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Basic KC BBQ Sauce -- Pork and Chicken Variation

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Now that we're well into summer, you've probably been doing a lot of grilling and, with luck, some smoking too.  If you're bored with your barbecue sauce and/or want to do something a little more creative than pouring something out of a bottle, you might want to try this one.


A KC style sauce is tomato based, with a balanced sweet and sour profile, along with all the usual aromatic and spice suspects but not too much heat.  It's the sort of sauce most Americans learned to love when kids, and still think of as unqualified, generic "barbecue sauce." 


I've got a handful of variations, and I thought you might like this one for the insight it gives into how to make all of them as well as its lightness, the assertive sour (cider vinegar) balanced by a smooth sweet (turbinado sugar), and its hint of heat.  You'll find that it's richly flavored, with plenty of depth from stock, whiskey and cognac.  


The people on whom I inflict my barbecue like their barbecue sauce smoky -- just like the stuff that comes from the grocery -- so I use a little liquid smoke.  That's a huge "no no" among serious barbecuers, but some bridges are best burnt once crossed. 


Without further ado, and at great expense to the management, I give you:





(Makes 1 Quart)



  • 1 Brown onion
  • 3 Cloves garlic
  • 1 Canned chipotle pepper
  • 1/2 Stick butter
  • 2 Tbs ground California chili (i.e., "chili powder" anything other than ground chili)
  • 1 Tbs "Old Bay;" or alternatively, 1 tbs ground celery seed
  • 1 Tbs adobo from the same can as the Chipotle
  • 2 Cups ketchup
  • 2 Cups chicken stock (boxed is fine)
  • 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste and to eyeball -- around 2 tsp
  • 1/4 Cup Bourbon
  • 2 Tbs Cognac
  • Optional, 1/4 - 1/2 tsp of Wright's Liquid Smoke
  • Optional, hot sauce
  • Salt, if needed



Building the mise en place:

Chop the onion to medium or medium/fine dice.  Set it aside in a small bowl.  Chop the garlic and chipotle fine.  Set them aside, too, each in its own little bowl.  Get the rest of the ingredients organized and on the counter so you can find them without stress during the cooking process.  Wipe down your board. 


Allez Cuisine!

Put the butter in a cold pan on medium heat.  Immediately add the onion.  Stew the onion in the butter, taking care to not let the butter get so hot it burns.  When the onion becomes fragrant and starts to soften add the garlic.  Don't worry about the chipotle yet. 


When the garlic becomes fragrant add the chili powder, and cook the raw off it, stirring -- one or two minutes.  Add the Old Bay and treat it just as you treated the chili powder.


Note: Cooking dry spices before adding a great deal of liquid brings out their volatile oils and gives everything a sweeter, more "roasty" flavor.  It's a technique that will serve you well when cooking a great many things.


With the chili powder cooked, add the chipotle and adobo.  Stir the ingredients in the pan so that they are well combined. 


Add the stock, ketchup, vinegar, and sugar.  Stir or whisk to combine and raise the heat to at least medium high.  You want to bring everything to the boil quickly, but not scorch anything -- and you know your stove and cookware better than I do.  FWIW, I use heavy cookware, a fast stove and go medium high -- just in case. 


When the sauce reaches the boil, turn the flame down so the sauce simmers.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. 


Taste the sauce and adjust the sweet and sour balance by adding more sugar or vinegar as necessary. 


Note:  Tasting for particular qualities and adjusting throughout the cook is a powerful technique, and one which all good cooks should know and use.


Use your pepper mill at a medium setting and grind fresh pepper into the sauce.  Fresh makes a BIG difference. Stir. There should be just enough pepper so that it's visible.


Put everything away but your mixing spoon and the booze.  Wipe down your counter and board again.  Simmer the sauce for another ten minutes and add the Bourbon.  Taste the sauce again for sweet and sour, and adjust as necessary. 


Simmer until reduced to near the desired consistency, another 20 or 30 minutes, then add the cognac.  Continue to simmer until the cognac marries the sauce, another 5 minutes. 


Add a few drops of liquid smoke and taste.  Be careful, some brands -- Wright's in particular -- are very strong.  Add more liquid smoke and/or salt if desired. 


If you want more heat, add your favorite hot sauce in an appropriate amount.  Try and remember that food should be a pleasure and not a challenge. 


You may serve this sauce chunky, strained or pureed.  Puree gives the most structure, while sieved will be silky and more sophisticated.  Call it rustic or call it lazy, I generally serve with the onion and garlic still in it and intact.  (Aka, lazy)


The sauce has enough acid in it that it can be held in the refrigerator for a week; and it can be held nearly indefinitely frozen.  Don't worry too much about storage, it goes quickly.





PS.  As with all of my recipes this is my own creation.  You have permission to copy, share and even re-post it as long as you expressly attribute it to me, Boar D. Laze.

Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/8/12 at 8:22pm
post #2 of 9



 although my wife may be a little annoyed that the grass will continue to grow longer this Saturday while I make this.


Great write up also... 





"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold





"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold


post #3 of 9

Nice work there BDL. 


I'm curious about this:


  • 1/4 Cup Bourbon
  • 2 Tbs Cognac


I'm trying to get how just 2Tbs Cognac against the Bourbon gives any real difference in depth of flavor.   I'm not arguing, but I would think with all the other powerful ingredients involved, the Cognac is just for the romance of Q. 

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Good question, Ice.  Bourbon supplies sweetness, guts and character.  The late addition of cognac tends to round over some of the edges.  This sauce is otherwise very tangy -- even with all the butter -- and the cognac does help tame it.



post #5 of 9

A long while ago I watched a guy who won the Jack Daniel's BBQ Competition make a batch of rub that must have been at least 8-10 pounds. In this big mix he threw in what looked like less than a teaspoon of a 2-ingredient mix. I thought wtf is this? Anyway, he won. I still can't help but think that whatever was in that teaspoon was for the romance. I'm not that stupid however, to question the guy that wins. 

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

Probably best.



post #7 of 9

Just for argument's sake.


Could I taste a teaspoon of salt in a gallon of water (8 pounds). Yeah, I think so. Wouldn't be particularly salty, but you'd notice it.


In that much spice mix, could I detect a teaspoon of bhut jolokia chile pepper, I think so. It might even be too much for my taste.


Asafoetida has an aroma that could punch through. 


Clove and Star Anise can pack a punch, at least to my taste buds. Clove is a spice I have to use in very small amounts or it overpowers things to my taste.


But, yes, there's not much it could be and still be tasted.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #8 of 9

OK. I'm not positive on both ingredients, but I am sure one(1) was cocoa powder, maybe +/- 1/2 teaspoon. I could be wrong, but I think the other ingredient was nutmeg. I'm sorry, I really am, but I don't really see that coming through in a rub cooked for 11-14 hours. And I did say, LOL, that I could be wrong. I've never won the JD Championship

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Not that it matters much.. I use cocoa powder in my beef rub sometimes, but never sugar.  There's something very wrong about rubbing beef with sugar; it's something someone only from the southeast would do -- although you've got to give them props for pork. 


And I usually use coffee in my tomato based (KC, Memphis, or Texas style) bbq sauces for beef.  



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