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Bigmista 12-04-2012 10:22 AM

When did BBQ become sweet? (video)
Check out the video and let me know what you think!

slow-smoker 12-04-2012 10:32 AM

I know what you're talking about, I've had it too as a kid and try to make it that way for myself. As to the question of when did it change? I think it changed when BBQ became competitive, and over the years the sauces have been made sweeter. What I like, and (what I think you like) probably wouldn't win in competition, and I think that's why it's all but disappeared.

gtr 12-04-2012 10:36 AM

Good question. I grew up in East TN, where "barbecue" was what we called pulled pork. The choices for sauce were hot and mild - all vinegar based and a little tomato if I recall correctly. That was it.

I'm not sure when the sweet stuff started creeping in, but I've noticed when I'm doing fundraiser cooking, most people seem to prefer the sweet sauce on their sammiches over the other stuff. I personally don't get it, but if that's what they want, they can have it.I always throw in some vinegar and woosty so it isn't just sweet - it's got to have at least a little tang. The vinegar/pepper sauce I like seems to be a little much for them. Could be a California thang, I don't know.

I do like sweet for glazing MOINKs, 'cause I cut it with jap jelly and the sweet/heat thing is nice, but that's about all I use sweet for.

I don't know any TX sauce recipes, but I got some interesting (not to mention delicious) stuff in Arkansas from a place called Craig's, and there's a chance you might get a hold of some this weekend. :spy:

Bigmista 12-04-2012 12:26 PM

Maybe Kraft and KC Masterpiece are to blame...

WineMaster 12-04-2012 12:50 PM

Thats EZ
Sweetness has gone up with Internet BBQ's popularity. You joined when there was less than 1500 users here. Hell I remember the post still when you had'nt cooked a brisket yet. Back then it was different in more ways than 1. The biggest two differences are the flavors have gone sweet and the definition and concept of Low and Slow have went to I can get a packer done in 5 hrs. Internet BBQ wont be going away anytime soon though so I better get back to work. Im inventing the first BBQ Smokerwave. It combines the Taste from a pit with the speed of a Microwave.

Boshizzle 12-04-2012 12:53 PM

This might shed some light on the subject. Start reading at page 18 - A New Look at Old Time BBQ

Here is an excerpt -


The Sauce

Herman Melville wrote in his classic novel Moby Dick “Also, that in Henry VIIIth's time, a certain cook of the court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauce to be eaten with barbecued porpoises, which, you remember, are a species of whale.” If that account is true, and there is no reason to believe it isn’t, that has to be one of, if not the, oldest accounts of an award winning barbecue sauce.

First of all, the vinegar, salt, pepper mixture that we are so often told was the “typical” barbecue sauce of the 19th century wasn’t a barbecue sauce at all. It was actually a basting liquid. The barbecue cooks would baste the meat with the peppery liquid while the meat was cooking. It’s hard to say how many actually served the basting liquid with the meat. However, knowing how barbecue cooks do things today, I bet that if the meat was on the dry side some of that “sauce” made it to the table.

But, that’s not the whole story about 19th century barbecue and the sauce that was served on it. Mary Randolph often served spicy and otherwise richly seasoned foods. She routinely calls for garlic and at least sixteen other herbs in the recipes listed in her book. She has a curry powder recipe that calls for turmeric, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, mace, and cayenne pepper. Her book includes recipes for tarragon vinegar, for mushroom catsup, and tomato marmalade calling for black pepper, and garlic that she claimed is excellent for seasoning gravies. It is clearly documented that Virginia foods in the 18th and 19th centuries, at least among the wealthier classes, was richly seasoned.

Besides the spices and herbs used in 18th and 19th century cooking, the upper classes also used sugar. It was a way to show off their wealth. Mary Randolph’s barbecued pork recipe calls for “browned” sugar. The Kentucky Housewife has a barbecued beef recipe that calls for rubbing the meat with molasses before barbecuing it. That book was published in 1839. I’m sure the recipe is much older. The same book also has a recipe for cooking barbecued venison after rubbing it with brown sugar and another for barbecuing rabbit that included vinegar, mustard, and currant jelly or brown sugar. Sounds a lot like what’s going on nowadays, doesn’t it? The poorer classes and slaves couldn’t afford sugar or expensive spices and herbs. Therefore, we read so much about the vinegar and pepper mixture. But, it’s clear from the recipes in the cookbooks written by the three women mentioned above, all from relatively wealthy Virginia families, that sugar and barbecue have been companions for a lot longer than we have been told by historians. In Housekeeping in Old Virginia there is a recipe for a “meat-flavoring” that consists of vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper, mustard, turmeric, celery seed, and brown sugar. Isn’t that interesting? Sounds like a modern barbecue sauce.

There are also some other references to sweet barbecue “sauces” in the 19th century. For example, in an 1863 edition of the Holmes County Farmer there is an account of a barbecue held in South Carolina where it says “a barbecue consisting of twelve roasted oxen and numerous barrels of molasses” was served. Notice that beef, not pork, was served at a South Carolina barbecue. However, what’s most interesting is the reference to molasses. By the same token, at the wedding of Abraham Lincoln’s parents, it is recorded that there was “syrup in big gourds; peach-and-honey; a sheep that the two families barbecued whole over coals of wood burned in a pit.” Now, the writers of those accounts never come right out and say that the molasses, peach syrup, and honey were served with the meat to be eaten like a sauce. But, is that really necessary? In my family every year at Thanksgiving we always have cranberry sauce. But, you know what we end up doing with it? We put it on the turkey! We don’t call it turkey sauce. But, that’s where we put it when we eat it. I am convinced that those sweet syrups were served to go on the meats at those barbecues.

BBQ Bandit 12-04-2012 12:53 PM

Two words - Competition Judges

I prefer a savory profile, too...

Wrench_H 12-04-2012 12:54 PM

Great post, and I agree with slow-smoker about that competition aspect. Ribs used to be one of my favorite things in the world to eat, but since we started competing, I barely touch them anymore. A lot of that is due to all the practice cooks, but I think it also has a lot to do with all of the honey, brown sugar, agave, etc. that is almost required in KCBS.

I also agree with GTR. I grew up with BBQ meaning pork, and usually chopped fine on a hamburger bun. If there was any sauce, it was mostly vinegar with some spices.

Bourbon Barrel BBQ 12-04-2012 01:12 PM

Commercial BBQ sauces started the sweet trend IMO. Go look at your local grocery store shelf and check the labels. The majority of them have lots of high fructose corn syrup. Sweet isn't just a product of competition BBQ.

daninnewjersey 12-04-2012 01:44 PM

I use no sauce on my barbecue and my rub has no brown sugar. Had more than one person tell me they liked my stuff cause it didn't take like every other barbecue place....

deguerre 12-04-2012 01:50 PM

I blame chicken.

big brother smoke 12-04-2012 01:53 PM

It is not sweet, unless you make it sweet (Smart Arse mod)! :tongue:

HeSmellsLikeSmoke 12-04-2012 01:54 PM

Neal, in response to your request in the video, here is a Texas Barbecue Juice recipe by Meathead that was inspired by Cooper's in Llano, TX.

I have yet to try it, but it looks as if it would be pretty close to the stuff I tasted there. Cooper's key is continually dipping meat into the pot of sauce.

I agree with your sentiments regarding that old school BBQ taste. I want it to be just like Sutphin's was in my childhood back in Borger, TX - savory, smokey and not sweet.

Bigmista 12-04-2012 02:16 PM

Jim, I'll have to give that mop a try.

ToddM 12-04-2012 06:09 PM


Originally Posted by HeSmellsLikeSmoke (Post 2288423)
Neal, in response to your request in the video, here is a Texas Barbecue Juice recipe by Meathead that was inspired by Cooper's in Llano, TX.

I have yet to try it, but it looks as if it would be pretty close to the stuff I tasted there. Cooper's key is continually dipping meat into the pot of sauce.

I agree with your sentiments regarding that old school BBQ taste. I want it to be just like Sutphin's was in my childhood back in Borger, TX - savory, smokey and not sweet.

I made this the first time I did a brisket. Saved an otherwise overtrimmed, dry rookie attempt. It's good.

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