Taste Test: The Best Barbecue Sauces

We taste-tested bottles of barbecue sauces from the grocery store and online to find the best you can buy.
bbq sauce

BEST OVERALL

Williams-Sonoma Mustard & Molasses Grilling Sauce

Our judges loved the whole line of Williams-Sonoma barbecue sauces, but this flavor -- inspired by the Carolinas' tradition of adding mustard to a sauce -- earned the top rating in our test. The thick, dark caramel-color sauce starts off with a tart bang, then dissolves into a sweet-andspicy finish. Tasters raved about the initial hit of vinegar and "mustardy tanginess" and the unusual "sweet ending," which comes from the recipe's apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and molasses. ($10.50 for 20 ounces, at Williams-Sonoma stores)

BEST IN TEXAS

Secret Recipe Salt Lick Bar-B-Que Sauce

Tasters were hooked on this sauce from beloved Austin-area restaurant The Salt Lick. The blend's base is mustard, not traditional tomatoes, and its "smoky, smooth" flavor made one judge say, "I could drink this." ($30 for six 12-ounce bottles, saltlickbbq.com)

BEST IN THE CAROLINAS

George's Original Barbecue Sauce

This eastern North Carolina sauce packs a vinegary punch at first, but George's Original eases the kick with apples and sugar for "a perfect balance of sweet, sour and spicy." ($11 for three 16-ounce bottles, georgesbbqsauce.com)

BEST IN KANSAS CITY

Kansas Citys Cowtown Bar-B-Q Sauce

Don't be fooled by the dancing cows on the label -- Kansas City's Cowtown is serious about sauce. This one is tomatobased (main ingredient: ketchup), and judges loved the "thick texture." One tester said, "It'll stick to anything you grill." ($6 for 18 ounces, cowtownbbq.com)

BEST FROM OUTSIDE THE BARBECUE BELT

Legend Southwest Thick and Smoky Barbecue Sauce

Judges raved over the "slightly sweet, fresh tomato flavor" of this Michiganmade sauce. While tasters disliked the fake smokiness of many competitors, cumin gives this sauce's flavor natural warmth. ($4.50 for 8.5 ounces, seasonsharvest.com)

BEST IN THE GROCERY AISLE

Bull's-Eye Barbecue Sauce Sweet Homestyle Blend

Most grocery brands were syrupy sweet, but Bull's-Eye broke that pattern with "smoky flavor and just a touch of sweetness." One taster said the "extrathick texture is great for basting." ($2.10 for 18 ounces, at grocery stores)

BEST HOT AND SPICY

Curtis' All American Bar-B-Q

Sauce Spicy Southern Style Pit master Curtis Tuff sells barbecue ribs and chicken out of blue school buses in Putney, Vermont. He can't bottle the dining experience, but he captured the "hot and vinegary flavor." Tabasco sauce and cayenne pepper ensure a fiery -- yet flavorful -- finish. ($7 for 12 ounces, piecesofvermont.com)

Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in May 2008

 

Comments