Friday, July 22, 2011

North South East West Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce

The only thing I know for sure about Carolina-style barbecue sauce is that there isn't one. The base is usually always vinegar and pepper, but then depending on which part of the state(s) you're dealing with, there are countless additions and variations.

This one features fresh apple to add a little extra something, but otherwise it's a fairly straightforward, totally in-your-face with tang and heat barbecue sauce recipe. It was fantastic on a molasses-brined pork chop that you'll see in an upcoming video.

One note for those of you that pay particularly close attention to these videos; you may wonder why I mash the cooked apples in the saucepan, when I'm going to put the sauce in the blender anyway. Extreme sauce ugliness, that's why.

I was originally going to leave the sauce unblended, with the hopes the apple would basically disintegrate into the sauce, but when I stirred in the mustard the sauce suddenly looked like the opposite of something you'd want to eat.

Happily a quick trip to the blender made everything okay again, and I was blessed with a superb summer grilling sauce. It's beautiful for basting, or as a can't-miss condiment. It was really nice on these chops, but I think it shines brightest with pulled pork. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 apple, peeled, cubed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons yellow mustard

View the complete recipe


Unknown said...

Wow! If you ever have a layover in Greensboro I'll pick you up and take you out for REAL NC BBQ. They do use mustard in some parts of the state, but not around here. The real secret is in the combination of the hickory smoked, pulled pork, the sauce (yes, vinegar-y), and believe it or not, the slaw! No mayonaise near my BBQ slaw, please!

Carolyn™ said...

I love the recipe and reading James Message I could imagine it over slaw would be great.

Johnny B said...

great recipe, but wouldn't an immersion blender make that a million times easier?

Anonymous said...

I'll have to give this one a try - we DO use mustard in the part of South Carolina that my family is from. I'll try to skip the blender stage by using a sauce apple like McIntosh.

Steve said...


Looks great. Probably tastes even greater.

One question: any preference on the type of apple? I'm thinking something kind of tart like a Granny Smith.

Chef John said...

Yes, Granny Smith would be great.

Jim said...

what about adding in a chopped habanero pepper? yeah...i like it hot! lol

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Chris K. said...

If you ever want to start a fight among a group of Carolinians, ask them what's the best BBQ. Ten people will give you ten different answers.

First there's Eastern style, which is vinegar-based. The Piedmont region is further west and incorporates tomato. And then there's the mustard sauces from low country South Carolina.

In Alabama they make a white BBQ sauce with mayonnaise as the base, usually served with poultry. You should try it some time - it's delicious.

I think there are only two kinds of barbecue: good and bad. The very best doesn't need sauce at all.

Jeff @ said...

Hi Chef Jeff. This looks great. I'm gonna give it a try. I'm looking forward to your demo of the molasses-brined pork chop.

Unknown said...

Yeah that is definitely more of a low country South Carolina sauce...North Georgia does a lot of mustard based sauces too...I use mustard in a lot of my jus as well, it adds so much depth of flavor.

Trish said...

Serendipity! I just so happened to have pork! But wait, no apple? Hmmm... this peach could be interesting. So I made the sauce as per recipe, with a peach subbed in for the apple. I don't have a blender, so I just cut the pieces pretty small to begin with and, unlike your apple, the peach did a pretty good job dissolving and emulsifying just through the cooking process - the end product had a little texture, but was actually very attractive. The peach seemed to round out the vinegar's acidity a bit, and my only regret is that it probably didn't need the mustard... I can see pork-apple-mustard working, but in the case of peach it had enough going on flavour-wise without adding mustard to the mix.

Thanks for the great recipe and the introduction to Carolina BBQ sauces... I had no idea. :)

Nancy said...

Followed your recipe exactly, but was super super tart (to tart and vinagar-y for my taste), so I added more sugar to balance. Once that was okay, it was perfect with the molasses brined pork chops. What a great, great combo!! Love love love! Thanks Chef John.

prairiepatch said...

Okay I cheated. I put whole pepper corns and a whole chili pepper in my vitamix and blended it until it was finely ground. Then I chucked in two whole (including stem, core, peel, seeds) small tart apples fresh from the tree; along with the rest of the ingredients. Blended that until smooth. (I love my vitamix) Then I simmered it for about a half an hour and done. Very tart but it is going to be great with the molasses pork I have brining in the fridge. Yum thanks Chef John

Anonymous said...

Holy vinegar!!!! I JUST made this and it's a bit to vinegary for my taste... but it sure does look purdy... LOL Thanks for the recipe!!


philogaia said...

Seeing comments about 'too vinegary for me' intrigued me. I love vinegary tastes when done well. I always incline to the sharp in salad dressings. So that was it. I did the chops last night and had my first taste of Carolina sauce (or at least one of them, I understand.) Wow. It was just fabulous on the chops. And I did taste it from the pan and it was a little weird. It is on the chops that it comes alive.

And I did use my immersion blender but the sauce level in the pan is a bit low to get a good blend. I had to pour the sauce into the beaker provided with the blender and that worked well. So at that point I think it is moot whether you choose the blender or stick blender.

Unknown said...

Being a Charleston, SC native myself, I love golden Carolina bbq. Now that I've used up all of the "liquid gold" I brought back with me the last time I was there, I'm looking for a good recipe and so far come up short. Will be giving this one a try. One question: can I add liquid smoke? Thanks