Tue Feb 7, 2012
As I prepare to start my career as a competition barbecuer, I've been hard at work at honing my sauces to be as delicious and unique as possible, in hopes they'll give me an edge in the fierce battles that lay ahead. While I'm taking the barbecue cop-out and deeming my most recent sauces "secret," I traveled a long road of experimentation with different styles of sauce to get me to where I am today, and those recipes I'm more than happy to share. One the first, and most regular, sauces I made was of the thick and sweet variety, akin to what you'd find in Kansas City.
Although I'm keeping my newest sauces a secret, there's a lot to learn from the processes developed along the way. For example, I've tried a lot of different ways to infuse an onion flavor in the sauce. My favorite has been sauteing onions in butter as first step to just about every sauce. A little browning on the onions gives them a slightly sweet flavor that adds a nice depth to a sauce.
While I tend to prefer medium-thick sauce, if you're talking Kansas City, you're looking at pretty thick sauce. To achieve this, I traded in my usual tomato sauce base for ketchup, which gives the right thickness for a KC-style sauce. From there, molasses and brown sugar were added to build upon the sweetness of the ketchup, then a modest amount of vinegar for the required tang. Mustard, chili powder, and pepper finished off the seasoning department for a slight hint of heat.
That mixture cooks for 30 minutes to ensure all the flavors meld together and sauce gets to the right thickness. Then a whirl in the blender smooths it out and it's ready to go.
A good Kansas City sauce like this shines for its versatility—it works great on everything from ribs to chicken to beans, or it can be a dip or a baste. It also has the deep sweetness with a little tang that's probably the most ubiquitous characteristics of a barbecue sauce everyone is looking for. While this sauce recipe is pretty great as is, it's even better used as starting point for experimentation. There's a lot of room to customize it to your liking, which is exactly how I started out with developing my own "secret" recipes.
Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce
- Prep Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 35 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 45 Minutes
- Makes 2 1/2 cups
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, chili powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Transfer sauce to the jar of a blender and blend until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, transfer to a jar and store in refrigerator for up to a month.