Want to make a signature sauce? Learn the basics and then go crazy. You’re only limited by what’s in your pantry.
1. Try a classic. To figure out what you like in a barbecue sauce, start by understanding the classics. Most storebought sauces mimic the sweet, thick, ketchup-based Kansas City-style sauce. If you like something tangier, try the vinegary Eastern Carolina sauce. Prefer something in between? The Western Carolina saucemixes ketchup into the vinegar base. And don’t stop with the most well-known sauces. Try the more obscure South Carolina-style sweet mustard sauce or the Alabama mayo-based white sauce.
2. Vary the sweetener. After you feel comfortable with the basics, start playing around with the sweetener. Brown sugar is classic, but for a richer, sweet-bitter flavor, try blackstrap molasses. If you’re a locavore living in the Northeast, add maple syrup; in the South, add sorghum. Or, wherever you are, try honey.