History of Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue sauce, abbreviated as BBQ sauce, is often used as a flavoring sauce, condiment, a marinade, basting, or topping for meats such as pork, beef ribs, and chicken that are cooked in the barbecue cooking style. It is also used on many other foods as well making it a universal condiment in the Southern United States.

The ingredients of a barbecue sauce vary widely within individual countries. But it mostly contains vinegar, tomato paste, or mayonnaise as a base. Aside from that, it can also include liquid smoke, onion powder, and spices such as black pepper and mustard as well sweeteners like sugar or molasses.

Barbecue is indeed one of our most favorite when it comes to sauces. But have you ever wondered how it was first created and who invented it? If you’re curious as well, then read on because we’re here to tell you about the history of barbecue sauce.

Origins of Barbecue Sauce

There’s no exact and clear story of how BBQ sauce came to life, but there are some traces of evidence. One of those is that at the end of the 15th century, Christopher Columbus brought back an ancient sauce that was used for cooking Alpaca meat back from Hispaniola. It was the native tribes of North and South America who introduced the art of barbecuing to the Europeans. After that, the BBQ sauce started to evolve.

In the 16th century, a Spanish explorer reached Florida, and he brought vinegar and hogs along with him. However, he wasn’t interested in settling down, but he made a few friends and feasted with them. They dipped the meat in wine, malt, cider, herbs, and vinegar to prepare a flavorful exquisite meal during their prolonged feasts. The delectable and finely refined BBQ sauce was invented when these spices blended with the local marinades.

The main ingredients were native to American soil; the Caribbean Islands were bountiful of molasses and sugarcane. Central America cultivated cayenne peppers and chili, and South America offered ripe, juicy tomatoes.

Smoked meat had been expected in Europe, as it helped them preserve and make it more palatable. It allows them to carry meat on their conquests in faraway lands. Furthermore, the barbecue technique was different and new. So, it became popular among other explorers. Some evidence indicates that the BBQ blend was created at one of the parties held by Hernando de Soto in Mississippi, while others claim it happened in Virginia.  

The Spanish in Mexico and Florida, the French in Canada, and the Dutch in New York opened up their shops to commercialize BBQ sauces. Each community prepared overpowered by their culinary traditions and highlighted their flavors preference.

The invention of BBQ sauce relied on butter as French chefs specialized in grilling the hog basted with a mix of butter, cayenne, herbs, sage, and vinegar. They roasted it with aromatic spices and herbs to create splendor. The French were also incapable of making marinades without meat juices.

In America, this technique dates back to the colonial era and has become an evident part of American cuisine. You can observe this tradition in American celebration, as it glorified American Independence when the country won the war and built the first bridge over the Missouri River.

When it comes to BBQ sauces, South Carolina is known to have the longest history of barbecue preparation, making it common to use today. There are four basic styles of BBQ sauces that originated in South Carolina and are still being used today in America. They are mustard BBQ sauce, vinegar and pepper BBQ sauce, light tomato BBQ sauce, and heavy tomato BBQ sauce. They are broken down by the ingredient used to create the sauce.

South Carolina was a British colony during the colonization and thousands of people settled there like the British, German, Scottish, and more. German families were hardworking and resourceful, and they were given to an intensive family-farm type to work on agriculture. German settlements spread all over South Carolina and they brought with them the mustard. They started making mustard factories and sold them out to the public, making mustard a huge success in South Carolina.

There were also Scottish families that settled in South Carolina. They are most famous for bringing the Vinegar and Pepper barbecue. The vinegar and pepper barbecue sauce became the oldest South Carolina sauces today.

Presently, it’s a hearty dish of Southern American delicacies known for their zesty flavors. Typically, this war-fared delicacy comes in four different variations that you can find in Carolina, each relying on one core ingredient, mustard, vinegar, light tomato, and heavy tomato.

The Light Tomato BBQ sauce style was born in South Carolina in the 1900s. It is similar to the vinegar and pepper style, but the difference is that tomato ketchup is added. Since ketchup is a readily famous sauce to use in almost all dishes, someone added ketchup to the vinegar and pepper sauce, making it a little sweeter. This is the most famous BBQ sauce style in North Carolina.

The Heavy Tomato BBQ sauce style was the most recent barbecue sauce made. It was created by Kraft Foods. This style is not exactly considered a South Carolina BBQ sauce, but it is to the United States.

Barbecue sauce has evolved over the years. The Georgia Barbecue Sauce Company in Atlanta made the first commercially produced barbecue sauce, and it was advertised for sale in the Atlanta Constitution on January 31, 1909. In 1917, the oldest commercial barbecue sauce still made began when Adam Scott opened a barbecue restaurant in Goldsboro, NC. Up until today, Scott’s Family Barbecue Sauce is still available, and it is one of East Carolina’s classics.

American leaders have been great fans of barbecue and enjoy the activity frequently. The most incredible barbecue buff, America’s first president, filled his diary with various barbecue events, which lasted for three consecutive nights. However, this activity has seen further upgrades with innovation and time as each culinary expert left their mark. In 1921, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison designed the first charcoal briquette factory.

In 1940, Heinz also released its barbecue sauce. Kraft Foods also began making cooking oils with bags of “Quick-Mix Barbecue Sauce” attached, which supplied another market entrance of barbecue sauce.

There are lots of sources that say the first bottled barbecue sauce was created by H.J. Heinz from Pittsburgh in 1948; however, Louis Maull from St. Louis did it 22 years earlier. Heinz may have been the first to nationally distribute bottled BBQ sauces, but they are not the first to have them bottled

The Oldest BBQ Recipe

The oldest documented barbecue sauce recipe found in the handwritten cookbook of Edith Lockdown Danielson Howard is available in Providence culinary library.

The ingredients of this oldest BBQ sauce recipe are as follows:

  • Butter
  • A cup of water
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Dry mustard
  • Dash of cayenne
  • Tomato ketchup
  • Dry mustard
  • Lemon juice
  • Vinegar
  • Tomato sauce
  • Onion salt

Mix all the ingredients and boil for an hour till it condenses. You can strain out coarse ingredients and herbs.

In the present time, there are hundreds of restaurants that have their own special BBQ sauce recipe. You can also find lots of barbecue sauce in bottles being sold in supermarkets and grocery stores worldwide. Many commercial sauces were made and have now disappeared, but one thing remained. And that is BBQ sauce will always be one of our favorite sauces.