When you talk about BBQ….you immediately find that it means different things to different folks across the country. The middle and southeast is primarily pork and the main variation is in the sauce. Sometimes like in Memphis… it means no sauce at all. You go down into Texas and you find that beef is classically defined BBQ and their sauces run across the board in both the base and heat levels. Texans love their beef….they have tons of it. Head up into the Northeast and they call anything you put on a grill BBQ. Obviously those guys are just stupid…
Being born and raised in the Midwest, St. Louis specifically, to me BBQ means Pork. How can it not? After all we even have a cut of Rib’s in our honor. How many other cities can say that? None. Another unique thing to the area is a fine cut called the Pork Steak. I am sure they have these cuts in other areas of the country but I have never seen it gobbled up the way it is here. This was a staple in my house and also for the previous generation in my family dam near every weekend. The real secret to this local favorite is in the sauce. The “Steaks” are grilled over direct heat and then placed into a cast iron Dutch oven or similar and filled to the brim with sauce and beer. Then it is left to simmer for what seemed like days until some of the fat renders off the steaks and into the sauce creating what can only be described as goulash. In St. Louis the sauce of choice is Maull’s…the kind you buy in the Gallon Jugs at the local grocery. To this day you will find this in my parent’s fridge.
The U.S. has a wide variety of differing barbecue sauces. Here is a link that covers most of the regional types out there.
Just like the craft beer industry has exploded so has the BBQ sauce market. If you head over to the local grocery you still can buy a gallon of Maull’s…but you now have a much larger, pricier, selection of what I call craft sauces. Everything from traditional “Open Pit” to Mega BBQ chain sauces you can find in most modern stores. In KC in fact…all the players market their sauces on the area shelves. Gates, Author Bryant’s and Jack Stacks all have their hands in the game. I think there are better places for BBQ than the tourist traps in KC but who am I? What you don’t find in St. Louis at the local grocery is much in the way of the sauces typical to the Southeast and other parts of the country. Most of the selection here is a tomato based sauce that is typically on the sweet side. Essentially they are all variations on the Kansas City Style of Sauces. However…today there are many more bottles on the shelves than their used to be. I have become a fan of the vinegar based southeastern sauces. To me the thicker KC style sauces tend to mask the flavor of the meat and the hours of work you put into it.
If you are ever in the down town St. Charles Missouri along Main Street seek out and find one of the coolest stores in the area…Figuero’s. It’s a great little place to find almost every type of sauce under the sun. Their BBQ section pales in comparison to the Hot Sauces but is still pretty substantial. I picked up a bottle of Blues Hog Tennessee Red the last time I was there and was very impressed. Apparently this sauce is the “Dirty Secret” to some of the wins on the competition tour and is used regularly by many of the teams. Good enough for me.
Here are some photos of the inside of the shop….
I have in the past attempted to make my own sauces and have had pretty good success in doing so. Thing is… it takes a while and always has the potential to go south in a hurry especially if there is a large amount of sugar in it. The sugar tends to burn and carmalize giving the whole batch a burnt taste. Something that I never do is actually write down the changes and additoins I made making it almost imposible to duplicate it again if its really good.
In general, it’s up to you what you like. There are a lot of sauces on the market and I suggest you try a few different one. I think there are atleast 4 at any givien time in our fridge to pick from and most major BBQ teams doctor someone elses sauce anyway so why go through the hastle. Hell….pour a few diffrent ones in a jar and give it a shake and see what comes out.