When you can’t “Maull it,” overhaul it! (Make your cheap barbecue sauce palatable)

Generic's really not bad. You just have to learn how to use it.

Generic's really not bad. You just have to learn how to use it.

In my experience, barbecue sauce is an extremely personal decision. Much like ordering a coffee at Starbucks, everyone is looking for something different in their BBQ–sweet, salty, smoky, etc. For example, I’m really not a fan of the liquid smoke taste in my barbecue sauce. In my opinoin, too much faux smoke taste can ruin a juicy ribeye faster than you can say, “Kansas-City style.” Other people hate a pervasive vinegar flavor or lingering sweetness.

That said, shopping at a discount chain where only one (or maybe two) varieties make up the entire barbecue sauce section can be a little bit discouraging for a trained and picky palate. But I hope with these tips you’ll be able to make the best of a bad situation without too much hard work using items that are probably already in your panty or refrigerator.

Problem #1: This sauce is too sweet.

Chances are, if you’ve got a super-sweet sauce it’s particularly dark in color and has almost a thick, jelly-like consistency to it. This usually means they’ve stumped their toe on a fake honey flavoring, like corn syrup. To remedy this problem, you have to balance its natural flavors. And what do we always pair with honey flavoring in our teas, chicken and other tasties? That’s right! Lemon juice. Heat the sauce a little (not too much, as excessive sugar tends to scorch) and slowly add lemon juice (a teaspoon or less at a time), tasting often to determine when balance has been achieved. If the sauce waters down too much, you can either add a little cornstarch to the heated sauce, or leave it on heat for a few minutes to evaporate out excess liquid. Either way, it should thicken a little when you cool it anyway.

Problem # 2: This sauce has a strong vinegar taste.

If the sauce tastes more like a vinagrette than a marinade, you can generally “pH balance” your sauce with a little bit of brown sugar to mask the acidity. (Or if you want to make a fun science fair volcano, you could try adding baking soda and lemon juice to a bottle of BBQ and watch it explode all over your kitchen walls! Hmm. I wonder if that could really happen. Probably not. Let’s ask Bill Nye.)

Or, if you don’t want to make the sauce necessarily sweeter when lessening the vinegar taste, you can always whip out your unsweetened cocoa powder (I’m a huge fan of using this in weird ways…see “cooking with TVP” if you don’t believe me). Seriously, though, it works. Try it.

Problem #3: This sauce has too much liquid smoke flavor.

Okay, whoever thought up liquid smoke should, as far as I’m concerned, be shot. Unless they are already dead, in which case I hope hell has fake smoke fumes instead of real ones so they finally get their come-uppance via wicked karma. Not only does it taste nasty, it’s actually currently under scientific investigation in Europe after having been labeled as genotoxic and linked to DNA damage within animal cells and possible lymphoma in test mice. Cancer sauce, anyone?

That aside, here’s what you do when there’s way too much smoky crap in there. Heat up the sauce, add a little tomato paste or ketchup (whichever you have on hand), and stir. Continue heating and stirring between additions and keep addition portions small (about a tablespoon or two at a time) until the smoke flavoring has dissipated a bit. If sauce has become bland in the process, consider adding a mixture of other common ingredients like those above (brown sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, etc) in small doses until the spice is back up to par.

Granted, all of this doctoring looks like a lot of work when it’s listed out like this, but these are good tips to have on hand when cooking with any sort of sauce, not just purchased barbecue, as quick fixes when you’ve accidentally added a strong flavor to a half-finished recipe and don’t want to start over.

Good luck, and happy Q-ing!

9 Responses to “When you can’t “Maull it,” overhaul it! (Make your cheap barbecue sauce palatable)”

  1. Robert Shumake February 2, 2010 at 3:47 PM #

    Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

    Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

    Robert Shumake Fifth Third

    • Gracie February 4, 2010 at 9:47 AM #

      Wow, thanks! Do you remember what the blog directory was called? I love finding out all the strange ways people find the Red Kitchen on the Internet! Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll be back–new cheap recipes several times weekly!!

  2. Cialis January 22, 2011 at 4:51 AM #

    Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thanks Nevertheless I’m experiencing problem with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting an identical rss downside? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Spicy Sloppy Joes « The Red Kitchen Project - August 7, 2009

    […] into the mound. Fill one “crater” with ketchup and the other with barbecue sauce. (Click here to read tips for cooking with cheap or generic BBQ sauce.) A little parmeasan cheese gives these Sloppy Joes a complex […]

  2. Slow-Cooker Boneless Pork Ribs « The Red Kitchen Project - August 11, 2009

    […] When you can’t “Maull it,” overhaul it! (Make your cheap barbecue sauce palat… […]

  3. Cheap Recipe: Corn Dog & Bean Bake « The Red Kitchen Project - September 21, 2009

    […] When you can’t “Maull it,” overhaul it! (Make your cheap barbecue sauce palat… […]

  4. The Red Kitchen Project » Blog Archive » Cheap Recipe: Spicy Sloppy Joes - February 8, 2011

    […] into the mound. Fill one “crater” with ketchup and the other with barbecue sauce. (Click here to read tips for cooking with cheap or generic BBQ sauce.) A little parmesan cheese gives these Sloppy Joes a complex […]

  5. The Red Kitchen Project » Blog Archive » Cheap Recipe: Corn Dog & Bean Bake - February 10, 2011

    […] Throw the chopped produce in a large saucepan and add one large (28-oz.) can of generic baked beans and a 16-oz. package of cocktail weiners. Mix the ingredients around with about 1/4 cup barbecue sauce and 1/4 cup ketchup. (To learn great tips on cooking with generic barbecue sauce, click here.) […]

  6. The Red Kitchen Project » Blog Archive » Cheap Recipe: Slow-Cooker Boneless Pork Ribs - February 10, 2011

    […] the meat entirely with about 1 cup barbecue sauce. (For tips on cooking with generic barbecue sauce, click here.) Stir ingredients well and pour 1 can cola or diet cola over the entire mixture. Stir again […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: