The time to start thinking about cooking BBQ is in the spring and Summer time, with the warm days ahead and fun social gatherings with your friends and family, there is no better time to turn your attention to making these occasions special by learning how to cook something new.
Creating your own homemade barbecue sauce is straightforward once you have mastered the basics and learned how to combine various kitchen ingredients to make your own favourite sauce.
No doubt you or members in your family had their own favourite homemade barbecue sauces that they grew up with, well now is your chance to get involved and enjoy learning something new, how to make your own, and personal favourite, homemade bbq sauce.
Here are the basic components of a homemade barbecue sauce.
The barbecue sauce base
Regardless of what type of barbecue sauce you are going to make, you will need a “base” before you can begin. Ideal bases for making a good BBQ sauce are favourites such as number 10 ketchup sauce, honey, mustard, brown sauce and fruit purée sauce bases.
Consistency of the homemade sauce base is one of the main things that you should be looking at when considering making your own BBQ sauce. You want to avoid the base from being too runny or too thick, and this is one of the reasons why using a suitable ketchup is a great place to start experimenting because it gives you a little less to think about initially and will allow you to let your creative juices flow as you consider and use the ingredients that will make up your sauce.
The #10 ketchup is one of the most popular sauce bases to use as it has the ideal consistency and acidity that complements BBQ food by giving a clean edge, or zing, to the flavour. Many pre-bought sauces will not match up to your own personal favourite once you have developed your very own homemade barbecue sauce.
If you were considering making something that had a fruitier flavour, you can use a pre-made fruit sauce and use that as your base for a slightly sweeter and fruitier flavour and adjust it to your taste, using other ingredients. Alternatively, you could use a small quantity of ketchup base and then sweat down fruit and create your own fruit purée to add to your sauce.
Acidity is very important in a homemade barbecue sauce as its presence provides a clean-tasting zing that prepares and excites the taste buds. Controlling this acidity is important and a matter of personal preference, and experimentation with fruit-infused vinegars, such as cider, apple and raspberry all offer unique and distinct flavours that complement any homemade barbecue sauce.
You can make your own fruit-infused vinegars very easily by purchasing a good quality white wine vinegar, adding some to a sterilised bottle along with raw fruits of choice, seal, and allow to soak slowly, in a cool and dark place for 1 or 2 months.
Once the fruit has had enough time to break down in the vinegar, you find that it has taken on a pleasant fruity tang and can be used in not only your homemade barbecue sauce, but also in a salad dressing along with a little olive oil. Remember that a little goes a long way.
Other ingredients that will complement your homemade barbecue sauce base, are seasoning’s and vegetables that will add a distinctness to it and separate it from the typical, off-the-shelf variety.
Worcestershire sauce for example, adds a low-down meaty flavour and is similar in colour to soy sauce, though it tastes nothing like soy sauce at all. Widely used, Worcestershire sauce has a slightly spicy tang to it as well as a dark colour that will deepen the colour of the sauce that you are making.
Other great ingredients are Tabasco sauce for example that adds a mildly hot, fruity pepper flavour and is excellent as a component for sauces that are going to be used on chicken, baby back ribs and chicken wings. If you want to try a slightly milder alternative to Tabasco, Cholula hot sauce is similar in flavour, though slightly less piquant to its hotter counterpart.
For a full and more rounded flavour you can add sauces similar to Texas Pete’s hot sauce, which has a fairly thick ketchup-like consistency and adds a broad and mild mix of spices. Once again, there are many alternatives to thick sauces that you can add to your homemade barbecue sauce, and it is worthwhile experimenting with them in very small batches and pick out the flavours that excite your taste-buds the most.
Read the labels, pick out the flavours and aromas that appeal to you and then note them down for future use.
Now that you have the base of your homemade barbecue sauce well under way, you can take a look at the spices, salt, pepper and sugar that will be used in relatively small quantities to give your BBQ sauce its own distinct flavour.
If you haven’t used a particular seasoning before, start off by using small quantities to avoid over-powering your first homemade barbecue sauce.
Cinnamon for example is a particularly strong bark-like spice that is also available in ground form. Use it like salt, by adding a little at a time until you get the balance right with the other flavours. Use too much and you will find that just like salt, the cinnamon will almost certainly overpower everything else you have in your sauce. Unless you particularly like cinnamon, use it very sparingly.
Here is a short list of seasoning’s that you can use in your homemade barbecue sauce to give you some ideas.
Spices such as cayenne, Jamaican jerk seasoning, red pepper flakes (in moderation), clove, cinnamon, ground ginger, coriander, garlic, mango powder, mustard, paprika, cumin, oregano, and parsley are all excellent choices.
Whole seeded chilli peppers such as Chipotle adds a dark and smoky flavour, Habanero and Scotch Bonnet peppers add a lot of heat along with a delicious fruit flavour, red bell peppers for great fruitiness but little heat, Serrano and similar long carrot-shaped chillies also offer a nice fruit flavour along with a mild-heat.
To add sweetness if necessary to your homemade barbecue sauce, you can use sugars and sweeteners that suit your personal preference. Palm sugar has a unique and distinct flavour that has an Eastern influence, cane sugar, molasses and dark brown sugar are also widely used.
You can use any sugars that you prefer, though darker sugars generally have more flavour and are more suitable for use in a BBQ sauce. More exotic sweeteners such as passion fruit and guava syrups can also be used to good effect, along with regular honey and golden syrup.
If your homemade barbecue sauce is going to be used to baste your meats and poultry during cooking over a hot grill, remember that the high sugar content can burn easily and it will invariably result in blackened food.
Take this into account when cooking your food and adjust your technique accordingly. Using the “low-and-slow” method of cooking is the perfect way to cook food that is coated in a high sugar content BBQ sauce.
Salt is a very important part of cooking, seasoning any food improves the flavour and when used in BBQ sauces, it is used in the same manner, to add flavour and also balance the sweetness and acidity. Use salt sparingly during the last 15 minutes of reduction time to adjust the taste to your liking by allowing the salt to cook through the sauce slowly, while stirring continuously.
Taste a small amount of the sauce, not forgetting to allow it to cool first beforehand, and determine whether you have reached the right balance.
It all comes down to a matter of personal preference that is based on our upbringing and regional influences. Use the ingredients and flavours that talk to your taste buds, experiment and make it your own unique homemade barbecue sauce.
To prevent yourself from making the most common mistake when creating your first homemade barbecue sauce, avoid the addition of sauce thickeners such as corn starch, gelatine, flour, butter and cream as these will impair the flavour and potentially ruin your BBQ sauce.
Thickeners are not required as your homemade barbecue sauce will be thickened naturally by the evaporation of liquids, and reduced gently on a relatively low heat in a saucepan until the ideal consistency is achieved.
Making your homemade barbecue sauce
This section is not designed to be a particular recipe, just some basic guidelines in the preparation of your homemade barbecue sauce.
To start with you will need a pan large enough to hold all of your ingredients with some room to spare to allow the BBQ sauce to bubble gently without overflowing onto your cooker, and now add the following ingredients;
500ml of #10 ketchup
50ml cider vinegar
1 large onion coarsely chopped
2 large garlic gloves, finely chopped
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, finely sliced
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tbls passion-fruit syrup
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 finely chopped seeded hot red chillies
1 tbls brown sugar
Salt to taste
Once you have all of the ingredients in the pan, stir until thoroughly combined and raise the temperature of the pan until it achieves a boil, then immediately reduce the heat so that the mixture is just simmering very gently around the edges of the pan.
Do not cover the pan and stir occasionally with a plastic or wooden spoon, checking for any sauce that may have started to stick to the bottom of the pan. If the sauce begins to stick, reduce the heat a little, stir, and check again in a few minutes. Refrain from adding water during cooking as this will only serve to prolong the reduction process.
The reduction process can take up to 4 hours depending on your ingredients and desired sauce consistency. Allow plenty of time for making your homemade barbecue sauce prior to use, preferably allowing 24 hours for the sauce to cool properly and allow the ingredients to finally combine and stabilise the flavours before use.
Your BBQ sauce can be prepared and refrigerated ahead of use using a sterilised jar or suitable air-tight jar making it ideal for continued use if you are going to have several barbecues during the week. Your homemade barbecue sauce will be at its best for up to a week if stored in the refrigerator.
We hope you enjoyed this homemade barbecue sauce guide. If you are looking for more BBQ ideas, tips and recipes, view our large selection of tempting BBQ recipes and resources to make your next barbecue a day to remember.