Grilling season in Texas ends on Halloween, and resumes at noon on November 1st, so there’s plenty of days to use barbecue sauces. Homemade BBQ sauce can be superb, but it’s a pain in the butt and leaves a lots of remainder ingredients in the fridge, so I prefer to concentrate on grilling, and go with easy-to-find bottled stuff.
What’s the best national-brand BBQ sauce that I tested? The answer depends on what’s cooking. None of the 5 sauces from Target were “all-purpose”.
Bull’s-Eye Original Pleasantly sweet, with smoke and tomato. Well-balanced, but not in any special way.
- Chicken — a little too smokey and too sweet
- Beef — a pinch better than the tangy Cattlemen’s
- Pork — good, for slightly sweet ribs
Cattlemen’s Some sweetness, similar to Bull’s-Eye, but more tangy and spicy. Often used as a base sauce by professional BBQ competitors.
- Chicken — the spicy tanginess works well with chicken
- Beef — very good, for mildly tangy beef
- Pork — slighty preferable to Bullseye. Excellent choice for pork ribs, even though it’s called Cattlemen’s
Head Country A more smokey taste than the other sauces.
- Chicken — a little sweet and way too much hickory
- Beef — excellent, if you like a smokey taste
- Pork — the smokey taste is perfect for grilled ribs. Cookmundo’s preference, but for sweeter ribs, go back to Cattlemen’s
Stubb’s A tomatoey, tangy sauce which is thinner than the others.
- Chicken — tangy delicious for chicken. Cookmundo’s preference, but go light on it or the tang will overwhelm
- Beef — good, for tangy beef
- Pork — too liquidy to finish for ribs, but ribs don’t need much sauce anyway
Sweet Baby Ray’s Tastes like barbecue-flavored candy. Tolerable only for severely sweet ribs. I have a sweet-tooth too, but I save it for dessert.
Notes: For sausage, as could be expected, what’s good on pork is good on pork sausage, and what’s best on beef is good on beef sausage.
These sauces were tested on grilled meats, not actual barbecue. Barbecue requires cooking meat with heat and smoke, and we don’t own a smoker.
The closest to an “all-purpose” would be Bull’s-Eye or Cattlemen’s, but if you like smoky-tasting beef and pork, Head Country is recommended.
Yes, there may be better local sauces out there, but these are the ones that can be found in just about any store. I’ve heard good things about Rufus Teague’s, so I’ll be trying that soon.