington Style “Dip”
Similar to the East North Carolina Vinegar Sauce, but thickened slightly with the addition of ketchup. This keeps the tang and vinegar — two important qualities of the East North Carolina sauce — but creates a thicker texture for your meat and is a bit sweeter than an all vinegar based sauce or dip. You will see a lot of freshly cracked black pepper and chili flakes in these sauces as well. Again, this sauce is typically served on pork.
South Carolina Style Mustard Sauce
This mustard based sauce originated due to the large numbers of German immigrants in South Carolina during the 1700s. Take your mustard sauce and incorporate vinegar and spices for a South Carolina Style mustard sauce typically served over pork.
This sauce has evolved drastically over the years. Originating as a combination of vinegar and fresh ground black pepper, the sauce was meant to compliment the meat and not overpower it. As time has passed, the sauce has shifted to contain tomato and brown sugar as well. It’s the best of both worlds, combining the tang of the vinegar based sauces and a slightly thicker texture (still remaining runnier than the Kansas City-Style sauce).
St. Louis Sauce
Similar to the Kansas City-Style BBQ sauce, this sauce is also tomato or ketchup based. It is thinner and more runny than the Kansas City-Style sauce with the addition of vinegar. This sauce is a happy medium between vinegar and tomato based sauces with a sweet and sour flavor profile with a pack of punch from black pepper.
Alabama White Sauce
Completely different than other sauces we’re looking at, Alabama White Sauce is created by combining mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice and black pepper. You use this sauce to marinate and baste meat and also dip your food in. It can be thin and runny or thick and creamy . You typically serve with smoked chicken or pulled pork. This sauce was made famous by Big Bob Gibson in Decanter, Alabama.