How to fix a ketchup-y bbq sauce?
September 8, 2012 1:45 PM   Subscribe

BBQ Emergency! I have an hour to fix this BBQ sauce, which for the moment, tastes like a mildly spiced and more acidic extra-sweet ketchup. What do I add to improve it?

It's going on pulled pork and I have people arriving in an hour. I know nothing of bbq; I didn't use a purchased sauce because there is a guest who cannot have gluten. Difficulty: no grocery trips can happen right now, so I have to use something in the house? Molasses? Cola? More spices?
posted by kitcat to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you drained the pork fat? If not, add it to the sauce, it will make it richer. I would also add some crushed red pepper or red pepper flakes if you have it.
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:53 PM on September 8, 2012

Not more worstechire, and probably not molasses, in my opinion. Is it vinegary enough? I think vinegar is key for pulled pork (but I'm from NC...).

Try adding some different vinegar to a small amount, maybe a sherry vinegar if you have it (probably not red wine).

On preview, seconding the fat idea, and red pepper never hurts.

This is as suspensful as one of those mefite-locked-in-a-room posts, so be sure and follow up with details and outcome!
posted by Mngo at 1:55 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

What do you want it to taste like? "mildly spiced and more acidic extra-sweet ketchup" isn't a bad description of commercial BBQ sauce.

That is a shitty recipe tho. You have canned chiptole's in the house? add one or two of them with some of the adobo from the can. Any smoke paprika or last option liquid smoke?

No Cola, no Molasses if its already sweet. You could add more Worcstershire or maybe some soy sauce (assuming its gluten free) for some more umami?

In reality just use sparingly on your pulled pork - the pork alone should have most of the flavor.
posted by JPD at 1:57 PM on September 8, 2012

Yeah, what you need is some heat and some fat. That recipe is really bland.

Chipotle, paprika, peppers, even a good quality steak spice (big pepper chunks) will provide at least some complexity and heat. A little of the juice from the pork would work too.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:02 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

That recipe has no salt at all in it--ketchup has some, obviously, but I'd start by adding salt. I'd also add more mustard (prepared mustard, if you have it, which I think works better) and probably some garlic. And fat. I'd probably put in more worcestershire sauce--that stuff is like magic.

Adding non-sweet tomatoes could, at least, cut some of the sweetness--if you pour part of it off, add some tomato paste, and then add more vinegar and seasonings.
posted by MeghanC at 2:06 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pull off a sample size of the sauce then add a dab of mustard to it, see if that helps.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:06 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, chipotle! I'll check if I have some... Yes, it needs umami, but apparantly soy sauce contains gluten and so I can't add that. Considering steak spice...

I stupidly got rid of the fat off the pork shoulder.... :(
posted by kitcat at 2:07 PM on September 8, 2012

YES! I have chipotle in adobo. Screw the kids...this baby's gonna be spicy!
posted by kitcat at 2:09 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would add some a tablespoon or two of mustard and a little Louisiana-style hot sauce (e.g. Frank's Redhot or Original Louisiana Hot Sauce TM)--enough for a little kick, but not enough to make it overwhelmingly spicy.
posted by drlith at 2:11 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

A small amount of molasses will add depth. maybe 1 Tb.
I like pulled pork vinegar-y. Apple cider vinegar, add a splash at a time.
A little salt & pepper
Liquid smoke, if you have it.
Mustard, preferably dry, but prepared is okay.
Garlic. 2 - 3 cloves, well mashed
Cayenne pepper, 1/8 tsp.
If worcestershire doesn't have gluten, add some.
posted by theora55 at 2:12 PM on September 8, 2012

Chipotle helped a lot :) It still needs some depth and umami and it's too sweet for my taste.
posted by kitcat at 2:14 PM on September 8, 2012

Dijon mustard or Bourbon/Whiskey?
posted by cecic at 2:17 PM on September 8, 2012

Maybe just a spot of miso paste for the umami, if you have any? I've never done this with BBQ sauce. I'd mix up a small bullet with hot water and add it bit by bit.
posted by carter at 2:27 PM on September 8, 2012

Add some finely chopped sautéed onions. I would also add cumin and more Worcestershire sauce. If it's still too sweet, you need more vinegar.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:38 PM on September 8, 2012

Probably too late, but more vinegar!
posted by trip and a half at 2:43 PM on September 8, 2012

Maybe balsamic vinegar will cut the sweetness from the apple cider vinegar.
posted by carter at 2:48 PM on September 8, 2012

I second tomato paste, it's super concentrated umami flavor.
posted by TungstenChef at 3:04 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Balsamic vinegar is pretty high in sugar, adding a little red wine vinegar or more cider vinegar could help balance the sweetness. I also like the idea of adding mustard.
posted by TungstenChef at 3:05 PM on September 8, 2012

Fruit purée. I like pineapple...mmm.
posted by anonnymoose at 8:38 PM on September 8, 2012

Yeah, that's a pretty lousy recipe. This is probably too late, but next time, take a couple chopped onions and sauté them for a good twenty minutes. I lime some garlic in their too, but some don't. Add cumin, salt, white pepper, and some chopped chipotle. Simmer a tetch, then add cider vinegar and some canned tomato. Simmer it to thicken a bit, and add some tomato paste.

Let it cool a bit, then go to town on it with an immersion blender.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:22 AM on September 9, 2012

I also recommend fruit purée or juice. I've had good luck with plum.
posted by mkb at 5:12 AM on September 9, 2012

Good advice above, but one thing to remember: flavour takes time to develop.

So, although no doubt the sauce has by now been long since cooked and eaten, I would recommend giving it more time next time.

Especially if you include any tomato in it - that flavour really needs some slow simmering to integrate with the sauce.

Also, this time lets the vinegar boil off and the sugar caramelise. Both these things help make a good BBQ sauce.
posted by JohnnyForeign at 12:54 PM on September 9, 2012

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