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May 17, 2013

A Guide to Barbecue Sauces in the South

Barbecue SaucesBarbecue is its own special language in the South, with multiple sauces and bases. How many can you name? In honor of National Barbecue Month, blogger Kara Gause breaks them down.

The South is synonymous with slow-cooked, soulful food. As a Yankee transplanted to Tennessee by marriage, I was excited to learn more about all the dishes that constitute “home cooking” for my husband. And to him, nothing says “home” quite like barbecue.

The first time I went to meet his family in South Carolina, my future father-in-law was slaving away at slow-cooked, Low-Country barbecue–or an old-fashioned pig pickin,’ as they say. Being from Pennsylvania, I expected a tomato-based sauce to accompany my meal. Oh, how wrong I was!

It seems there are no fewer than five methods of saucing the smoky meat in the South–six, if you count the devotees of dry rubs and non-saucing. Those five are: Memphis-style heavy tomato (what I had imagined for the pig pickin’); a white, mayonnaise-based sauce from northern Alabama (the hubs is not a fan); light tomato (think ketchup) in North Carolina and Georgia; mustard-based in South Carolina (tangy and sweet); and the vinegar-based staple for eastern South Carolina and Kentucky.

My husband has implored me to note (out of respect–seriously) that both Texas and Kansas City have variations of the heavy tomato sauce. It should also be said that my father-in-law has developed a well-guarded vinegar-based sauce over several decades. Only my brother-in-law Tim has inherited the recipe. Yes, really.

Had I been introduced to the nuances of barbecue often covered in magazines, such as Garden & Gun, 10 years ago, I could have saved myself from some serious teasing at the hands of my in-laws. Besides breaking down “the sauce question,” there’s also a guide to the best barbecue sandwiches in the South. While tradition is soundly respected here, there are also breakout stars. Take the spicy Korean pork sandwich from the Heirloom Market in Atlanta, described as a “gutsy alliance of Southern pit-smoking techniques and Korean flavors.” Yum.

Even I have begun to develop my own version of barbecue; using pulled chicken makes me feel infinitely less guilty about serving it up more regularly. I’d spill all my recipe secrets, but I’ll probably will them to my daughters. After all, here in the South, barbecue is like currency.

 



About the Author

Kara Gause
Kara Gause
Kara Gause is a junkie for TV, film, pop culture, and health food--in that order. A Yankee girl happily transplanted in Nashville, she spends her days as a freelance writer juggling the needs of her twin toddlers, two Bassett hounds, and one fantastic husband--in that order. Read more of her day-to-day shenanigans on her blog, MasterofWhat.com.




  • http://twitter.com/SummerH Summer Huggins

    I’m glad you gave a nod to Texas. I was worried there for a minute… ;-)

  • http://about.me/mfuzzell Marie Fuzzell

    Barbecue is one of my fave foods–I love all the sauces and styles–but my husband is a vegetarian. Thankfully I’ve found a great barbecue salsa recipe with black beans that satisfies my bbq cravings!

  • Anonymous

    Yum! I’d love that recipe. So glad you’re getting your BBQ fix!

  • Anonymous

    Just chock it up to my Yankee ignorance. Texas-style brisket is actually my favorite!