I am going to give you the sauce code.
BBQ sauce is like a fine wine. Actually, it’s nothing like a fine wine, it’s more like the $7 bottle that you bought that turned out to be really versatile and yumzers. BBQ sauces are like excuses, everyone has one, sometimes nine. Most of the time they are terrible.
There are three distinct BBQ sauces to my knowledge and everything else is just a take on one of them, in my opinion. The most common is the tomato-based sauce; used everywhere except the Carolinas. Then you have your vinegar-based sauce which, as far as I can tell, usually acts as a brine of sorts; used in North Carolina. Then there is probably the least common BBQ sauce, the mustard sauce; used mostly in central South Carolina. While vinegar sauce is wonderful in it’s own way and mustard sauce might be my overall favorite, here I only talk of the tomato-based BBQ sauce. Why? Because.
You can buy a little bottle of sauce for every dish you make, but I don’t want all those sauce bottles cluttering my kitchen so, as they say, if you can’t stand the heat, there are too many cooks in the kitchen. You can make your own sauce, very much not difficult, but mine never come out the same way twice because I never write anything down and always never have the same ingredients with which to work. That leaves buying a real stand-up sauce, one you’d be proud to bring home to mom, but also one that will dress up real pretty-like with whatever fits your mood.
The love affair with my go to sauce, started nearly my lifetime ago with the local rib joint. Long after they had shuttered their doors, I was still comparing every rib to theirs. It was the best ribs I’d had in my life for a very long time. Eventually it became a sort of nostalgia vs. reality cage match and no one really won. Then one day, I found something quite precious to me. When doing some bulk shopping in my college years I bought le tub of BBQ sauce from the restaurant supply shop. It’s very unexciting label said Open Pit – Restaurant Recipe. When the sauce hit my lips for the first time I was transported back to the rib joint of my childhood. I had the sauce code. It’s a perfect balance of savory and sweet, of vinegar, tomato, and sugar. Sure, that sugar comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup, but that is also in Guernsey’s eggnog, and I’m sure as hell not going to stop drinking that. It has a bright flavor that takes well to anything you want to add, from lime to molasses. The rib joint of my childhood had a regular and a spicy BBQ sauce, both just came on the side. I’m pretty sure, that their spicy sauce was just the regular sauce with some hot sauce and black pepper, but it was delicious.
KC Masterpiece, Kraft, and the other Open Pit sauces taste like terrible things when compared with this or homemade sauce. Sweet Baby Rays is too damn sweet. Don’t give me that one note solo. I’m not going to pay a lot of money for a BBQ sauce if this will do the trick, and it does the trick damn well.
The rib joint of my childhood was Stefan’s in Dearborn. I think the same people now own a banquet hall. Someone had reopened a restaurant in the same building a while back, they had ribs, but they were as undelicious as most restaurants ribs. One day I will discover how their ribs were cooked and the jig will be up.