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

    • Hospital Allows Devoted Dog to Give Heartbreaking Bedside Goodbye to Dying Owner

      Mollie the dog recently went through this heartbreaking moment. According to The Dodo, last month, Mollie’s owner, Ryan Jessen, suffered a brain hemorrhage. Thankfully, Ryan’s family and friends had time to say goodbye, but realized someone was missing.

      People
    • Scientists discover dinosaur trapped in amber in unprecedented find

      'Once in a lifetime find' The findings, which shed fresh light on how dinosaurs looked, are published in the December issue of Current Biology. Ryan McKellar, a paleontologist at the Royal Saskatchwan Museum in Canada and co-author of the paper, says he was blown away when Xing first showed him the piece of amber. "It's a once in a lifetime find. The finest details are visible and in three dimensions." Fragments of dinosaur-era bird wings have been found preserved in amber before but this is the first time part of a mummified dinosaur skeleton has been discovered, McKellar said. The tail section belongs to a young coelurosaurian -- from the same group of dinosaurs as the predatory velociraptors

      CNN q
    • Dad Rushes to Son's Defense After He's Shot While Wielding Knives at School: 'He Was Being Bullied'

      The father said he brought the knives to school after relentless torment from some classmates.

      Inside Edition
    • Hot bikini photos of Bella Hadid will make you want to hit the beach

      These hot photos of Bella Hadid will spark your wanderlust!

      iTripto
    • Sherri Papini abduction has striking similarities to cold case

      Authorities investigating the abduction of California mom Sherri Papini are being haunted by a cold case disappearance with striking similarities.

      WPVI – Philadelphia
    • Japan's sex problem is so bad that people are quitting dating and marrying their friends

      The Japanese sex problem has become so desperate that its young population has given up on dating and is just marrying friends. A government survey found 69% of Japanese men and 59% of Japanese women do not have a romantic partner. One Japanese aggregator website has since been awash with stories of how people have simply married lifelong friends. The country has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, with just 8.4 children being born per 1,000 inhabitants over the past five years. Its population of 127 million people is predicted to decrease to 87 million by 2060. The survey, carried out by the country's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, also reported that about

      Business Insider q
    • Fake news gunman incident at Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, in D.C. (9 photos)

      Edgar Maddison Welch, who has admitted to being the gunman who opened fire inside of the Washington, D.C., pizzeria Comet Ping Pong on Sunday, expressed regret in a new interview with the New York Times . "I just wanted to do some good and went about it the wrong way," he told the paper Wednesday, speaking via videoconference from an old hospital building next to a city jail. No one was injured by the gunfire, but Welch's actions drew national attention because he was motivated by a fringe conspiracy theory about the pizzeria. Police say Welch told them he wanted to "self-investigate" the theory, which purported that Comet is the center of a child-sex ring involving Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief. See FULL STORY by Colin Campbell /Yahoo News See RELATED STORY by Dylan Stableford /Yahoo News See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr .  

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • What does "Hotel California" really mean? (And other questions for Don Henley)

      The Eagles are among the 2016 Kennedy Center honorees. The band formed in the early 1970s and helped define classic rock on the radio, becoming one of the world’s most successful bands. But when drummer Don Henley hears one of their songs on the radio now, he usually turns it down. “After 44 years, you just really don’t want to hear ‘em when you’re off,” Henley said. “When I’m off duty, I’d rather listen to somebody else, or just silence. Silence is good. You don’t get much of it these days anywhere. So I’m a big fan of silence.” He may be a fan of silence, but with the Eagles, Don Henley created some of the most popular sounds in American music.   Like their hit song, the Eagles seemed really

      CBS News q
    • Jason Kidd: LeBron James did water bottle flip to send a message

      Jason Kidd admits to Dan Patrick that LeBron James' water bottle flip with teammates appeared to be sending a message to 'someone.' Considering James' angst over Phil Jackson's 'posse' comments, is it the Zen master?

      NBC Sports q
    • A 99-million-year-old piece of amber definitively proves that dinosaurs had feathers

      Scientists have discovered a feathered dinosaur tail trapped in a piece of 99-million-year-old amber, bought from an amber market in Myanmar. The specimen is definitive proof that two-legged dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex had bird-like feathers. While a dinosaur-era feather had been found embedded in amber in 2011 and again in June 2016, those small specimens…

      Quartz q
    • Tina Fey Has One Answer For Why Hillary Clinton Lost The Election

      Like many voters and political experts around the country, Tina Fey has been trying to figure out why Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. Strategists may point to campaign mistakes while others may discuss Clinton’s likability factor, but Fey offered a different point of view entirely. “I promised myself I wouldn’t get up here today and talk about the election, because when I get written up in Breitbart, I want it to be because they’re mad that I’m making an all-female Hitler biopic,” said Fey at the Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment breakfast, in reference to the ultra-conservative website. “But I have to say, I think the real reason that Hillary lost ― and it’s the thing that people are afraid to talk about ― not enough celebrity music videos urging people to vote,” she continued through laughs.

      The Huffington Post q
    • Admiral gets standing ovation for Colin Kaepernick remark at Pearl Harbor ceremony

      Say this about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick: His national-anthem protest drew a lot of attention, from all corners. At a ceremony in Hawaii on Wednesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Harry Harris made a remark that was clearly about the quarterback. “You can bet that the men and women we honor today – and those who died that fateful morning 75 years ago – never took a knee and never failed to stand whenever they heard our national anthem being played,” Harris said, according to the Associated Press.

      Shutdown Corner
    • Elle
    • Infidelity: The Only Way a Relationship Can Work After an Affair

      Did your partner cheat on you? If you want to work on the relationship, a few ground rules must be set.

      The Cheat Sheet q
    • Private Maisie Williams Photos Leaked Online

      Here’s three of the buzziest celebrity headlines to get you all caught up: Racy photos of 19-year-old Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams have surfaced online. Private pics of Williams and friends at a spa in Japan were lifted from her private Facebook account and reportedly posted on Reddit. Her rep told Page Six, “The images are not explicit in nature.” Brace yourself. Gigi Hadid will be taking a month-long break from social media around the holidays to focus on herself. ...

      Yahoo Celebrity
    • Family Has ‘Many Questions’ After Teen Son Shot at School for Allegedly Attacking Others with Knives

      The family of a teen shot Wednesday after he allegedly pulled two large knives on students at his Nevada high school is now reportedly questioning the officer’s use of force on the 14-year-old. The teen was taken to a local hospitalized and listed in critical condition after being shot at Hug High School in Reno, Nevada, by a school district police officer, according to authorities. “There are many questions to be answered as to what happened and what could have been done to avoid the use of lethal force,” David Houston told NBC News in a statement.

      People
    • NBA’s new Larry Bird highlight video will blow your mind

      Larry Bird’s birthday was yesterday, and we celebrated with a couple highlight videos. Then, the NBA released this video today – and it’s too good not to share. It’s one thing to know Bird’s numbers. It’s another to see how spectacular of a scorer, passer and trash-talker he was.

      NBC Sports q
    • The Japanese submarine that never made it to Pearl Harbor

      Seventy-five years ago, US naval ships and aircraft spotted a mini-submarine just outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The USS Ward fired shots at the sub, and it sank to the ocean floor. Some 90 minutes later, the Japanese launched their historic attack on the naval base. Turns out, the submarine was part of that…

      Quartz q
    • Hillary Clinton Gets More Votes Than Any Candidate Ever

      The former secretary of state now leads Trump's popular vote count by more than 2 percent.

      International Business Times