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

    • 'Morbidly obese' woman drops 126 pounds and becomes fitness model

      A woman from Aarhus, Denmark, who was once classified as “morbidly obese” after tipping the scales at 268 pounds, now works as a physical trainer and sportswear model after dropping more than half of the weight in a period of four years. Mathilde Broberg, 22, lost the excess pounds partially by cutting out junk food, exercising avidly and following the “teaspoon diet,” where she measured out her food and ate with a teaspoon to ensure that the portion sizes weren’t larger than the size of a flat-out hand.

      Yahoo Canada Style
    • The Clinton Foundation Is Dead — But The Case Against Hillary Isn't

      While everyone's been gearing up for President Trump's inauguration, the Clinton Foundation made a major announcement this week that went by with almost no notice: For all intents and purposes, it's closing its doors. In a tax filing, the Clinton Global Initiative said it's firing 22 staffers and closing its offices, a result of the gusher of foreign money that kept the foundation afloat suddenly drying up after Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency. It proves what we've said all along: The Clinton Foundation was little more than an influence-peddling scheme to enrich the Clintons, and had little if anything to do with "charity," either overseas or in the U.S. That sound you heard starting in November was checkbooks being snapped shut in offices around the world by people who had hoped their donations would buy access to the next president of the United States. There was a strong precedent for it in Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.

      Investor's Business Daily q
    • 'NCIS: Los Angeles' star Miguel Ferrer dies at 61

      NEW YORK (AP) — Miguel Ferrer, who brought stern authority to his featured role on CBS' hit "NCIS: Los Angeles" and, before that, to NBC crime drama "Crossing Jordan," has died.

      Associated Press
    • Trump's Treasury pick just doubled down on a budget trick that would steal from an entire generation

      On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Treasury secretary took the hot seat in...

      Business Insider
    • ESPN drop commentator over Venus Williams 'gorilla' remark

      US broadcaster ESPN has dropped commentator Doug Adler after he compared Venus Williams to a "gorilla" at the Australian Open -- although he insisted the word he used was "guerrilla". ESPN said Adler should have been more careful during his coverage of the seven-time Grand Slam-winner's win over Stefanie Voegele. "During an Australian Open stream on ESPN3, Doug Adler should have been more careful in his word selection," an ESPN statement said.

      AFP
    • I tried Whataburger, In-N-Out, and Shake Shack — and the winner is clear

      The INSIDER Summary: • There's always been competition between the east and west coasts when it comes to burgers.  • In-N-Out takes the title as the best burger, but Whataburger's honey chicken biscuits are a solid bet too. Ah, the great debate of burger joints. If you're on the Eastern side of the USA, you may be more of a Shake Shack fan. However, for those of you on the West Coast, you may be more partial to some In-N-Out or Whataburger. Unfortunately for me, I am smack dab in the middle with many other flyover states, and close to none of these amazing burger joints. However, I do travel a lot and have had the opportunity to try all three varieties, time and time again (I just love burgers,

      Business Insider q
    • Sofia Vergara Mentored Ariel Winter Through Body Changes

      "Modern Family" star Ariel Winter has been very open about the physical struggles with her body, which eventually led to breast reduction surgery in 2015. The 18-year-old said that after she went public with the procedure, the reaction from fans and co-stars was mostly supportive. Winter had battled neck and spine problems and said she wanted to reduce her breast size from an F cup to a D cup for her physical and mental health. In a new interview with Self magazine, Winter talks about being so young in the public eye. She was 10 years old when the show started in 2009. "I had a hard time finding confidence within myself. When I started, I had a completely different body than what happened overnight

      ABC News q
    • Entertainment Tonight
    • Animal Shelter Offers $11,200 Reward After Rottweiler Is Found With Ears, Nose and Tail Cut Off

      "Baron is doing remarkably well considering his injuries," a veterinarian reported.

      Inside Edition
    • Suspect in officer's slaying spews expletives at judge

      ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Hours after a fugitive in the slaying of a police officer told a judge he was brutalized during his arrest, Orlando's police chief released a video of his surrender and described the suspect as "extremely violent, dangerous and very unpredictable."

      Associated Press
    • VIDEO: Driver Licenses From Nine States Won’t Be Valid IDs for Domestic Flights in 2018

      Beginning Jan. 22, 2018, travelers from nine states will no longer be able to travel with only their driver’s licenses.

      Travel & Leisure Video
    • North Korea threatens to ‘nuke’ Trump’s inauguration

      North Korea is “readying two intercontinental ballistic missiles” to “nuke” Donald’s Trump inauguration, it’s been reported. Military officials say the rogue state wants to send a “strategic message” to the incoming US president by timing launches to ruin his big day on Friday. In a statement, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the reports could not be confirmed but that the military was monitoring the situation closely. However, according to news reports in South Korea, two missiles have already been placed on mobile launchers. The devices “are estimated to not exceed 15m [49 feet] in length, making them shorter than the North’s existing ICBMs.” An ICBM test in the coming days is “highly

      New York Post q
    • Mark Zuckerberg is suing hundreds of Hawaiians to protect his 700-acre Kauai estate

      Mark Zuckerberg paid close to $100 million for 700 acres of beachfront property on the island of...

      Business Insider
    • Trump asks some 50 senior Obama appointees to stay on

      WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump has asked roughly 50 senior Obama administration appointees to remain in their posts after his inauguration to ensure continuity in government, his incoming White House press secretary said Thursday.

      Associated Press
    • The Rock Brings 15-Year-Old Daughter to the People’s Choice Awards – Then Jokingly Drops the F-Bomb During Acceptance Speech

      When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson won the 2017 People’s Choice Award for favorite premium series actor on Wednesday, his mini-me was on hand to celebrate. Johnson, who was PEOPLE’s 2016 Sexiest Man Alive, shares Simone with ex Dany Garcia. Simone and Johnson also posed with girl group Fifth Harmony, who are performing for the first time as a foursome at the show.

      People
    • People are talking about the confusing Photoshop fail in Selena Gomez’s Instagram selfie

      We all know that Selena Gomez is beyond beautiful and is no need of Photoshop. But one picture floating around the internet…

      Hello Giggles
    • Daycare Workers Reveal the Things Parents Do That They Absolutely Hate

      "You spend weeks researching the best caregiver for your child and even longer on our waiting list, but once they're here, it's like you forget all about us."

      Redbook
    • These Are The Weird Foods U.S. Presidents Love (14 photos)

      Running a country sounds like it'd work up quite an appetite, and with the White House chef at their disposal, U.S. presidents are free to eat just about anything they'd like. Here's what some of our noble leaders chowed down on after a long day in the Oval Office. From Delish

      Delish
    • Correction: Pit Bull Attack story

      ATLANTA (AP) — In a story Jan. 17 about two dogs attacking children, The Associated Press erroneously reported the breed of dogs involved. The dogs were a pit bull mix and a border collie, not two pit bulls.

      Associated Press
    • While Drama Swirls, Olivia Munn Stuns in Yellow Gown

      Olivia Munn looked gorgeous in a yellow gown with a plunging neckline. Despite the fact that Olivia Munn‘s relationship with football player Aaron Rodgers is making headlines, the actress doesn’t appear to be fazed by it. The 36-year-old was recently spotted in a glamorous yellow gown with a plunging neckline while out in New York City.

      Yahoo Style