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Everything You Need to Know About BBQ Seasoning, Part 1 of 3: BBQ Sauces

BBQ Sauce

When you’re planning your BBQ, it’s always tempting to focus on the delicious meats and veg you’re going to grill. And with good reason, as these are the centrepiece of your BBQ, providing the mouthwatering tastes and textures that your guests will love. But, it’s important not to neglect some of the other aspects of barbecuing and grilling that can really add some OMG to your flavours.

So, we’ve come up with our guide to those flavour enhancing extras that can really level up your grill skills and create epic taste sensations to remember. From BBQ sauces that are the perfect for whatever you’re cooking, to marinades and rubs that’ll tease out beautiful flavours that everyone will savour, we’ve got it all right here in this 3-part guide. In this first part, we’ll dive in to all the sauces you’ll need to know to create the perfect BBQ flavours for your guests to enjoy.

BBQ sauces

A saucy world of tang, sweetness and spice is waiting for you. All you need to do is explore. To put it another way, there’s a lot more to sauces at your BBQ than just bringing out a bottle of ketchup. Different sauces pair better with different meats and vegetables, and serving a complementary sauce is the perfect way to really elevate the flavour of your grilled food. Plus, it’s easy to make your own delicious sauces adding even more home-cooked magic to every BBQ moment.

Join us as we dive into the seas of sauce including both barbecue flavoured sauces, and other styles of sauce that are often served at a BBQ. From familiar favourites to push-the-boat-out experiments, you’re bound to find a sauce that you’ll love. Why not give one of them a try at your next BBQ?

Barbecue styles and flavours

We all know and love the traditional barbecue sauce flavour. It’s a hallmark of tasty grilled delicacies across the world, instantly associated with everything where flame meets food. But, did you know that there are actually a wide range of different styles of barbecue sauce? From ketchup based to vinegar based, adding sugar or molasses, and then choosing from a massive range of flavours to add a little kick of spice, the world of barbecue sauce is as varied as it is global.

When you’re making your own barbecue sauce, a common method is to start with ketchup or a can of chopped tomatoes, then add cooked onions, garlic, brown sugar and malt vinegar – topped off with a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Then simply simmer this until it becomes a thick sauce. This makes a delicious traditional barbecue sauce that pairs well with a huge range of meats and veggies. But if you’re looking to mix things up a little, read on to discover more varieties of, and tweaks to, the conventional classic.
There are as many types and styles of barbecue sauce as there are cities and barbecue joints, with so much regional variation and so many closely guarded secret sauces, it’s nearly impossible to try them all. So, here are a few of the most common flavours of barbecue sauce that you’ll come across, and how to make them.

One of the most popular styles of barbecue sauce that you’ll come across is traditionally from Kansas City. This flavour of sauce is rich, sweet and tangy. It pairs beautifully with ribs, but works great with all kinds of barbecue foods. The recipe is similar to the traditional barbecue sauce above, but skip the Worcestershire sauce, and add molasses as well as a spice mix of garlic powder, black pepper and a generous amount of cayenne pepper.

Traditional Southern barbecue sauces are typically thinner and less sweet than other kinds of barbecue sauce. They’re tangy and perfect slathered on beef, pork or poultry. For a traditional Southern sauce, start with a ketchup or tomato base, add vinegar and sugar, and then add lemon juice and Tabasco sauce, alongside paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic. For a Texas twist, add a beef stock cube to give some meaty richness to the sauce.

There are a lot of other experimental twists on barbecue sauce to try. Cola-based sauces are very popular, with the sweet and sharp flavours of cola creating a gorgeous base for a balanced and rounded barbecue sauce. The secret to a cola based sauce is to let the cola go flat, as the carbonated drink can make a mess when you cook with it. Then, heat the flat cola with ketchup, white vinegar and spices to your taste. Bear in mind that due to the high sugar content in this sauce, it’s best used as a table sauce. While we’re on drink-based sauces, adding bourbon or rum to a barbecue base can make for a sauce with a delicious kick. Try honey, bourbon and jerk seasoning for a gorgeously sweet sauce with warming heat. Jerk inspired BBQ sauces are also a perfect pairing with grilled veggies like pepper, aubergine or courgette.

Familiar favourites: Ketchup and mayo

While barbecue sauce might be the traditional accompaniment to a BBQ, there are a couple of other family favourites that’ll always go down a storm. That’s right, we’re talking about ketchup and mayonnaise. While store bought versions might be an easy go-to, did you know it’s simple to make homemade ketchup and mayonnaise? Plus, the guests at your BBQ will really appreciate the extra effort and tastes you’ve created.

For homemade ketchup, start by frying an onion. Then, add garlic and fresh ginger, with a few red pepper flakes to give some heat. Throw in a generous dollop of tomato puree alongside a can of tomatoes, some brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. Finally, add salt to taste, and then blend the result to create a rich, smooth ketchup.

To make a gorgeous homemade mayonnaise, start with egg yolks and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Whisk the two together, adding salt and pepper, and then add a small amount of sunflower oil. Whisk this until completely combined, then continue to add a drop at a time while whisking to create a thick sauce. Finally, add a dash of lemon juice, and you’ve got the perfect homemade mayonnaise. Mayo is a great accompaniment to grilled veggies, or even side salads, and making your own adds a real wow factor to your BBQ.

Experiment with béarnaise, chimmichurri or pesto

Now that we’ve got barbecue, ketchup and mayo sorted, why not experiment with some other delicious BBQ sauces? Some of these are a little bit more difficult to make, but the effort is guaranteed to pay off, especially if you’ve chosen one of these three beautiful sauce pairings.

Béarnaise is the ultimate steak sauce. Rich, buttery and elegant, it’s the perfect accompaniment to your beautifully grilled steak. It can be quite tricky to make, so wow your guests with a homemade béarnaise that’ll get their taste buds firing.

If you’re serving beef, why not try the Argentinian sauce chimmichurri? It’s deliciously herbal, made from parsley, garlic and oregano with a red wine vinegar base. Chimmichurri can really elevate the flavour profile of your beef dishes. Add it to a beef burger instead of ketchup for a tasty meal with rich, complex flavours.

For grilled veggies, pesto is the perfect partner. It’s made from pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and basil, and it’s delicious with vegetarian recipes like grilled aubergine or halloumi burgers. There’s lots of different kinds of pesto, too, so you can experiment and find the one that matches your tastes perfectly.

Sticky, salty, sweet, spicy, scrumptious – the list of adjectives goes on. We know the right sauce for all your BBQ dishes is there to be found. So use our BBQ sauces guide and start creating. Check back soon for the second part in our series on BBQ seasoning, when we’ll be giving you the low down on all things marinade.