The barbecue sauce cook off

My Nordstrom Friends and Family Cookbook has a recipe for homemade barbecue sauce. I have to admit that I was intrigued by the description. It says ‘I’m going to do a little boasting here. I’ve spent a lot of time around grills, and I have yet to find a sauce, prepared or homemade, that beats this one”. Well, those are big words! And ever since making pulled pork with Southern style barbecue sauce (which is apple cider vinegar base) I’ve been meaning to try making a smoky, thick, tomato based barbecue sauce.

I decided to make the barbecue sauce and measure it up against two other store bought brands (Irresistibles and Bull’s Eye). I won’t lie, making homemade barbecue sauce is a bit of a process compared to simply buying a jar of commercial barbecue sauce. The recipe calls for a lot of spices as well as a fair amount of corn syrup, molasses and liquid smoke. You won’t save a lot of money by making your own sauce (it cost about the same, especially if you buy it on sale) but the good thing about barbecue sauce is that you can make a batch and it keeps for 3 months in the fridge.

Is it worth buying a whole bunch of ingredients instead of picking up a bottled brand from the grocery store? I organized a taste test to decide. But to be honest, I’m just proud that I made homemade barbecue sauce from scratch.
Each taste tested tried the different barbecue sauces and commented on taste, appearance and flavour. They each voted for the one they liked the most and explained why. Here are the barbecue sauces they tasted:
A: Irresitables
B: Bull’s Eye
C: Homemade
D: McDonalds (I had one group try this one because I happened to have some on hand). 


It turns out that barbecue sauce is a very personal preference. Some people preferred a strong smoky flavour whereas some people prefer sweet or spicy. No wonder there are so many different varieties of barbecue sauce available! (chipotle, chicken and rib, smoky, hot and spicy to name a few)

The general consensus from the taste test was that people would choose the sweeter tasting sauce to go with chicken and the darker, more smoky sauce to go with beef or ribs. The homemade barbecue sauce resulted in a sweeter tasting barbecue sauce that was more suited towards chicken or pork ribs. It tasted very similar to sample A which was Irresitables Chicken & Rib barbecue sauce. None of the barbecue sauces were really voted as being better or worse – just different.

Grilling up some items for the barbecue sauce taste test

Overall, the store bought stuff tastes just as good (if not better than homemade) and costs pretty much the same (when you buy it on sale for $3-4/500 mL jar). Making barbecue sauce from scratch really pays off if you have a top notch secret recipe (sorry Nordstrom’s cookbook – better luck next time) or need very large quantities (think restaurant scale).

But for the home cook, you aren’t missing out on anything by going out and buying a jar of your favourite barbecue sauce.  You won’t be stuck with a large vat of sauce that you need to use up and you can switch up the flavour depending on whether you feel like smoky, spicy, chicken, beef or ribs. However, if you have always wanted to try making barbecue sauce from scratch, here is the recipe I used.

7 thoughts on “The barbecue sauce cook off

  1. A – This bbq sauce had a medium consistency, was very sweet, tart and had hints of… honey and garlic?

    B – This one definitely looked and taste very different from the other ones. It’s dark in colour and thick in consistency. Very smoky and rich. Not as sweet or sour

    C – This one was very thin in consistency. Quite spicy (the spicy lingers afterwards) and almost like spicy ketchup

    D – This one was quite light. Was a little bit spicy and had a lemony taste.

    Overall, I like B the best. Then it’s be A, C and D

  2. I think I can separate these sauces into two groups: A+B and C+D. A+B are my two favourites and have a real BBQ sauce taste. C+D weren’t bad, but they were my least favourite and tasted more like ketchup with added spices.

    Overall, my favourite was B. It was thick and smoky. I really like that smoky flavour so this was my favourite. A is a close second. It wasn’t that it was less good, it was more just that I love that smoke taste! A was very tangy and tart. It had hints of lemon, garlic and vinegar.

    C was the spiciest. It was good but I found that the spice overtook any other flavour. D was ok, but not flavourful or pungent enough for me.

  3. I preferred the sweet and spicy A sauce and think it would likely go well with a variety of foods.

    The B sauce was smokey and thick with a great taste. It would be my second favourite.

    The C sauce was tangy and had an uncommon flavour, but would be my least favourite as it was a bit too thin and had less oomph than the others.

    The D sauce was sweet, but was bested by A and B in sweetness and smokiness respectively.

    I think the sauces were:
    A – Homemade
    B – Bulls-Eye
    C – Irresistibles
    D – McDonalds

  4. I really enjoyed this taste test. All of the BBQ sauces were equally good. A was quite sweet, and reminded me of plum sauce or honey/garlic. B was the most bold in flavor out of the four and had the thickest texture. C was interesting; it had a wild taste combination of ketchup and like spicy/Tabasco sauce. D was light,sweet and had a lemon tarte taste.

    My guess is:
    A- Homemade
    B- Bulls Eye
    C- Irresistibles
    D- McD’s

  5. The appearance is noticeably different, as are the aromas.

    A: very sweet – dark red colour
    B: very smokey, tastes more salty than A – dark brown
    C: sweet but not as much as A… also spicy and has a great kick!!! Thinner consistency than both A and B, it’s also dark red but lighter than A.

    I think A and B are store bought, but I’m really guessing here. I suspect C is homemade because it has such a spicy kick, and also because of it’s thinner consistency. A and B have a pretty similar thicker consistency.

    I like smokey flavoured barbecue sauce for ribs. I like spicy sweeter one for ribs too, but also chicken wings. I don’t think I’d make my own sauce, too time consuming. There are so many brands out there I feel it’s just a matter of finding one you like!

  6. I enjoyed all three sauces.

    A. This one had a mild, smooth taste to it with slight spicy hints. I suspected that this was one of the homemade versions.

    B. I could taste a lot of hickory in this. Much stronger than A or C, this sauce packed more of a spice punch.

    C. This one reminded me a lot of A. It was mild and smooth but with a bit more of a sweetness to it. I thought that this one might also be homemade.

    All in all, all three were good. I would choose B for use with a beef or meat. I think A and C are better paired with chicken.

  7. A: I think this one is homemade. I can taste the brown sugar and tomato flavours. It lacks some spiciness and could be thicker.
    B: This one looks like Bull’s eye. It has a strong smoky flavour and thick texture.
    C: Not sure if this is Irresistibles or McDonalds. Had a smoky taste to it (not as strong as B’s though).

    I prefer sample A but would like it to be thicker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.