Best and worst bbq sauces

The Daily Meal
The best bbq sauces rated

The Daily Meal tried a whole bunch of barbecue sauces, and found a clear winner.

Barbecue sauce is one of those products that can make or break a summer cookout, and even when it's cold out there's nothing that can ruin a sandwich or burger quicker than the application of crummy barbecue sauce.

When shopping for sauce, though, there’s always that moment when you’re faced with a decision: standing there in front of a seemingly endless selection of barbecue sauces, the choice can be a difficult one.

When it comes to bottled barbecue sauces, one thing is for certain: all are not created equal. Some are too sweet, some are too spicy, some have that weird artificial smoke flavoring, and some just taste sort of 'off' and don’t hit that barbecue sauce sweet spot. To buy a bottle of each and go through them one by one until you find one that you like isn’t really an option, so most of the time we’ll just choose one at random, and hope for the best.

We here at The Daily Meal decided that choosing at random is an unworthy compromise, though. That’s why we picked up the leading brands, the vast majority of which are available nationwide, and put them to the test. We tried each of them straight, unadulterated, right out of the bottle, and ranked them in order of overall flavor, smokiness, balance of sweet to tangy to salty to spicy, consistency, and whether or not they hit that place in your brain that says, "now that’s good barbecue sauce."

(See also: Mustard taste test)

For our taste test, we stuck with the "original" offerings from each brand, as opposed to variations. These tended to skew toward the sweet, Kansas City-style sauce that most of us are used to, as opposed to, say, a vinegar- or mustard-based concoction. The sauces weren’t just ranked, though; our panel of taste testers took detailed notes about each sauce, logging the pros and cons of each one. So the next time you’re faced with the dilemma of having to choose between KC Masterpiece, Stubb’s, Hunt’s, Bull’s-Eye, Sweet Baby Ray’s, Cattlemen’s Reserve, Kraft, Open Pit, Jack Daniel's, or pitmaster Brad Orrison’s new line called The Shed, you’ll know exactly which one to pick.

View gallery

.
Open Pit

(Photo: Jane Bruce)

Open Pit

This sauce was the reddest of the bunch, the least expensive at $1.89, and also the least favorite.

"It tastes like a combination of hot sauce and ketchup," one taster said, and all agreed that there was no discernible smokiness. It had a thin consistency and was a bit too spicy, but one taster felt that it would be a better match for chicken nuggets or wings than barbecue.

Price: $1.89

View gallery

.
The Shed

(Photo: The Shed)

The Shed

This brand-new offering from pitmaster Brad Orrison didn’t rank as highly as we hoped it might. Our tasters thought that it might work better as a marinade, as it was a bit heavy on the sugar and vinegar, giving it a sour flavor profile. One taster found that it was well-balanced, however.

Price: $3.99



View gallery

.
Kraft Original

(Photo by: Jane Bruce)

Kraft Original

This sauce had a bit too much of that "fake smoke" flavor, and also was cloyingly sweet but just sour and spicy enough. It was quite run-of-the-mill, as could be expected from Kraft, and most agreed that it was "nothing special."

Price: $1.99




View gallery

.
Hunt's Original

(Photo by: Jane Bruce)

Hunt’s Original

Most of the testers found Hunt’s sauce to be a bit too "ketchupy," with an overly viscous consistency. Surprisingly, we found it to have some notes of fruit, including apricot and citrus, as well as Worcestershire sauce, but it was "dull otherwise."

Price: $1.99




View gallery

.
Cattlemen’s Kansas City Classic

(Photo by: Jane Bruce)

Cattlemen’s Kansas City Classic

"Tangy and sweet, well balanced, and lots of flavor," said one taster, and just about everyone else agreed.

Cattlemen’s had a nice blend of spice and a hint of brown sugar, but one taster found it "mono-dimensional."

Price: $2.69




View gallery

.
KC Masterpiece

(Photo by: Jane Bruce)

KC Masterpiece

The original Kansas City barbecue sauce, this one still stands tall among the pack. Heavy on the smoke and not too sweet, spicy, or acidic, the only negative was that the smokiness was a bit too overpowering for some.

Price: $2.29





View gallery

.
Stubb’s Sweet Heat

(Photo by: Jane Bruce)

Stubb’s Sweet Heat

A very popular pick, this bottle was also the most expensive.

"A nice balance of sweet to spice," one taster said, and it had a noticeable spicy kick ("hot in a not very interesting way, but it grows on you," said another). All agreed that it tasted like its base was a good spice rub, and that it would be very good on brisket.

Price: $4.99


View gallery

.
Stubb’s Sweet Heat

(Photo by: Jane Bruce)

Sweet Baby Ray’s

The dark horse of the bunch, Sweet Baby Ray's emerged as the near-universal favorite.

"A perfect balance of sweet to spice to smoke to tanginess," said one taster. It had a good acidity and a well-executed blend of spices, and it all came together without being overwhelming in any aspect.

"It has all the quintessential characteristics of a perfect barbecue sauce," another said.

Price: $2.79



Click to see More of the Best and Worst Barbecue Sauces



More from The Daily Meal:

America's 20 Craziest Brunch Dishes 

Most Outrageous Canned Dog Food Brands

America's 14 Oldest Taverns and Inns

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • The jobs report is a perfect example of fake news

      On Friday, we learned the US economy added 178,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6%, while over 95 million Americans were not in the labor force. One person can say the unemployment rate is 4.6%. Another person can look at the same report and say the unemployment rate is 40.3%.

      Yahoo Finance
    • J.J. Watt accidentally outs relationship in Christmas photo

      A picture is worth a thousand words, or in J.J. Watt’s case, a stocking. After putting the finishing touches on his holiday decor Thursday, the NFL star gave fans a glimpse of his Christmas cheer via Snapchat. But Watt may have slipped up by displaying — tucked away in the background, as Terez Owens was first to point out — a second stocking marked with a “K” for stunning soccer-playing girlfriend Kealia Ohai. Watt has yet to address the relationship publicly, though Ohai — the sister-in-law of Texans teammate Brian Cushing — talked about the pair in October. “The rumors are true. We are dating,” Ohai confirmed on the 2 Up Front podcast. “I’ve known J.J. for a really long time, and we’ve always

      New York Post q
    • Investigator Believes Sex Trafficking Could Be Motive Behind Sherri Papini Kidnapping Case

      A private investigator and veteran human trafficking expert believes California mom Sherri Papini‘s case has the hallmarks of sex trafficking.

      People
    • Here's how much interns will make at companies like Facebook and Google in 2017

      Some big companies are paying their interns more than $8,000 a month.

      CNBC.com q
    • These 8 Winter Boots Are the Safest for Icy Conditions (9 photos)

      Leave it to Canadians to determine which footwear you should rely on for icy conditions this winter. Researchers at the Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation and Technology labs at the Torontos Rehabilitation Institute used simulatedicy winter conditions to test 98 pairs of winter boots for safety. They studied each pairs performance on icysurfaces in outdoor winter environments. The boots were tested on angular planes of melting ice and bare ice, with scientists walking both uphill and downhill to test slip resistance. Only eightpairs were deemed safe for both ice conditions: three pairs of work boots, and five pairs of casual boots. Results of the study have been published on RateMyTreads.com . The team of researchers ranked each pair on a three-snowflake scale. The eight brands with the highest score achieved only one snowflake, though the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute says it has been working with footwear manufacturers to test prototypes that earned two and three snowflakes. Though not yet on the market, the scientists say those prototypes should be available to consumers within one or two years. Here are the eight pairs of boots that were deemed safe enough to earn one snowflake.

      Travel+Leisure
    • Mummified Body In Woman's Attic Believed To Be Missing Grandson

      A Pennsylvania woman made a disturbing discovery on Wednesday when she found a badly decomposed body in the attic of her home. Authorities suspect it’s her grandson, who disappeared two years ago. Zanobia Richmond, 65, heard something fall in the upstairs of her Erie home Wednesday afternoon, according to Erie’s WICU 12 News. When she went to investigate, she was shocked to discover a badly decomposed body had fallen against her attic door. Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook is now working to confirm the identity of the body, but told The Erie Times-News officials are confident the body is Richmond’s missing grandson, Dyquain Rogers. “That is where he lived,” Cook said. Authorities will use dental

      The Huffington Post q
    • This baby with amazing hair is going to make your day.

      LONDON — Remember Baby Bear, the Irish tot with a glorious mane of luscious locks?   Well, there's a new hairy child in town.  Her name is Alexandra and, at just 2-months-old, she has a head of hair that is sure to win the internet's heart like the bouffanted babes that have come before her.  SEE ALSO: A very big-haired baby interrupts live Kim Kardashian TV report Reddit user brngrhm84 uploaded this image of his baby girl, and it has since gone viral because HOLY COW that's a lot of hair: As a bald man, I'm very proud of my 2 month old's hair from aww Let the photoshop battles begin. BONUS: Baby falling off table caught by lightning quick 9-year-old brother

      Mashable q
    • Forget Black Friday, Best Buy is about to host a ‘Special Edition’ sale

      Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us at this point, but the special Christmas sales are just getting started. Best Buy on Friday announced its first "Special Edition Tech collection" sale. Beginning on December 4th, Best Buy will start selling a “one-of-a-kind” collection of products that you might not find anywhere else this holiday season. DON’T MISS: A 75-year-old’s excellent Tweet may be the only good thing in 2016 Best Buy will have the following products in limited quantities, both online and in select stores, “so when they’re gone, they’re gone.” Mind you, the list does not include some of the hottest tech gadgets in town, like the iPhone 7 or the PS4 Pro. But that doesn’t make the sale any less exciting. Here’s what’s included in Best Buy’s first Special Edition Tech collection: Shinola Magnolia Edition Red Belt Runwell Turntable, $2,499.98 Lenovo Yoga 910 Glass-Lid Laptop, $1,299.99 DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter in Black, $1,199.99 The Beatles Collectible 1964 Pro-Ject Turntable, $649.98 GoPro HERO5 Black 4K Action Camera plus Best Buy Holiday Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to the 2017 X Games, $399.99 Beats Unity Edition Studio Wireless Headphones: available in USA, Mexico and Canada colors, $379.99 each Harry Potter 8-Film SteelBook Box Set, $99.99 kate spade new york Activity Tracker, $98 TUMI Aston Wrap Folio for Surface Pro, $79.99 South Park Character Figures 3-Pack, $39.99 Team Liquid Razer Deathadder Chroma Elite Mouse and Goliathus Mouse Mat, $69.99 South Park Character Figures 3-Pack, $39.99 Finally, you should also know that Best Buy offers you free shipping on select Special Edition products and all other products from now through December 24th. Best Buy Introduces Special Edition Tech Collection for the Holidays New collection features limited-edition tech gifts; most exclusive to Best Buy  MINNEAPOLIS—Friday, Dec. 2, 2016—This year, Best Buy is making it possible for customers to find that unique, one-of-a-kind gift that stands out from the rest. Today, Best Buy announced its first ever Special Edition Tech collection, a set of 11 limited-quantity tech gadgets—most of which are available only at Best Buy. This list of gadgets includes an exclusive Shinola turntable, a Bazooka-pink kate spade new york activity tracker, a Lenovo Yoga laptop individually numbered with a painted depth glass cover and more. These products will be available in select Best Buy stores and most will be available at BestBuy.com starting this Sunday, Dec. 4. Many are available for a limited time only, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Best Buy's Special Edition Tech 2016: · Shinola Magnolia Edition Red Belt Runwell Turntable, $2,499.98 · Lenovo Yoga 910 Glass-Lid Laptop, $1,299.99 · Beats Unity Edition Studio Wireless Headphones: available in USA, Mexico and Canada colors, $379.99 each · kate spade new york Activity Tracker, $98 · DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter in Black, $1,199.99 · TUMI Aston Wrap Folio for Surface Pro, $79.99 · The Beatles Collectible 1964 Pro-Ject Turntable, $649.98 · GoPro HERO5 Black 4K Action Camera plus Best Buy Holiday Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to the 2017 X Games, $399.99 · Harry Potter 8-Film SteelBook Box Set, $99.99 · South Park Character Figures 3-Pack, $39.99 · Team Liquid Razer Deathadder Chroma Elite Mouse and Goliathus Mouse Mat, $69.99 This year, customers can take advantage of free shipping on select Special Edition products and all products, with no minimum, on BestBuy.com through Dec. 24. Make the most of your Special Edition tech with help from Best Buy’s Geek Squad® Agents. Agents are available in-store, in-home and online to assist 24/7/365. Visit www.bestbuy.com/geeksquad for details and to schedule an appointment.

      BGR News
    • Trump voter has buyer’s remorse after Steve Mnuchin picked for treasury secretary

      Teena Colebrook purchased a triplex in Hawthorne, Calif., in 1998. Now her home is one of 36,000 foreclosures by OneWest, a bank that became known as “a foreclosure machine.” Donald Trump’s pick for treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, headed an investment group that formerly owned that bank, and Colebrook holds Mnuchin responsible for her foreclosure.

      Yahoo News Video
    • ABC Head Channing Dungey Says Donald Trump Made Her Rethink Programming Strategy

      ABC Entertainment Group president Channing Dungey reevaluated the way she programs the network following the election of Donald Trump.

      The Wrap
    • The Duggars Just Welcomed Their 20th Child

      If the Duggars do ever return back to TV, they are going to have to rename their reality show. The family has grown by one more child, which means that Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar are now responsible for 20 children. Family gatherings are no joke at their house. The former 19 Kids and Counting parents have been granted custody of Tyler Wayne Hutchins, according to court documents obtained by Entertainment Tonight and InTouch. The 8-year-old is the nephew of the Duggars, so he is already close with the family. He was first placed in the custody of the family on August 26 following an emergency petition. The guardianship was made permanent two weeks, on November 21. Based on the court documents,

      refinery29.com q
    • Sherri Papini’s Hometown Rallies Around Her on Return Home After Abduction

      When the news broke that Redding, California, mom Sherri Papini was found safe on Thanksgiving morning after being missing for three weeks, residents exhaled with relief, the city’s mayor tells PEOPLE exclusively. Papini, 34, vanished while out for a jog on Nov. 2. After three weeks, the mom-of-two was found around 4:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Day on the side of a road — about 150 miles south of her Redding home.

      People
    • Officials: Bodies of Missing Mother, Daughter Found in Well

      North Carolina authorities say bodies of mother, teen-age daughter found in a well, three days after they were reported missing

      ABC News q
    • Inside Edition
    • Chains and branded skin: California kidnap case baffles cops

      SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Three weeks after Sherri Papini disappeared, the question of whether she was dead or alive was answered when the young mother and wife was spotted waving frantically for help along a California freeway early on Thanksgiving morning. But the mystery over what happened to her during those 22 days just seemed to grow stranger.

      Associated Press
    • Kelly Ripa Brings Co-Host Contest Winner Back for 3 More Episodes

      Could “Live With Kelly and You” contest winner Richard Curtis have a real shot at landing the permanent gig? Well, by mid-December, he’ll have guest co-hosted the talk show five times, so, maybe.

      The Wrap
    • 7 Signs You Are Seriously Out of Shape

      If your days are spent between the office, your bed, and your couch, then you should check these signs to see if you're out of shape.

      The Cheat Sheet q
    • Jadeveon Clowney looks like a child wearing Vince Wilfork's jersey

      Players and coaches have to find ways to keep things fun, and the Houston Texans seem to have a good grip on that idea. Texans players decided to switch jerseys at practice Friday, and no swap was better than the one between Vince Wilfork and Jadeveon Clowney. A few Texans players switched jerseys at practice today, but the Vince Wilfork and Jadeveon Clowney swap is probably the best.

      SB Nation q
    • 'Republicans oppose this, remember?': Sarah Palin slams Trump for 'crony capitalism' Carrier deal

      Sarah Palin criticized President-elect Donald Trump on Friday for a deal he struck with...

      Business Insider
    • Rihanna Takes High-Waisted Pants to New Heights (138 photos)

      Rihanna is just as much a sartorial risk taker as she is a musical hit maker. Leave it to the singer to step out in a sheer dress with nothing underneath, an ensemble made entirely of pink fur, or her special edition chaps-style Manolo boots under only a t-shirt. She may crush the red carpet each time she walks on it (the 2014 CFDA's, anyone?) but don't let that distract from her equally impressive streetwear. Here, keep up to date on her boldest looks. From Harper's BAZAAR

      Harper's Bazaar