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BBQ better with Big K BBQ sauce basics

A philosophical epiphany can appear from anywhere, especially within the thick swirling plumes of BBQ smoke. Staring into the hypnotic glow can set off some interesting and primal thoughts. Imagine the same meat-scorching scenario – thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of years ago, performed by an obliging group of early homo sapiens. There’s wood. There’s fire. There’s meat in a blaze. There’s a band of people licking their chops waiting to masticate some moist meaty magnificence. But there’s one major difference between back then and now – our fur-clad predecessors didn’t have the BBQ sauce.

Ride the ricochet of time and fast-forward back to the future.  As the smoke clears, we snap back to reality. Yes, we’re still homo sapiens and yes, the meat is still sizzling on the fire. But we’ve got new threads. We’ve got gadgets. And most importantly – we’ve got a culinary cornucopia of sauces. If there’s one thing we should all channel our collective gratitude towards, it’s to the long line of inquisitive human beings that transcended the nourishment norm to create the sweet and deliciously indispensable staple of many a meat charring ritual – BBQ sauce.

We at Big K are big on a lot of things. Just like our ancestors were big on bows and arrows, we’re big on BBQ sauce. The art of the grill in today’s day and world would be nowhere without BBQ sauce, and we at Big K are devout preachers of its gospel.


We’ve been talking about BBQ sauce for quite some time now, and you can find some meaty nuggets of wisdom from the depths of BBQ sauce lore in our blogs about the clandestine arts of BBQ sauce or this useful guide to becoming a BBQ maestro


Meaty chops are grilling covered in BBQ sauce


No one can deny that this divine liquid has liberated us from the drudges of antediluvian blandness, but do you know the origins of this sacrosanct nectar? Buckle up Big K posse, because we’re going for another turbocharged saunter down memory lane to get a glimpse of BBQ sauce from the pages of history.

Sauce to cuisine is possibly like what a club would have been for a caveman, or at least we’d like to think so. Our ingenious flavour-seeking ancestors dabbled with many experimental forays into uncharted culinary pathways to engineer this gastronomic staple.

The earliest known record of sauce from the European continent is a fermented fish sauce called “garum,” which comes from the times of ancient Rome. Many ancient historic accounts, notably from sources such as the esteemed Roman chroniclers Pliny the Elder, Apicius, and the poet Martial, confirm that garum was on the rage all over the Roman empire. Despite these accounts, records show that the history of sauce stretches even farther back to Asia with written accounts of seasoning meat with sauce occurring as early as 200 BC in China and Korea.

But human taste had to evolve a little more before the bone fide birth of BBQ sauce. Spanish voyager and glorified gold prospector Hernando de Soto, who landed on the shores of Tampa Florida in 1539, is credited with being the catalyst of the inadvertent invention of BBQ sauce. His nine ships, carrying 600 men settled in the new land with an assorted inventory of stores that included sugar cane, vinegar, and molasses from the Caribbean. Needless to say, it was only a matter of time until the natives got a taste of the new ingredients (surely during the interim times where they weren’t trying to kill each other) and one fine day, the fire, the smoke, the vinegar, chilli, and molasses came together in a heady combination of colonisation, culinary happenstance, and hunger pangs. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Erudite BBQ historians also point to the account of one late 17th century Dominican missionary named Pere Labat, who witnessed cooks in the French West Indies using lime juice and hot peppers to season roasted meats. Although this is possibly the first time a European witnessed such a delicious custom in the flesh, flame fanatics argue what Pere Labat documented could have possibly had its roots even farther back in time – in Africa, before slavery.

Much like shopping on Amazon, it’s easy to become lost in the sprawl of it all. And frankly we don’t have the time. Now it’s time to get down to lubricating your grey matter with the bare essentials of BBQ sauce.


Three dips including mayonnaise and BBQ sauce sit freshly prepared on a table ready for serving.


What is the purpose of BBQ sauce?

Do we really need to ask this question? The answer is fairly obvious, but let us delve into some insight that has stood trial by fire – for the sake of those who hunger for juicy bits of BBQ wisdom.

The basic idea behind BBQ sauce is simple. BBQ sauce compliments, and opens up, the smoky flavours of the freshly grilled meat. Think of it as an individual note within a complete chord of taste – one of several flavours combining to create a mouthgasm of epic proportions. We have meat, BBQ sauce brings new dimensions of flavour to every char-grilled feeding fest. But before you strike the golden mean of sauce induced ecstasy, every BBQ guru worth their salt must comprehend that mastering the art of the sauce has all to do with one little thing called – wait for it…………….Timing.


When do I apply the BBQ sauce?

Hitting the sweet spot in cooking your meat and infusing it with flavour is all about the timing. Most BBQ sauces contain sugar (which burns fast and caramelises quickly), so it’s not ideal to give your meat a slathering of BBQ sauce before it goes on the grill – unless you want to run the risk of upsetting the flavour profile of your meat – or worse – giving it a gummy texture that would give your jaws a challenging chore of chomping. Applying the sauce too late can lead to lost opportunity as the meat can’t absorb all the flavoursome goodness of the BBQ sauce.

The burning question is – when is the right time to break out the sauce? The general consensus among BBQ virtuosos is that the best time to anoint your meat with the holiest of the holies is about 10 minutes before it’s done cooking. This gives enough time for sauce to caramelise and infuse a rich, smoky-sweet flavour into your meat. Brush the sauce on the meat while cooking and giving it a turn. Two to three coats of sauce do wonders for your meat, and it’s going to be glistening in that sticky, aromatic, and delicious looking glaze. Food porn anyone?

And of course, once the cooking is done, the sauce has to come back with a bang like the battered hero at the climax of a movie. Although the earlier steps are important and shouldn’t be forgotten by any means, it’s at the very end of the process the sauce makes its last hurrah – as a dip for meat that’s fresh off the grill and ready to be devoured.

There’s no feeling that’s as primal and pacifying as tucking into a deliciously succulent slice of meat. But unlike your ancestors you have the saucy game changer in your BBQ bag of tricks. If you follow these basic principles of the sauce, you too will be considered a genius among your tribe.

If you want some more enlightening and saucy insights, you can read our blog about marinades to level up your grill game. Quick tip – marinades collect the bacterial nasties from raw meat, so please don’t use your leftover liquid as a base for your BBQ sauce. This will defo end up giving you some gut busting queasiness in the days ahead.

Now that we’ve got fetal position-inducing toilet trips out of the way, the next big question is what sauce you’re going to make to impress your guests. Is there a simple BBQ sauce recipe? Can I get some interesting BBQ sauce ideas? How can I make a homemade BBQ sauce? These are the kind of questions you may have if you’re still new to the art of the grill, but there is no reason to fear.


Pork ribs smothered in BBQ sauce are placed in a smoker ready to be cooked at low temperature


Want some great BBQ sauce ideas? Look no further!

We’re going to give you some saucalicious Big K inspiration to give your grilling repertoire a touch of international savoir-faire. You don’t have to be a Gordon Ramsey to whip these sauces up, but (in between the furrowed brow and excessive profanity) he’d be wishing you were a part of his grill gang once you get the hang of stirring up these sauces. Here are some simple, but delicious BBQ sauce recipe ideas that you can make at home without breaking a sweat.


1. Kentucky Black BBQ sauce

This sauce is a vinegar and Worcestershire sauce based sauce that comes from a state that gifted the world Kentucky Fried Chicken. Contrary to any stereotypical assumptions, the choice meat used to dip this sauce is mutton. It also pairs well with gamey meat such as venison.

To prepare this sauce, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring it to a boil while lightly whisking it. When it’s boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. This sauce is thin and oddly dark in colour. It will provide the perfect counterbalance for the gamey flavour of the meat and is sure to be a staple at your summer BBQs.

2 cups water

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup Worcestershire sauce

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp white pepper

½ tsp allspice


2. Memphis Sweet BBQ sauce (Did you say RIBS??)

Looking for a perfect BBQ sauce for ribs? Look no further than Memphis. The birthplace of Rock N’ Roll and the hometown of Elvis packs a punch in the BBQ sauce department too. Known to be a little salty, sour, smoky, and sweet this well-rounded BBQ sauce is bursting with flavour, and it has the power to expose the messiest eaters in an instant.

The Memphis sweet BBQ sauce can be prepared by combining all the ingredients listed below in a saucepan. Use a whisk to mix the ingredients while on a medium heat. When the sauce boils, turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. This sauce is best glazed on BBQ ribs, but it’s also fantastic with pulled pork and grilled chicken.

1 cup water

1 cup ketchup

½ cup loosely packed brown sugar

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 and ½ tsp molasses

1 tbsp. onion powder

1 tbsp. chilli powder

1 tbsp. pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp celery seeds


3. Southeast Asian BBQ Sauce

Grilling meat and saucing meat has been in Southeast Asian food culture for centuries. And you know they really know what they’re doing. If you’re not sure, just take a stroll in the city and see how many Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Burmese restaurants there are, and you’ll see they mean serious business.

To prepare this fusion sauce, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Whisk until the sauce becomes thick. This sauce is best paired with grilled chicken, grilled fish, ribs and beef.

6 tbsp. Hoisin Sauce

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

1 tbsp. Thai fish Sauce

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. honey

1/3 cup or 55g of shallots

1 tbsp. finely minced ginger

2 garlic cloves

1/3 cup or 60g brown sugar

¼ tsp Chinese five spice.


4. Vegan Tikka Masala Sauce

It’s quite possible that your vegan friend is attending your BBQ party for the company and not the food. Life does not have to be so dreary for them. You can have a separate section of grilled veggies on your BBQ grill, and this delicious sauce is bound to be a hit with every person from the most vociferous vegan to the most unapologetic carnivore.

1 cup Cashews whole

1 large Onion

2 medium Tomatoes

1 tsp ginger and garlic paste

1 tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp Red Chili Pepper or Cayenne, ground

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp cinnamon


Place the cashews into a large blender jar with the peeled and quartered onion, the tomato, ginger, garlic, and the spices and all other ingredients into the jar. Blend everything to a smooth paste. If the blender is struggling, add 2-3 Tablespoons of water to help get it going. You can also use the tikka masala sauce to prepare a tofu tikka masala to go with some flatbread.

There you go! The sauce superintendents at Big K have spoken and now it’s up to you to go forth and make a saucy mark on the BBQ scene. If you’re so into BBQ to the point that this blog hasn’t satisfied your insatiable appetite for knowledge, don’t worry. You can continue the pursuit of your wisdom with our blog series about everything you need to know about BBQ seasoning

We will see you around the temporal bend in the blogosphere soon.