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How to Make BBQ Sauce

There are about as many styles of BBQ sauce as there are styles of BBQ. (That’s a lot, in case you didn’t know!) In fact, the sauce is as fundamental to the signature flavors of charcoal and pellet grill recipes as the cooking techniques themselves are. If you’re on the road to becoming a backyard BBQ pitmaster, making your own sauce is an awesome way to introduce a homemade twist into your creations. Learn how to make BBQ sauce that’s full of tastebud-tingling flavors with the top tips below!

The Basics of BBQ Sauce

With so many different styles out there, it’s challenging to find a single, unified definition of BBQ sauce. BBQ sauces can be thick, thin, tangy, spicy, smoky, sweet, or any combo of the above. Every flavor has a different purpose, and keeping them in balance is important. 

For ingredients, most BBQ sauces use some combination of vinegar and spices, often (but definitely not always) with tomato paste or ketchup as a base. A lot of BBQ sauce styles also use ingredients like molasses, brown sugar, soy sauce, mustard and even mayonnaise to get the signature flavors the style is known for. 

Cooking techniques for most BBQ sauces are simple. In some recipes, all you’ll need to do is combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir. For most others, you’ll heat the mixed ingredients to a boil or a simmer in a saucepan, stirring them until they reduce. As the sauce cools, it might take on a thicker texture, or it might stay relatively thin, depending on the style you’re making. 

Styles of BBQ Sauce

Getting familiar with the various styles of sauce is a must for anyone who wants to start making their own BBQ sauce:

  • Eastern North Carolina: One of the oldest and simplest BBQ sauce styles, eastern NC style at its most basic is vinegar with a generous helping of spices. 
  • Lexington: Another NC style, but with ketchup and brown sugar for a sweeter and richer flavor.
  • South Carolina: A unique style with a mustard base that brings serious zap to any BBQ recipe. 
  • Kansas City: Among the thickest and richest BBQ sauces, with a ketchup base and lots of molasses for a candy-sweet, finger-licking flavor.
  • Texas: There are at least three distinct sauce styles in Texas. All are on the thinner side, significantly spicy, smoky as hell, and amazing on beef.
  • Alabama: And now for something completely different — Alabama’s signature “white sauce” is thick, mayonnaise-based and savory. 
  • Korean: Make a quick trip around the world with Korean BBQ sauce, a sticky, sweet and savory creation that adds East Asian flavors like ginger, gochujang and rice vinegar.

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Learn How to Make BBQ Sauce with These Top Recipes

So, you’re ready to whip up your own BBQ sauce. Where to get started? We’ve got some beginner-friendly sauce recipes for authentic homemade BBQ flavors:

  • Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce: A classic sauce every pitmaster should know how to make, with plenty of that sweet and smoky euphoria that makes it a BBQ staple.
  • South Carolina Style BBQ Sauce: Get your mustard on with this spicy and savory treat that will absolutely blow your mind on pulled pork or chicken.
  • Texas Style BBQ Sauce: This zesty sauce pulls in elements from multiple Texas BBQ traditions and ends up an all-around MVP for beef, wings and much more.
  • Alabama Style White Sauce: With all of the savory flavor this Deep South-style recipe packs, you’ll be shocked at just how easy it is to put together. 
  • Korean Style BBQ Sauce: Pitmaster law requires you to try this sauce on wings, but the truth is that it’s good on nearly anything, from dumplings to beef to fried rice.

Once you’ve got some basic recipes down, customize them however you like! You might be the pitmaster to write the next chapter of BBQ history with a bold new take on an iconic sauce.

Quick & Easy Go-To BBQ Sauces

Need a go-to sauce for when you’re in a rush? Want a ready-made base for developing your own flavors? Make these sauce classics from Grilla Grills part of your arsenal: 

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That’s just the beginning of the fun you can have with making your own BBQ sauce! Dive into all of our pellet grill recipes for more BBQ deliciousness. Of course, you also need a pellet grill that’s up to the task — so check out our pitmaster-designed pellet smoker grills that will kill it on the patio or at the competition.

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