BBQ Recipe Secrets

Horseradish Barbecue Sauce: All the Heat and Half the Pain

While spicy BBQ sauce tastes great, too much pepper can make it too painful. You needn't worry about that so much with horseradish barbecue sauce

Friday, November 21, 2014

I first encountered horseradish barbecue sauce in college, in an otherwise undistinguished little hole in the wall that produced the kind of barbecue that makes you waggle your hand in the air and go, "Ehhhh." It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great, either. Basically the kind of place you went once or maybe twice.

Except the sauce made all the difference, at least to my (then) uneducated palate. It had a zip that made the chewy brisket worth chewing, and the chicken actually worth writing home about. Years later, I asked around and discovered that the secret ingredient to that BBQ sauce was none other than horseradish.

Live and Learn

Previously, my experience with horseradish (besides laughing at the weird name) had been at Chinese restaurants. I thought it was okay with the spicy mustard, but didn’t care for it plain. I considered it just too rough by itself, and I still feel that way today. Although I do find it good for clearing my sinuses.

Fortunately, it turns out that horseradish plays well with others. It may not be so great as a lone condiment, but it does blend with certain other condiments and spices to make a unique kind of sauce.

Hot, But Briefly

While horseradish is undeniably warmish, the great thing about it is that the heat tends to come and go. Conversely, when you eat peppers (whether of the peppercorn or chile varieties), the heat tends to linger due to the associated oils.

If the heat rating is especially high, this can cause problems if you actually want to taste your barbecue or if, say, you want to survive with your taste buds intact. So obviously, horseradish is the answer for those of us who like the bite but also want to be able to detect some flavor.

That Recipe

I never got that hole in the wall's sauce recipe -- the place is long gone now -- but I've made a few stabs at replicating it. The closest effort (according to my taste memory) is fairly simple; and interestingly, one of the other main ingredients is not tomatoes, or tomato sauce, but ketchup.

So here we go:

1 cup of ketchup
2 cups of melted butter
4 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of lemon juice
1 cup of cider vinegar
1/2 cup of pureed horseradish
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

Mix everything thoroughly in a medium saucepan, then bring to a boil for about a minute (just long enough for the flavors to merge). Then let it simmer for 15 minutes. You'll end up with about a quart of tangy horseradish barbecue sauce, ideal for chicken and ribs.


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