My 1-Ingredient Upgrade Makes Any Store-Bought BBQ Sauce Taste Better

Because most store-bought barbecue sauces are sticky sweet and gloppy.

<p>Simply Recipes / Nick Evans</p>

Simply Recipes / Nick Evans

As a North Carolinian by birth, I have a clear understanding of what “barbecue” means in my home state and where it fits into the larger barbecue canon.

In Kansas City, pitmasters slather pork, chicken, and beef barbecue (though it’s the pork ribs that are most famous) with a sweet, tomato-based sauce. In Texas, they painstakingly slow-smoke brisket. In Alabama, they dip smoked chicken in a thin mayonnaise-based sauce. In North Carolina, they hickory-smoke pork shoulder or whole hogs and serve the meat with a super-tart vinegar sauce.

Barbecue purists will debate at length about Eastern vs. Western North Carolina barbecue sauce, but both are mostly vinegar. Western North Carolinians just add a little bit of ketchup.

Either way, I grew up with an appreciation for smoked pork not cloaked in a sticky sweet sauce, but rather gently anointed with lightly flavored vinegar. That’s why, even when I’m going for more of a Kansas City vibe with my barbecue at home, I’ll always add a healthy glug of apple cider vinegar to the barbecue sauce.

<p>Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe</p>

Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Why You Should Add Vinegar To Bottled Barbecue Sauce

Barbecued meats are almost always rich and fatty because the longer cooking times associated with smoking are best for meats that won’t dry out over the hours and hours needed to cook them to tenderness. Cuts like pork ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket are full of fat and collagen, which soften slowly during those long cooking times, lending a rich, moist texture to the meat.

While all that fat makes the meat taste amazing, it also coats the tongue in a way that can mute or deaden other flavors. This is why barbecued meats are usually paired with a sour and sweet sauce. It cuts through the richness, balancing and enhancing the taste of the meat.

The problem with most store-bought barbecue sauces is that they veer too far to the sweet side and can even taste cloying. They also have a thick, syrupy consistency that quickly turns a gorgeous piece of smoked meat into a gloppy mess. Adding vinegar solves both problems, giving the sauce a nice tartness and thinning the sauce a bit so it can lightly coat the meat instead of drowning it.

If you like a little heat on your barbecue, add Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot to the bottled sauce instead of vinegar. Both sauces are heavy on the vinegar and not too spicy, so you can really glug away with abandon.

How I Upgrade My Barbecue Sauce

This upgrade could hardly be easier. My starting ratio is one cup of bottled barbecue sauce to one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and the least messy way to combine the two is in a bowl or large measuring cup with a whisk.

If you have a half-full bottle of barbecue sauce on hand, you can add the vinegar directly to the bottle, cap it with the lid, and shake the heck out of it until it’s combined.

Always taste the bottled barbecue sauce before and after adding the vinegar. If you think your barbecue sauce is already really tart, you might add less vinegar. However, in my experience the opposite is usually true: you’ll probably end up adding more than a tablespoon.

I like to make the barbecue sauce a little too tart on its own because once it hits that rich, smoky meat its flavor will become more subdued, so too much vinegar is really just right.

Read the original article on Simply Recipes.