Thursday, July 3, 2008

Barbecue Sauce Showdown

As promised, I made some barbecue sauce to test out the Stubb's liquid smoke products and compare them to Wright's liquid smoke. I made my normal big batch (recipe below) and divided it into three parts. I added the appropriate amount of liquid smoke to each batch and labeled it so only I knew which smoke was where.

To my taste, there's a clear winner among the three. However, I will not announce it here or to anyone else until I get input from my usual guinea pigs ... otherwise known as my friends and family.

I think you can see in the picture that mine is no artisan kitchen. No fancy special-purpose bottles. Just old, washed-out Coke Zero bottles with masking tape labels. I know, Coke Zero is definitely industrial food. I said I wasn't a zealot.

So, onto the recipe for the barbecue sauce. I've used this recipe for a while. However, it has undergone some modification since I got to the Philippines. Here in Tacloban they don't have what we (in the States) call brown sugar. So, I use what they call brown sugar ... which is what we would call turbinado sugar.

Here are the ingredients:
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 3 cups light corn syrup
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 cup liquid smoke
  • 2 tbs salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbs black pepper
  • 1 tbs sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
Since I was going to use three different liquid smokes, I left that out at first. What I do is put the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices into a large, wide pot and heat them up over a low flame, whisking them together well. If I weren't comparing the liquid smokes, I'd add that ingredient now, too.

Then, I add the molasses. Since the molasses likes to stick to the measuring cup, I dip the cup into the warm liquid to help it dissolve without having to get out a spoon or some kind of scraper. One less thing to clean. I do the same thing with the corn syrup.

Yes, corn syrup. I'm painfully aware that I've ranted about it. I keep meaning to do some tests to create a replacement for it using local cane sugars. I will. Really.

Finally, I turn up the heat a bit to medium and add the tomato paste. I wisk this in thoroughly.

Once everything is melded well, I turn up the flame to medium-high and wisk constantly to reduce the sauce. There's no right amount to reduce. It all depends on taste. I tend to like to reduce quite a ways to produce a thicker sauce. Although, by no means do I go so far as to get down to level of commercial sauces.

When you've reduced it to the thickness desired, take it off the heat. Continue to wisk for a minute or so to prevent burning. Remember, this sauce has a lot of sugars in it. If they burn, it's bad. Very bad.

Once cool, put it into a container and refrigerate. I find this sauce goes very well on beef, pork, chicken, and turkey. Yields about two quarts of sauce.

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