Thursday, October 27, 2011

BBQ Sauce [Zack]

My passion for cooking took flight once I started to make BBQ sauce.  It all began when I moved out of the dorms my junior year of college and moved into a house with 4 other guys.  Because we finally had our own place, we made the leap from an undersized George Foreman grill (which was poised by our dorm window so we didn't activate the smoke alarm) to a real grill - even though it was only $30.  All of the roommates loved being social and having friends over, so it was natural that we started to grill for our guests.  Quickly the parties evolved from simple BBQs to all-out Dance Dance Revolution contests and Karaoke Revolution competitions.  The evolution wasn't just in the entertainment.  I was in charge of the grill and decided that making my own BBQ sauce should become my new mission.  Somewhere between all of the beers and ribs, I found that I have a love for entertaining.

I’m romanticizing a bit I think.  I had no idea where to start – naturally I checked out the back of a bottle of BBQ sauce in the grocery store, but that didn’t get me too far.  I remembered my Mom had given me a copy of The Joy of Cooking (in desperate hopes that I would be able to adequately feed myself on my own).  I flipped open the page, grabbed the necessary ingredients, and gave it a shot.  Along the way, there was a lot of frustration:  burnt bacon, blaring fire alarms, too much vinegar, too sweet, not enough spice, etc.  After a few iterations and lots of splatters on the page, I felt comfortable enough to start deviating from the recipe and try make it my own. 

After graduating college, I got new roommates but the mission remained the same:  grilling for friends.  But this time it was on Wednesday nights.  Dubbed “Wacky Wine Wednesday”, we had each friend bring a bottle of wine and we would all hang out in the kitchen and cook together.  BBQ sauce was a frequent experiment, sometimes being so hot a friend would explain “my esophagus is burning!”.  I have also made it for my co-workers as a Christmas gift, bottled in Ball jars.  We even spent an afternoon trying to sell it to passing cars (Tony was the best sales rep). 

In retrospect, it was one of the best things to learn to start my cooking journey.  Making this sauce teaches you so many skills: render bacon fat, sweat onions, reduce a sauce, and balance flavors / ingredients.  This version is both and expansion and consolidation of my knowledge.  I have tried a huge number of variations of the recipe, but this one is one of my favorites.  A great BBQ sauce hits on each of the taste elements: sweet, spicy, sour/tangy, salty, and umami.  They even hit your tongue in a specific order:  sweet, tangy, salty, spicy, smoky finish.  You can add this to grilled or baked chicken, a nice rack of ribs, pulled pork, or even grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon.


Start your pot on medium-low heat and dice your onion, garlic and bacon.  Add 1 T of olive oil and 1 T of butter to the pot and let the oil get hot.  Then, add in your diced bacon and cook until the fat is rendered - about 5 minutes.  Add in your diced onion and sweat for 5 minutes.  

Stir in the diced garlic and chiles, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. 

Deglaze your pot by adding in the ¾ cup vinegar, worchestershire sauce, and your Dijon mustard.  Stir to combine and scrape up any flavor bits on the bottom of your pot.  

Add in your chili sauce and stir.  Put in your Cheyenne powder, onion powder, chili powder, and black pepper.

Let the sauce reduce to a nice thickness for about 20 minutes.  Adjust your salt (remember the bacon is salty, so do this last).  This is what it should look like when it has reduced:

It’s best to add the sauce during the last stage of cooking.  If you are grilling, cook the meat until it's about 5 minutes from being finished.  Add the sauce and caramelize it over the grill.  The same method applies to baking - run it under the broiler for the last 5 mins with the sauce.


3/4 cup vinegar
1 large white onion
3 strips smoky bacon diced
3 cloves garlic
2 heaping T of Dijon
2 T worchestershire
2 T Cheyenne powder
2 Birdseye chiles (optional!)
36 oz Heinz Chili Sauce
1 T onion powder
2 T chili powder
1 tsp black pepper

Creativity options:

Add peach, plum, or fig preserves (and leave out some of the ketchup)
Add curry powder
Replace 1/3 of the chili sauce ketchup with hoisin sauce for an asian flare.
Sriracha will enhance the spice level and give it a different finish
Liquid smoke may be considered cheating by some, but if you lack a grill or smoker, it can “recreate” a part that is lost.

Song – Al Green – Here I am

1 comment:

  1. RIBS!!!!!!!! Confirmed - awesome BBQ sauce. Hilarious day of Tony peddling BBQ sause.