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

    • Man convicted of 3 murders as teen kills himself in prison

      CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) — A man who broke into a classmate's home in 2007 and stabbed the teenager and his parents to death has killed himself in prison, authorities said Monday.

      Associated Press
    • ‘Morning Joe’ Blasts Trump’s First Day in White House: ‘It Could Not Have Gone Worse’

      MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough said that Donald Trump’s first full day in the White House “could not have gone worse” and “it could not have been more disturbing.”

      The Wrap
    • George Clooney’s Wife Amal Is Pregnant: How IVF Made Their Baby Dreams Come True (EXCLUSIVE)

      And babies make four! Shortly after In Touch exclusively revealed that George Clooney’s wife, Amal, is pregnant with twins, a source says their dream came true thanks to IVF! “They had been trying for a baby all summer and it just wasn’t happening, so they sought the help of a fertility doctor and started in vitro fertilization,” the source tells In Touch, exclusively. (Photo Credit: Getty Images) The decision to turn to IVF wasn’t an easy one — especially because of 38-year-old Amal’s fear of needles. “George has never had trouble doing anything is his life,” the source adds. “Plus, Amal is afraid of needles, so her biggest fear was getting the hormone injections.” But all their anxieties about

      intouchweekly.com q
    • Christina and Tarek Have Their Biggest Fight Yet on ‘Flip or Flop’

      In the latest episode of "Flip or Flop," the tension between Christina and Tarek El Moussa reaches new heights. The post Christina and Tarek Have Their Biggest Fight Yet on ‘Flip or Flop’ appeared first on Real Estate News & Advice | realtor.com®.

      Realtor.com
    • The Sig P320 is the U.S. Army's New Sidearm

      The new pistol replaces the 80s vintage M9 handgun.

      Popular Mechanics
    • A former model starved to death, but not from anorexia

      In her late 20s, Lisa Brown had it all—the 5'10" former model married her college sweetheart, had attended grad school, and loved to cook gourmet meals and take spins in a classic Mustang convertible. But at 28 she began to mysteriously lose weight and vomit after eating. By the time she stepped on a scale to check her weight, she was 112 pounds, down from 140 pounds, reported Good Housekeeping in 2015. Her eventual diagnoses a few years later? Superior mesenteric artery syndrome, a condition in which her small intestine was being pinched and not allowing food to pass through, and gastroparesis, which kept her stomach from emptying correctly, reports People. On Saturday, after many therapies

      Fox News q
    • Famed snake trackers from India latest weapon in Florida war on pythons

      What Judas snakes, snake-sniffing dogs and even hunters from around the globe have struggled to accomplish may finally be pulled off by a pair of singing snake catchers from India: solving the riddle for finding Burmese pythons in Florida's Everglades. In just two weeks this month, the two tribesmen from Southern India, working with the University of Florida, caught 14 pythons. That included a monster 16-foot female holed up in the ruins of the old Nike missile base on Key Largo. For perspective, consider last year’s second Python Challenge, an annual contest to draw attention to Florida’s python problem. The hunt attracted 1,000 hunters, most of them amateurs. Over a month, they managed to bag

      Miami Herald q
    • Right-wing extremist Richard Spencer got punched, but it was memes that bruised his ego

      A video of white supremacist Richard Spencer getting punched by an Inauguration Day protestor went viral on social media this weekend, prompting a dozen overlapping conversations about the act’s value, as well as the value of celebrating it.

      The Verge q
    • 7 Quarterbacks Who Undeservedly Make More Money Than Tom Brady

      Tom Brady is still the best quarterback in the NFL. Here's a look at seven quarterbacks who undeservedly make more money than the New England Patriots star.

      The Cheat Sheet q
    • One of our favorite Gilmore girls was at the Women’s March

      Saturday’s Women’s March proved that women are truly the most powerful people on Earth. The protests drew over one million people together in…

      Hello Giggles
    • An 'SNL' Writer Has Been Suspended Over Her 'Homeschool Shooter' Tweet About Barron Trump

      SNL has made plenty of jokes at President Donald Trump’s expense since inviting the wolf into the hen house, but Lorne Michaels has his limits. According to The New York Times, writer Katie Rich, who’s been with SNL since 2013, has been suspended indefinitely after tweeting on Inauguration Day, “Barron will be this country’s first homeschool shooter.” Barron is President Trump’s 10-year-old son and only child with First Lady Melania Trump. Rich apologized for the since-deleted tweet, writing, “I sincerely apologize for the insensitive tweet.

      UPROXX
    • Ivanka Trump's Inauguration Weekend Style (6 photos)

      Everything she's worn as the official first daughter. From Cosmopolitan

      Cosmopolitan
    • Newt Gingrich says Madonna should be arrested over Women’s March speech comment

      Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told “Fox & Friends” that Madonna “ought to be arrested” for saying, during a speech at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., she has thought about blowing up the White House.

      Yahoo News Video
    • WATCH: Jonathan Scott Completely Shuts Down Cyberbullies on Facebook

      Property Brothers star Jonathan Scott has a message for cyber bullies and it goes back to the Golden Rule — a rule that's golden for a reason. Scott took to Facebook on Saturday, where he posted an image in support of the multiple Women's Marches happening around the world. "They are our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our partners and our friends. They are strong, intelligent, courageous women who deserve to be heard," he wrote in his caption. "A culture that respects and supports its women is one destined for great things." Many of Scott's followers supported his message, but an overwhelming amount had only negative things to say — something that moved Scott to action. "I really love your

      Good Housekeeping q
    • Jesse James Takes a Swipe at Women’s Marchers — and Sandra Bullock?

      Jesse James has a carefully cultivated bad-boy image. Resident bad boy Jesse James took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the protesters. While the tweet earned more than 7,500 likes in less than 24 hours, plenty of people took the television personality (and Sandra Bullock’s ex) to task for his commentary.

      Yahoo Celebrity
    • Stephen Hawking warned us about contacting aliens, but this astronomer says it's 'too late'

      In 2010, physicist Stephen Hawking voiced concern about the possibility that we might contact...

      Business Insider
    • EXCLUSIVE: Justin Bieber Auctions Ferrari for Over $400,000: 'I Have to Say Goodbye to My Baby!'

      Attendees at the popular Barrett-Jackson collector car auction turned into Beliebers over the weekend!

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Tom Brady’s Big A– Sideline Coat Draws Hilarious Comparisons

      Kellyanne Conway isn’t the only one getting called out for her cold weather attire.

      The Wrap
    • Tess Holliday has this message for anyone who didn’t like that she breastfed her son at the Women’s March

      There was so much women power this weekend at the Women’s March which took place in so many cities across the country…

      Hello Giggles
    • Chelsea Clinton shuts down trolls who targeted Barron Trump

      Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton has spoken out in defence of Barron Trump, the US president's youngest son, after trolls targeted him with cruel memes online during the inauguration.  In a Facebook post Chelsea, who spent much of her teenage years in the spotlight while her dad Bill Clinton was president, said the 10-year-old "deserves the chance every child does-to be a kid".  But she also turned political: "Standing up for every kid also means opposing POTUS policies that hurt kids". Criticism of Barron's facial expressions and posture during the inauguration was widespread on social media, with people mocking him and calling him out for looking bored.  A Saturday Night Live writer even tweeted: "Barron will be this country's first homeschool shooter". The tweet was later deleted.  People on Facebook praised Chelsea for defending Barron while also expressing her political ideas:  BONUS: Donald Trump's inauguration address included a Bane quote ›

      Mashable