BBQ Sauces and Rubs
There is a lot of controversy in all things BBQ, and sauce is no different, starting with whether to even use it. Like wine, beer, hot sauce, and rubs, there are 1000’s of different variations, but in general there are four basic styles - tomato based, vinegar based, mustard based, and mayonnaise based. For those that don’t sauce, you are missing out on a great addition to an already wonderful treat - have some on the side if nothing else!
If you do sauce on the grill wait until the last 10-15 minutes since most sauces contain sugar or molasses which can easily burn but if watched carefully can create a delectable caramelized crust. If you are doing a slow smoke, such as ribs, you can sauce the last hour or so without worry of burning.
Tomato based - the most widely used and famous BBQ sauces, such as those from Kansas City, famous for their sauces, are generally tomato of ketchup based. Sugar or molasses are often added to create additional sweetness. A variety of spices are added to create 1000’s of varieties, often with some form of pepper added to create a wonderful sweet/heat combination that is hard to beat.
Mustard based -the mustard based sauces are popular in South Carolina and almost exclusively used on pulled pork. Generally vinegar, sugar and spices are added to the mustard to create a relatively thin, runny sauce that permeates the meat.
Vinegar based - vinegar is found in virtually all BBQ sauces, but the simplest of sauces are mostly vinegar with pepper and often hot pepper flakes. This is often used as a mop sauce that is frequent brushed, sprayed, or mopped onto the meat as it cooks. Adding a beer to the mop sauce is a great twist. Vinegar based sauces and mops tend to penetrate the meat, whereas the tomato based sauces sit on top of the meat. Some vinegar sauces do have a bit of tomato sauce or ketchup added but not nearly as much as the tomato based sauces, keeping the sauce thin.
Mayonnaise based this is pretty much exclusively an Alabama tradition, especially on chicken. A simple combination of mayonnaise, vinegar and spices.
Like sauces there is a lot of debate as to whether to even use rub, and if so, what spices to include. Like sauces, some are very secretive with their rub formula considering them crown jewels. The most popular rubs are generally paprika based and include salt, garlic, onion, black pepper, chili powder, cumin and a variety of other spices and herbs. A great way to use dry rub, especially on ribs, is to first coat the meat with yellow mustard, then generously apply the rub. You won’t taste the mustard but it will hold the rub onto the meat and the vinegar in the mustard acts as a tenderizer and helps create a wonderful dry rub crust that can later be sauced or enjoyed as is.