BBQ Sauce

I am a complete and total sucker for really good barbeque. I love the soft texture of fork tender, fall off the bone meat and the mix of spices. It doesn’t matter if it’s dry rub or if the sauce is sweet, spicy and sticky or vinegary, hot, and mustardy– as long as the spices are interesting on my palette, I’m a happy customer.

So when I saw a recipe in Cooks Illustrated for oven cooked pulled pork with all the flavor and texture of pulled pork cooked outside in a smoker, I knew I had to try it. Yes, I know that the purpose of this blog is to try to cook recipe free, but I still cook from recipes every now and then when I want to learn new techniques. In this case, the pork shoulder cooks low and slow in the oven after sitting in a brine then rubbed down with a paste of spices and liquid smoke. I liked the recipe’s emphasis on getting the tender interior of the pork while maintaining a crispy bark of spices on the exterior. But I was sorely disappointed when I read the recipe for the sauce– it just looked kind of weak to me. You mix the juices exuded from the cooking process (stripped of fat) with some tomato base and that was it. I decided that I’d try to make up my own sauce to mix in with the pork that I was cooking from a recipe.

Don’t be fooled by the length of the ingredient list– yes the list is long, but this is extremely less complex than such a list would lead you to believe. After sautéing some onion, you just dump everything in a small sauce pan and let it simmer and reduce away, with the most effort exerted after that being an occasional stir. I strove for a balance of heat, sweet, and tang from some vinegar. I believe the flavors melded even better when eating leftover pulled pork the next day for lunch, so keep that in mind and be sure to make plenty of what ever you’re bbq’ing for leftovers.

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tsp)
  • 3/4 of a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (I froze the remaining and tossed it into tomato sauce the following week.)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsps unsulphered molasses
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • splash of bourbon
  • salt and pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in the bottom of a small, heavy bottom sauce pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Dump in the rest of the ingredients through bourbon, mixing well. Heat until a medium simmer results then lower heat to medium low. Gently simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. Sauce should reduce and thicken a little. Take a taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Puree with an immersion blender or in small batches in a blender if you want a completely smooth sauce. (Hot things expand and can push the lid off a blender, causing burns, so don’t fill the blender more than 1/3 full when blending hot things.) Brush on chicken, ribs, or brisket or mix into shredded pork shoulder for pulled pork.


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