Tips and recipes for perfect Labor Day barbecue sauces

BBQ sauce is much more than something you buy from the condiments aisle at the grocery store. The trick to remember is you can's go wrong as you can add more of this or that, to adjust the sauce to your flavor preference.

BBQ Sauce Image Used Under Creative Commons License from Wikipedia
BBQ Sauce Image Used Under Creative Commons License from Wikipedia

WASHINGTON, September 3, 2016 – Labor Day is here and it is time to create the perfect BBQ for your friends and family.

When it comes to BBQ, our Southern neighbors offer some incredible ideas to create the perfect BBQ and  BBQ sauce.  Remember, any good sauce recipe is a place to start and you should feel comfortable using more or less of any ingredient to get it perfect.

Traditionally, BBQ is often slathered in deep, rich red sauces that are sweet, tangy or spicy – or a little bit of all.  A simple starter red BBQ sauce is:

In a sauce pan over low heat, combine brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, water and Worcestershire sauce. Season with mustard, paprika, salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Blend until smooth.

To this simple recipe, provide a bit of culinary doctoring to make it your own.  Some kitchen chefs based their sauce on Coca-Cola:

Coca Cola BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/4 cup A-1 steak sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


In a blender, combine brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, water and Worcestershire sauce. Season with mustard, paprika, salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Blend until smooth.

Other’s masters of the coals swear by a BBQ sauce that features the smoky flavors of Jack Daniels whiskey:

Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce

  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • ⅓ cup white vinegar
  • ¾ cup fancy molasses
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Liquid Smoke
  • ½ tsp. Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (add more if you like it spicy)
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt


  1. In medium sized heavy sauce pan combine ½ cup Jack Daniel’s, onion and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent (about 8 minutes).
  2. In separate bowl combine all other ingredients.
  3. Add to saucepan, bring to slow boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low heat uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Stir in 1 tbsp. Jack Daniel’s and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Brush onto the meat, poultry, seafood of your choice for grilling.
From the Carolina states we have both white and mustard sauces.  A good white sauce offers a creamy, vinegar tart that is marvelous on chicken.  A favorite use is to create a traditional BBQ chicken and just prior to serving, drizzle with white sauce.  It is also a wonderful drizzle to greens (beans, collards) or a dip for fresh vegetables.

Traditional North Carolina White Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (Prefer Dukes found in most grocery stores)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard (recipe below)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

Place all ingredients in a large canning jar and shake or whisk together all ingredients until blended. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Perfect BBQ Chicken

The secret to this recipe is burst of vinegar in the white sauce that plays off the sweet red sauce with just the right amount of kick.  This recipes starts on the stove top:

In a heavy bottom pan, melt a stick of butter, adding a bit of minced onion and garlic and a generous dusting paprika dry rub (see below) till hot but not burning.  Add your chicken thighs, turning over in the sauce and sprinkling a bit more dry rub as you go cooking to “almost cooked”, still a bit pink and moist on the inside (its always good to have a “test” piece you can cut into).

Take the chicken off the heat  leaving the sauce in the pan and adding a 1/4-/15 cup of your red BBQ sauce and cook down, whisking frequently, to a thick sauce flavored to your taste, by adding salt and pepper, more dry rub, mustard – create your own sauce tasting frequently to perfection.

Strain the sauce once to remove the onion and garlic, and set aside to allow fats to rise using a shallow spoon or straining cup to remove those fats. Then strain two more times to make a nice silken sauce. If you like, you can also add a generous portion of Jack Daniels or Woodford Preserve bourbon to your sauce. The alcohol, which will burn off, will balance the richness of the sauce due to the butters and sugars.

Do this the day before your BBQ, place your chicken in sealed container, toss the onions and garlic you set aside on the container and drizzle well with your sauce, reserving enough for grilling.

Bringing your grill to a medium heat, place your room temperature chicken on the grill and brush with your warmed sauce, sprinkle a bit more dry rub seasonings, and grilling to reach a nice browned color and a cooked temperature of 165-170.   When cooking chicken thighs, or breast, use tongs to turn, avoiding piercing and keeping the flavors inside.

Before serving, drizzle with White Sauce for an incredible flavor profile that will take you from someone that grills to a master of the grill.

The Wolf Pit offers a wonderful video on BBQ Chicken with Alabama white sauce.  While it is slightly different from the North Carolina White Sauce it does share the two man ingredients – mayo and vinegar. And while they do not use any red sauce, I think the final 5-10 minutes on the grill basted with red sauce makes a perfect, unique BBQ chicken:

You can purchase a good, ground mustard and add flavors from the following recipe to taste, however to make this from scratch, it is a great dipping, slathering, sandwich sauce.

Creole Mustard Recipe 

  • 1/2 Cup Distilled White Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Mustard Seeds, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp Freshly Grated Horseradish
  • Pinch Cayenne Pepper
  • Pinch Ground Allspice
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tsp Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp 100% Pure Cane Syrup or make your own by melting 3 tsps of cane sugar with with 1/2 tsp of water
  • 4 Tbsp Coleman’s Mustard powder
  • 1 small canning jar with lid, sterilized


Place the vinegar, crushed red pepper, and garlic into a small saucepan, bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let steep for 15-20 minutes then strain the mixture, discard the solids. Bring back to a boil then add the mustard seeds, turn off the heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the vinegar with the horseradish, cayenne, salt, sugar, cane syrup, and brown mustard seed. Whisk in the mustard powder. Pour into the sterilized jar, put the lid on and process in a water bath for 15 minutes. When cool, tighten the lid, and make sure the jar is sealed. Let sit to meld flavors. The longer it sits the better it will be.

Easy, fail-safe grilling tips for baby back and spare ribs

South Carolina style mustard sauce great for fish or chicken or a mustard for sandwiches, slathering over corned beef brisket before baking or any number of uses.

South Carolina Mustard Sauce


  • 3/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce


Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Make at least 24 hours prior to usage for best flavor. Store refrigerated in a tightly covered jar for up to two weeks.

Wileys Championship BBQ of Savannah, Georgia, offers an amazing low country Jack Daniel’s BBQ shrimp with cheddar cheese grits, a great addition to your barbecue menu.  Always purchase whole stone ground grits, not fast or instant.

Adding a bit of Jack Daniel’s to a dark, rich, molasses based BBQ sauce (see above) adds a flavor profile pop to the sweet shrimp,  layered over creamy grits with a thick swirl of sharp cheddar cheese to create a sweet, tart, hearty dish filled with plenty of savory umami.

Alongside those succulent shrimp, a serving of tart collard greens can be made without the lard that Grandma used with a fresh sweet taste of smokehouse-cured bacon:

Wiley’s Championship BBQ Collard Greens Recipe

How to Prepare Leafy Greens:

Leafy greens of various varieties – collards, turnip greens, cabbage, kale — are nutritious when cooked and seasoned.  Always wash greens very well in several changes of fresh tap water. Drain them dry, remove any thick stems and cut them into smaller bite-sized ribbons.


  • 8 Cups of Water
  • 3 1/2 pounds fresh collard greens, cleaned, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 pound smoked ham hocks
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup apple sider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly gorund black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

In a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot, combine all ingredients. Simmer covered for 2 hour, stirring occasionally.

With a slotted spoon, remove the ham hocks. When the ham hocks are cool enough to handle, pick the meat from them and put the bits back into the greens.

Simmer another 15 minutes. You can serve the greens immediately, but sometimes the flavors meld and taste even better the next day.

Store any leftover greens, cooled to room temperature, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Dry rub is perfect mixture of salt, sugar, paprika, chili pepper, brown sugar and “other spices” – which I bet includes a bit of ground coriander – melds a sweet and spicy robust dry rub that can be used before grilling, creating a nice caramelized coating to your grilled ribs or brisket, or added to sauces or use in slow cooking.

The purpose of dry rub is to allow a slow infusion of the four “Ss” of flavor – Sugar, Savory, Spices and Herbs and Spicy. The sugar adds a bit of sweetness and it is a known flavor enhancer (which is why high fructose corn syrup – sugar made from corn – can be found in everything from bread to almost all processed foods) and it provides a crust over meat, holding other flavors inside, providing a nice grilled brownness to your grill meats – from chicken, to ribs, to chops and even steaks.

Cooking ribs – long and slow or quick and easy

A good rule of dry rub is creating something that is savory, adding a delicious  “something smells good” aroma in your kitchen.  Savory comes from bay, coriander, garlic, and green herbs. The most common spice in any good dry rub is paprika, and no not all paprikas are equal.

A good basic dry rub recipe is:

  1. ½ cup paprika, or 1/3 cup smoked paprika.
  2. ¼ cup kosher salt.
  3. ¼ cup freshly ground black pepper.
  4. ¼ cup brown sugar.
  5. ¼ cup chile powder.
  6. 3 tablespoons ground cumin.
  7. 2 tablespoons ground coriander.
  8. 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, or to taste.
Mix and store in a well sealed container in a dry place.

There are basically six types of paprika with some variations available – Hot, Hungarian, Plain, Smoked, Spanish, Sweet.

Visit a spice purveyor like Penzey’s spices to see their varieties all available in smaller jars to hearty bags to order.  It is always a good idea to buy spices in smaller containers and then throw them out and replace every year as they will loose their potency over time.

The final of the four is spice, usually from ground chilis, which adds a bit of heat and a flavor profile that should move around the sweet and savory with every bite.

The rule of spice is if you take a bit of your dried rub and put it on your tongue, the spice should be the last flavor, detected at the back of tongue, and not burn your sweet and savory receptors at the front and mid area of the tongue respectively.

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