There are as many types of barbecue sauce as styles of barbecue, if not more. For example, there's a certain way people in the Carolinas cook and serve their barbecued meats, but a Carolina-style sauce can have many variations. One commonality, though, is vinegar. It's a staple ingredient in most barbecue sauces, but different regions use it in varying amounts. If you're making your own sauce and realize it has more of a vinegar taste than you'd prefer, there's a simple fix.
Reduce the vinegar by cooking the sauce more. Like wine, vinegar reduces, or breaks down, when you continually heat it. Taste the sauce while it's simmering. If the vinegar bite is too strong, continue simmering to break down the acidic compounds that give vinegar its strong, tart taste.
Double up on the ingredients. If there's still too much of a vinegar taste after reduction, simply double all the ingredients while the sauce is still simmering in the pan, without adding any more vinegar. You may end up with twice as much sauce as you need, but barbecue sauce can keep in the refrigerator as long as similar condiments such as ketchup.
Add brown sugar. Adding brown sugar to a tomato-based barbecue sauce helps cut down on the tartness of the vinegar. It provides an extra flavor punch along with sweetness and dissolves quickly into a simmering pot of sauce. Add a little at a time, by the teaspoon, and keep tasting to make sure the sauce isn't getting too sweet.
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- Honey, corn syrup or plain white sugar also work as sweeteners to reduce a too-vinegary taste, if brown sugar doesn't suit your palate.
- Explore the different styles of sauces until you find a favorite. Use a recipe for the sauce that best suits your taste buds. If you like a less vinegary taste, then Carolina-style barbecue sauce probably isn't for you, as it's heavy on the vinegar. A Kansas City-style sauce uses a tomato base with less vinegar and more sugar.
- Adding hot sauce to reduce vinegar flavor isn't a good idea because vinegar is a primary ingredient used in most hot pepper sauces.
Blake Guthrie covers travel, entertainment and outdoor recreation for many outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he is a regular contributor. With years of experience as a professional cook, Guthrie also relishes writing about food and beverage topics. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from Auburn University.