Barbecuing styles in the US differ mainly based on the region, the type of meat, and the seasonings used. Similarly, there are many choices in barbecue sauces as well, which also sometimes correspond to the regional barbecue styles and the type of meat. Below is a quick look at the four main types of BBQ sauces used in different parts of the country.
Tomato-Based BBQ Sauce
Tomato-based barbecue sauces are the most commonly used type for all kinds of grilled or smoked meats. Generally, the tomato base in these sauces is a form of ketchup, which offers a nice balance to the overall taste and thickness of the BBQ sauce. They offer a sweet and tangy flavor to the barbecued meat, along with an added hint of smoky flavor and a bold mix of various other spices. The most popular tomato-based barbecue sauce is the Kansas City BBQ sauce, which can be used for almost any kind of meat.
Vinegar-Based BBQ Sauces
Vinegar-based barbecue sauces are thinner than tomato-based BBQ sauces and offer a bit more spiciness to the barbecued meat. These are generally made without any ketchup base, but some variants might include a little tomato juice in it, just enough that the sauce is not thick. The most popular vinegar-based BBQ sauces come from the Eastern Carolina and Western Carolina regions. The sharp flavor of these sauces helps to balance out fattier pork in the best way. That is why they are usually used with Carolina-style pulled pork.
Mayonnaise-Based BBQ Sauces
Mayonnaise-based barbecue sauces are made with a thick base of mayonnaise sauce, along with vinegar, lemon juice, and various other seasonings and spices. The white barbecue sauce is the common choice of sauce for grilled chicken in the Alabama region, while it may also be served with other smoked and grilled meats. The cayenne pepper and horseradish give a unique flavor to mayonnaise-based BBQ sauce, while its creamy and smooth consistency gives a more appetizing touch to the barbecued meat.
Mustard-Based BBQ Sauces
Mustard-based barbecue sauces are also thinner when compared to tomato-based BBQ sauces and offer a spicy and astringent flavor to the barbecued meat. These yellow barbecue sauces are generally made with yellow mustard, sugar, vinegar, and spices, but some barbecuers include a little tomato paste in the sauce as well to give it an added zing. Mustard-based BBQ sauces are more popular in the South Carolina region and are traditionally used with pulled pork sandwiches, smoked pork shoulders, and grilled pork ribs.