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

    • Amber Rose and Val Chmerkovskiy Hold Hands in Los Angeles

      Amber Rose and Dancing with the Stars‘s latest champ were spotted holding hands as they walked to Delilah in Los Angeles on Friday night. Rose, 33, was all smiles in a black velvet romper and knee-high boots, while the younger Chmerkovskiy brother, 30, sported an all-black ensemble.

      People
    • That Viral Video of a Man Punching a Kangaroo Actually Has a Sad Backstory

      Video of an Australian man boxing a kangaroo to save his dog went viral last week, but there is more to the story than meets the eye. Greig Tonkins and his pals were on a boar hunting trip with their friend Kailem Barwick, a 19-year-old who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, hoping to catch an elusive "tonner"—a wild boar that weighs more than 100 kilograms (around 220 pounds), the Daily Mail reported. This Guy Punched a Kangaroo In Face to Save a Dog During the trip, one of the dogs ran into a kangaroo while chasing a scent. Tonkins quickly ran to the dog's aide and intervened, first distracting the kangaroo and causing it to release the dog from a headlock. Thankfully the dog was wearing protective

      Esquire q
    • Inside Kirk Douglas' 100th Birthday Bash

      Kirk Douglas celebrated a milestone birthday in style. The actor turned 100 years old Friday and feted the occasion with members of his famous family and friends at the Beverly Hills Hotel in California. Douglas' son, Michael, and daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones, were at the glamorous affair with their children, Dylan Michael and Carys Zeta.

      Good Morning America
    • Prices for the original iPhone keep getting more and more absurd

      If you happen to have an iPhone 2G laying around, you might be sitting on a nice little payday, especially if you somehow never bothered to take it out of the box. Prices for the original grandaddy of Apple smartphones have steadily climbed over the years, but it's starting to get a little bit crazy. Like many Apple products, pristine examples of old models are often sought for their collectors value, even if the device itself is painfully obsolete. The iPhone is no exception. In fact, it might be the best example yet of just how crazy collector's are willing to go for a boxed, sealed Apple gadget from yesteryear. Sealed in shiny glass cases and wrapped in red ribbons, the last remaining new-in-box original iPhones are selling for thousands upon thousands of dollars, with seemingly no ceiling in sight. The "cheaper" examples are typically mint condition phones in opened boxes, and sell for a few thousand dollars, but don't expect to score a still-wrapped iPhone 2G for less than about $8,000. If you want the top-of-the-line, "display worthy" examples you can plan on a total of $15,000 or more. And no, these aren't just the listed prices for the phones; these are the prices that people are actually paying for the phones, as shown by eBay's completed listings filter. What exactly a person would do with a never-opened original iPhone that they paid $15,000 or more for remains a mystery. Perhaps it looks nice above the fireplace, or maybe it's just a really fancy paperweight. Whatever the reason, people with money to burn clearly love old iPhones.

      BGR News
    • ‘Big Bang Theory’ Stars Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco Pay Tribute To Simon Helberg

      Simon Helberg is celebrating his 36th birthday today, and his co-stars have shared sweet messages for him on Instagram.

      International Business Times
    • Ask Amy: Ex-husband wants to issue STD warning

      Dear Amy: My wife of more than 40 years and I had a mutual parting of ways five years ago. Though we went our separate ways, we harbor no searing animosity toward each other and we regularly talk in civil and polite tones. My former wife thought I was going in the wrong direction, but I quickly made an effort to meet a new woman through online dating. I was successful in that venture. My ex joined many different clubs and organizations and eventually fell in with a man whose company she enjoys. Happy ending? I wish. I was happy for my ex, but women I met online told me that this guy continues to occupy a spot in the online dating scene, messaging women about his availability. It is not my business,

      Washington Post q
    • South Dakota State ran the craziest trick play at the goal line and scored

      North Dakota State has won five straight FCS championships, so it’s going to take some extra effort from South Dakota State to knock the Bison off. Perhaps that was in the back of Jackrabbits’ coaches’ minds when the offense pulled off this incredible trick play on a first-and-goal early in their playoff game: Wow. From another angle in GIF form: That is some sneaky stuff right there. They basically hid a short runner who knelt behind the line, quietly waited a few seconds after the snap and let him run as the defense bit on the fake quarterback run the other way. See? I told you FCS football is awesome.

      For The Win q
    • Inside Edition
    • Russia intervened to help Trump win election: intelligence officials

      By John Walcott WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help President-elect Donald Trump win the White House, and not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, a senior U.S. official said on Friday. U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that as the 2016 presidential campaign progressed, Russian government officials devoted increasing attention to assisting Trump's effort to win the election, the U.S. official familiar with the finding told Reuters on Friday night, speaking on condition of anonymity. The president-elect's transition office released a statement that exaggerated his margin of victory and attacked the U.S. intelligence community that Trump will soon command, but did not address the analysts' conclusion.

      Reuters
    • Microsoft is serving up Windows 10 tablets for $49 and $59, but only on Friday

      As part of Microsoft's 12 Days of Deals, Microsoft has slashed the prices of Windows 10 tablets and 2-in-1 PCs. This particular sale is for Friday only, offering two tablets with $49 and $60 price tags, and 2-in-1 PCs starting at $179.

      Digital Trends
    • Video: Hummingbird Loves Dog Who Saved Her

      (DOGS/ANIMAL RESCUE/CUTE ANIMAL VIDEOS) Ed Gernon and his rescued German Shepherd mix, Rex were on a walk one day when they spotted a featherless hummingbird on the ground, covered in ants. Gernon assumed the bird was dead at first, but Rex refused to walk away. That’s when they met Hummer, in poor health but still alive. Rex’s apparent concern for the bird was enough to convince the man to try and save her, so he took the sick bird home and nursed her back to health. Since her rescue, Gernon claims Hummer has “developed a total crush on Rex,” never wanting to leave his side. — Global Animal

      Global Animal q
    • Kirk Douglas Turns 100 — With Help From Son Michael and Catherine Zeta-Jones

      The Spartacus star, who was given an honorary Academy Award in 1996 for his many accomplishments in the movie biz, hasn’t made public appearances in the past few years, and although he’s not on social media himself, he’s getting birthday wishes from his nearest and dearest. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, of course, led the charge, paying tribute to “Dad” and “Pappy” — with the actress posting an especially cute video featuring Kirk the Dancing King.

      Yahoo Celebrity
    • This Simple Diet Change May Help You Avoid a Diabetes Diagnosis

      If you're concerned about a diabetes diagnosis, a new study has revealed a very simple, painless diet change that can improve your odds of staying healthy.

      The Cheat Sheet q
    • People
    • San Jose teacher booked on charges of felony sexual assault with minor

      A San Jose high school community is in shock this morning, over the arrest of one of their teachers. Police accuse her of luring a student into a sexual relationship.

      KGO – San Francisco
    • Stars Over 90, Then & Now (9 photos)

      Kirk Douglas turned 100 Friday. The iconic actor is one of the celebrities who's been navigating Hollywood for almost a century. That's a pretty incredible feat, and one worth celebrating — let's take a look at some the other stars who're still in the game at 90 and up.

      People
    • South Dakota State scores touchdown on fantastic trick play where they hide the runner with the ball

      South Dakota State took an early 7-0 lead on North Dakota State on Saturday with one of the more...

      Business Insider
    • Trump reportedly settles on Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state

      President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly selected Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be his...

      Business Insider
    • Princess Charlotte to Take on the Role of Flower Girl in May

      The details about Pippa Middleton's wedding are here!

      Elle
    • Video of man allegedly beating puppy with mop handle in South LA leads to arrest, felony charges

      A man has been arrested after allegedly beating a 3-month-old puppy with a mop handle in October outside a South L.A. home, in an incident that was captured on video by a neighbor.

      KABC – Los Angeles