The History of Barbecue Sauce

A Look at Barbecue Sauce Over the Years

It’s said that our strongest sense is the sense of smell, and it’s certainly true that nothing makes you think of long summer days, barbecues, burgers and sausages more than the sweet, sticky smell of barbecue sauce. The nation loves barbecue sauce on their chips, burgers and kebabs, and it’s impossible to imaging a barbecue without it.


Barbecue Sauce Variations

Everyone has their own favourite brand of barbecue sauce, and the recipe used to make it varies hugely from country to country. Most people agree on the basic recipe though which includes tomato sauce or ketchup, vinegar, sugar to sweeten it, pepper and spices along with a distinctive smoked flavour. Other ingredients such as mustard or chilli are sometimes added, and the recipe can be changed depending on whether the sauce is to be used on a cooked item or as a marinade. Many countries which are not traditionally associated with a barbecue culture have a type of barbecue flavoured sauce, such as a the hoisin sauce used on your Chinese takeaway crispy duck pancakes or teriyaki sauce in Japan which is used to marinate chicken.


American Influence on Barbecue Sauce

Nobody is very sure exactly where barbecue sauce came from, with some people claiming it originated in the Caribbean and the early explorers brought the recipe back to Europe, and others asserting that this type of sauce was brought to the New World or invented there by early settlers from France or Germany. The truth will probably never be known, but it is true that the very first factory produced barbecue sauce was launched on the market in 1909 by an Atlanta based food manufacturer. Nowadays, all major sauce and condiment makers have a range which includes barbecue sauce, and the total British barbecue market is growing at 7.6% per year. The American food giant Heinz is the biggest player in the UK barbecue sauce market, with a 43.7% market share. Recipes used in American barbecue sauces vary enormously from state to state, and the choice of different sauces in the standard American supermarket is staggering.


Barbecue Relishes

The main difference between a barbecue sauce and a barbecue relish is that sauce is smooth whereas relish still has visible chunks of vegetables in it. A relish is more like a chutney, and comes from India rather than the New World. It was developed as a way of keeping vegetables from going off over the winter, and again the recipe varies wildly depending on what local vegetables there are and the tastes of the person making it. Relish is generally more savoury in flavour than a barbecue sauce and contains a greater proportion of vinegar to give it an almost pickled flavour. Sweetcorn relish or tomato relish are particularly good for eating at a barbecue, but neither work well as a marinade. Relishes are not as popular as smooth barbecue sauce in the United States, but here in the UK it is quite common to see both on offer at a barbecue.


Make Your Own Barbecue Sauce

It’s easy to rush into the local supermarket and grab a bottle of barbecue sauce off the shelf, but you can impress your friends even more by making your own. In historical terms this is far more authentic, as in the centuries before commercially produced sauces, recipes were handed down through the family and made with whatever was to hand locally. Make your own by gently frying an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in oil, adding in a can of tomatoes, brown sugar, a few tablespoons of vinegar, and the same of Worcestershire Sauce, and then thicken it up with tomato puree. Whizz it up in a blender and wait until cool to serve to your barbecue guests. Don’t be afraid to tweak the recipe or add in different ingredients to taste. Relish is made in a similar way, but with more vinegar, less sugar and as many different vegetables, herbs and chillies as you have lying around the house. Once cooked, skip the whizzing up stage and just mash everything up with a potato masher before putting your relish in sterilised jam jars to be stored away safely until the next time the weather is good enough to get the barbecue out.

If you've got your sauce sorted then you need to make sure you've got a well-made, traditional charcoal barbecue.

Image kindly used from The Daily Morsel