Sauces are the unsung hero of any barbecue for me. We tend to focus on the big hitting items like the burgers, sausages, and steaks – and don’t get me wrong, these are an extremely important part of the barbecue experience – but what really brings a barbecue to the next level is what goes with it.
The beauty of sauces is that they can be prepared in advance. With so much to think about during the preparation, anything that can be made ahead of time for a barbecue is a winner in my eyes. The key to impressing your guests is choosing sauces that are going to complement what you’re cooking. If you’re having fish, for example, you need a sauce that is light and citrusy – or something with Asian flavours. If you’re going big on meat, you want a sauce that’s sticky and sweet.
It's easier than you think to make the sauces you need from scratch. You can achieve some pretty intense and delicious flavours with just a few ingredients – many of which are store cupboard essentials. Here are a few go-to recipes that I always rely on when it comes to making my own sauces for barbecues:
The BBQ Sauce (full recipe below)
This is a simple concoction and a little bit of a cheat’s recipe. All you need is Ketchup, water, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, a good squeeze of lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, mustard powder, and ground white pepper. Chuck it all into a pan over a medium heat and reduce until it thickens – around an hour. For anyone who loves a hack – like me – I encourage you to check out Liquid Hickory Smoke Flavour. It’s a little bottle of smoky deliciousness (you can buy it anywhere online), and just 1 tablespoon will give your sauce an intense smoky flavour.
The Mojo Sauce
Another great sauce that I found along my travels is a Cuban sauce called Mojo – something we all need a bit more of! It’s fresh, zingy, and has a bit of a kick. All you need is a good olive oil, minced garlic, juice from the three citrus fruits – orange, lemon & lime, a squeeze of honey, Worcestershire sauce, chilli flakes, cumin, salt, and finely diced jalapenos – fresh or pickled. This sauce is perfect with rich meats – lamb, pork, or anything fatty.
The Middle Eastern Sauces: Baba Ganoush & Tzatziki
Baba Ganoush is one of my absolute favourite sauces for a BBQ. It’s also a fun one to make on the day too if you have time - simply throw the aubergines on the BBQ until they’re nice and blackened, scoop out the flesh, and mix with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, oil, and salt to taste. Grab a fork and emulsify naturally in a bowl for a wonderfully creamy sauce that works brilliantly as both a dip and an accompaniment for meat, kebabs, and fish.
Yoghurt-based sauces like tzatziki are wonderful as well, and can be as simple as strained yogurt, a good squeeze of lemon, a bit of garlic, cucumber grated in (make sure to squeeze out the water), and finely chopped mint. A small spoonful of icing sugar gives it a lovely, rounded note.
Ultimately, the key to your BBQ sauces is giving yourself enough time to make them - think of them as the lynchpin of the meal, rather than as an accessory. You want to enjoy the process of cooking over the coals and entertaining your guests, so take the easy win and make a selection of simple, yet impressive, sauces ahead of time.
Kenny's Memphis style BBQ sauce
This sweet, tangy sauce is great with burgers and hotdogs or brushed over ribs, pork belly or chicken wings.
The smoke Liquid Hickory Smoke is optional, but will add a lovely, easy smoky hit – use sparingly as a little goes a long way.
50ml apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
5 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp mustard powder or English mustard
1-2 tbsp Liquid Hickory Smoke (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and place over a medium / high heat
Cover and bring to the boil
Reduce heat and simmer gently until nicely thickened
Let the sauce cool and store in a sterilised jar. This will keep in the fridge for 6-9 months