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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 03-06-2011, 08:58 PM   #1
Ryan_289
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Default How to reverse engineer a sauce?

I picked up a quart of BBQ sauce from a local resturant back home this weekend. I would love to figure out how to make this sauce. How do you go about reverse engineering a sauce that you dont have the ingredients to?
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Unread 03-06-2011, 09:33 PM   #2
MilitantSquatter
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Maybe short of sending to some lab for chemical analysis, it's really not possible to fully replicate for several factors ( different ingredients, age of ingredients, unknown ratios or cooking times etc).

Assuming it was bottled for sale you could start by gathering all the ingredients on the back of the bottle. The ingredient used most will be listed first. From here, you'll need to understand the basics of saucemaking to know where to start, what to mix together etc (a Paul Kirk sauce book is a good foundation)

If you don't have ingredient listing, you really need a great sense of taste and a lot of patience for trial & error... That may get you somewhat close, but it will cost you $$$. Still, whatever you end up with will probably taste pretty good and you can claim it as your own.

Another option is to just call the local restaurant and ask them if they may be willing to part with the recipe.

Sometimes you may be surprised what's not homemade and just some type of doctored up Cattleman's that gets supplied to the restuarant by their food distributor.

Good Luck.
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Unread 03-06-2011, 10:48 PM   #3
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MilitantSquatter really hit the high points in reverse engineering.

I'll add my two cents as I just did this for a sauce I truly love and doing this is fun for me.

In order of finding the recipe this is what I would do:
  1. Ask the restaurant for the list of ingredients. This may sound crazy but as Militant suggested you might be surprised what is in the 'secret' sauce or the fact how easily they'll give up the basic recipe. In addition, most will divulge due to the potential for allergic reaction.
  2. If they are unwilling to divulge the specifics to you I'm sure the basics should be on the commercially sold bottle. This is your starting point.
  3. Now, once you have the basic ingredients from one of the two suggested ways above you have some research to do.
  4. Depending how complicated the ingredient list is you may actually need to do a bit of research on the restaurant and the owners for their background. This could help if they have a family history living in a region and brought back a flavor component.
  5. Also, despite popular belief, the ingredient list is not always in order of quantity. Some companies use a break out of ingredients from a main flavor.
  6. This goes to my next point. Try to break down the flavors individually (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, spicy, etc.) You can then do proportions from these basic components.
  7. The testing should be done in super small batches (Tablespoon measurements.)
  8. Patience as it could take awhile to get it close to right. Also, take breaks between taste tests and if possible allow others to taste.

Out of curiosity, what restaurant sauce are you trying to duplicate?
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Unread 03-07-2011, 12:49 AM   #4
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all good information you have got!
also the internet is your best friend too.
find a recipe for a basic sauce you like or one that will do, then stat expanding from there. add this and that as said before do it in small batches.
keep track of every thing you put in it, if it was a rounded spoon full or a level spoon full, this is very very important.
are you cooking it or not. keep track.
if you mix up small batches and taste them DONT THROW THEM OUT! they will taste different in an hour or 2 and maybe even the next day. you can get an idea soon after mixing but it has to sit, let all of the flavors combine.

i have 3 rubs and 2 bbq sauces that i sell at our farmers market, ALL of them started with a base recipe then i started the add this and that too much of this and not enough of that.

sorry so long but thats how it works!
good luck
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Unread 03-07-2011, 05:08 AM   #5
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Check there dumpster you might be surprised. Or apply for a job there.
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Unread 03-07-2011, 08:57 AM   #6
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They dont bottle it for sell. If you ask for a quart or a pint it will come in a plastic container or foam cup. Its not a thick sauce more medium. From my taste I THINK its got ketchup, mustard, vinagar, pepper, wostichire (sp?). This is a local resturant in my hometown. I dont live there anymore, I just make sure and get some sauce everytime I go home.

I would be glad to send a sample to a sauce connoisseur that would like to give it a go
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Unread 03-07-2011, 09:32 AM   #7
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What's the name of the restaurant?
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Unread 03-07-2011, 09:37 AM   #8
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Back Yard BBQ in Magnolia AR.
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Unread 03-07-2011, 11:41 AM   #9
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do you want to make a sauce like it for your own use or do you have commercial intentions? if it is the latter, this post might be a problem for you down the road.

if it is for personal use, below is the technique i use to make sauce like another i have tasted (it presumes you know whether or not the sauce is tomato, mustard or vinegar based):

1. narrow the heat source (black pepper or chiles)
2. try and id the sweet part (brown sugar, honey, molasses, fruit, etc.)
3. establish an opinion about the vinegar content (low, tangy or primarliy vinegar based)
4. determine if you can taste salt...if so, does it taste like worcestechire?
5. the easiest ingredient to identify is liquid smoke - a little, a lot or none

i know this sounds overly simplistic but if you have some idea of the main tastes in a sauce you can start pouring through the litany of sauce recipes in paul kirks book and get close to a base recipe. tweak from there to get closer and closer.

bbq sauce lore and its role in good bbq is hocus pocus (another opinion) - everybody can make bbq good sauce - it is a lot easier than making good bbq.
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Unread 03-07-2011, 11:58 AM   #10
Ryan_289
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orangeblood View Post
do you want to make a sauce like it for your own use or do you have commercial intentions? if it is the latter, this post might be a problem for you down the road.
.

It is strictly for personal use. Im still new to smoking meats. However I like BBQ sauce on just about everything. Burgers, grilled chicken, sausages, etc.
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Unread 03-07-2011, 12:13 PM   #11
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Backyard BBQ is one of my favorite BBQ joints. I am from Camden and every time we went to Magnolia, we would stop in there for a pulled pork sandwich and some baked beans.

If none of the above works, you could always ask one of the employees. Working in the restaurant buisness I learned that if you can't get it out of the owner, find a employee who doesn't like the owner or doesn't know better.
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Unread 03-07-2011, 12:18 PM   #12
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Since you once lived there, you can start with asking about regional tastes and tendencies. Is it a typical sauce for the area, is the flavor profile typical to that region. If so, gather up the ingredients common to that region.

I like to taste things cold, luke warm and warm, I also will dilute a portion and see what settles out, sometimes you will find certain spices that precipitate out. I do agree that the first step is to get a real feel for making BBQ sauces as that will help you figure out styles.

The hardest thing will be if they are using an odd technique, or doctoring commercial sauce with another commercial product.
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