Summer is peeking its head around the corner. Or is that fall? It is hard to tell in the Pacific Northwest, but we know, rain or no rain, it is time to dust off our grills and start cooking with fire because our Fourth of July freedom celebration more often than not calls for barbequing in the rain.
Team Schwabe undertook the task of conducting a highly scientific sampling of six different barbeque sauces to see which one reigned supreme.
We asked our trusty tasters to help us out again in a blind taste test. For longtime readers of our column, you will recall that our last taste test involved ice cream. It was a little harder to convince our team to taste barbeque sauce than ice cream, but our test subjects stepped up to the plate.
We purchased four barbeque sauces from the grocery store, one from a local restaurant and threw in one homemade sauce for the ringer. Volunteers were then asked to taste the sauces and rate each of them, commenting on taste, consistency and aroma.
We heard grumblings of "I wish this was ice cream." But, we were able to rally and the votes were tallied. We have a winner, and a few runners-up, for your summer barbeque.
The Contenders (in alphabetical order)
BBQ Pete's Original Puyallup Fair Sauce: This sauce retails for $4.99, available at your local grocery store. You can also purchase this sauce at the Puyallup Fair as well as BBQ Pete's restaurant located at 6621 S. 211th St. in Kent (425-251-0778).
Famous Dave's BBQ Sauce Rich and Sassy: This sauce retails for $3.50 and can be purchased at your local grocery store. Famous Dave's restaurant is located at 17770 Southcenter Parkway in Tukwila (206-631-2000).
Homemade sauce (with Caribbean flair): This sauce was a twist on the classic BBQ sauce. The Caribbean flair was achieved by stirring into a finished sauce: 2 tbsp pineapple juice, 2 tbsp dark rum, 1 tbsp Caribbean hot sauce (we highly recommend Windmill, a Barbados hot pepper sauce, available at www.amazon.com), 2 tsp sugar and a pinch of allspice.
Jones Original Barbeque Sauce: Retailing for $7.95, this sauce can be purchased at a Jones BBQ restaurant in hot or mild varieties. We have tried (and loved) both, but chose mild for this taste experiment. The sauce was purchased at the West Seattle restaurant located at 4417 Fauntleroy Way (257-4946).
Kraft Original Barbeque Sauce: This off-the-shelf sauce retails for a whopping $1.59 and can be purchased at your local grocery store.
Sweet Baby Ray's Original Barbeque Sauce: This sauce can be purchased at your local grocery store for $2.99. It is available in several varieties (honey, hickory and brown sugar, sweet 'n' spicy, honey chipotle, and sweet Vidalia onion). We chose the original for our taste test.1
Drum roll please ... The hands-down winner was the homemade sauce. Folks described it as having a "nice spicy aftertaste," "sweet up front, with a spicy kick," "complex" and "full of flavor." What our tasters liked most about this sauce was that its flavors changed while tasting it. As the lucky recipient of the leftovers, I can testify under oath that this sauce got better with time. It is hard to compete with anything homemade, but our tasters had some other favorites.
Believe it or not, many of our tasters preferred the Kraft sauce, perhaps because it was a familiar flavor, and for under two bucks a great deal. Tasters described this sauce as "sweet and spicy," "nice smoky flavor" and "best of them all," and just a plain old "yum!"
Our tasters praised the Jones Original Barbeque Sauce for its "good texture" and "well-balanced flavor." It was described as "sweet and a tad spicy," "robust, smoky, sweet" and "perfect match of sweet and spicy."
Even though Sweet Baby Ray's is a personal favorite, some of our tasters did not agree. It was described as "lacking flavor" by one, while another found it to be "full body BBQ sauce." The overwhelming comment on this sauce was that it was "sweet."
Our tasters commended the Famous Dave's for its "sweet and tangy" flavor, "sweet" being the predominant comment about this sauce. The texture was described as "smooth" and "perfect."
BBQ Pete's was enjoyed for its delicious aroma. Tasters described this sauce as "great flavor," "good combo of sweet and spicy, not too much of either," "balanced just right!"
We learned a few things from this tasting. First, it is no surprise that there are so many different barbeque sauces to choose from and fierce debates about which sauce is the best. Some tasters picked a favorite sauce that others found downright unacceptable. So, let your taste buds be your guide.
Second, when you are transporting a crock pot full of pulled pork for your taste test, approach stop lights really slowly. Otherwise, your tasters will end up dipping bread.
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a multiservice, Northwest regional law firm with offices in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Bend. For comments on this article, or to share your favorite places to eat or drink with the Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorneys, contact Jennifer Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mary Jo Newhouse at email@example.com; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx.
1 Editor's Note: The Editor notes the lack of Jack Stack's barbeque sauce from Kansas City.