The Hidden History Of Barbecue Sauces Revealed

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Ok, maybe not so hidden but a decent primer on barbecue sauces!

Barbecue sauces have a distinctively Southern and Western U.S. history. Many historians agree that the practice of adding sauce and spices to meat and fish began early in our history, with Native Americans teaching the art to early European settlers. The Native Americans developed the process as a way to preserve meats and fish. Salt played a major role in those early barbecue preparations, and salt is a well-known preservative in the meat curing process.

By no strange coincidence, the nation’s first European arrivals lived on the East Coast of America, and as a result, that part of the country is credited with the creation of sauces for barbecue (bet we will get some comments on this one).

There are the numerous Carolina barbecue sauces. The most well known are East Carolina, Piedmont, and South Carolina varieties.

East Carolina barbecue sauce (technically there is no East Carolina..only North and South) includes vinegar, salt, black pepper, and crushed or ground cayenne peppers. It’s a very simple sauce that penetrates the meat effectively for a deep flavor. Piedmont barbecue sauce only varies from East Carolina for the reason that it often includes molasses or Worcestershire sauce and hence clings to the meat more. South Carolina sauce is entirely different, using a mustard base instead, creating a very much tangier and sharp flavor.

Next up is Memphis or Southern style barbecue sauce. This well-liked variety is usually more complex (flavor-wise) and is built over mustard, tomato, and vinegar. Fans often point towards the boldness of these flavor combinations as the hallmark of Memphis barbecue sauce. A saying often heard among discerning connoisseurs is “no two bites alike”.

Continuing our trek westward, we reach the recognized center of the barbecue universe Kansas City! Kansas City barbecue sauce is recognized by its significantly thicker consistency and focus on sweetness as a result of this style of sauce being emboldened with thick tomato sauce and sugar. Many popular commercial brands are based on this Kansas City recipe. It’s well-liked among amateur backyard barbecue enthusiasts because of the availability in local stores (Kraft, Heinz, K.C. Masterpiece). And also because the thick sauce can be applied early in the cooking process and continue to flavor the meat for the duration of the cooking process.

And don’t forget Texas. Texas is one big state, and there are several regional sauces. Probably the most common include thick and spicy sauces that are basically spicier variations on the Kansas City sauces. These are found mostly in the north and east sections of the state (Dallas). In western Texas, thinner sauces that feature hot peppers could be found. These sauces are usually added at the very end of the barbecue cooking process.I n southern Texas, the barbecue sauce of choice features an emphasis on Mexican spices and, needless to say, jalapeno peppers! Make certain to have a cold drink handy to put out the fire!


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