It’s Memorial Day weekend, the official (unofficial?) start to summer.  If you’re like us, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be grilling and barbecuing more than a few times over the next few months.  Of course you know the difference…right?

I’ll admit, I had to learn the hard way.   Growing up in New Jersey, I always referred to any situation where meat was being cooked outside as a barbecuing.  Burgers, hot dogs, whatever…if it was being cooked over propane or coals, you were barbecuing.

But step outside the northeast, and you’re likely to be met with funny looks if you talk about barbecuing a burger.  Barbecue is low-and-slow cooking that involves smoke, low temperatures and tough cuts of meat that combine to form something magically delicious.  And although you can call any old cookout a barbecue, you can’t call just any cooked meat barbecue.

Need more insight into the different styles of barbecue?  Check out this video that Tim Carman dug up over at the City Paper.

Now that we’ve established the difference between grilling and barbecue, I wanted to share a recipe for homemade barbecue sauce that I used for a community potluck earlier this month.  When word got out that I’ve got some experience with barbecue, I was asked to smoke some up for our new neighborhood.  So I cooked up forty pounds of pork shoulder in a neighbor’s bullet-style smoker, and I decided to go one step further and cook up my own barbecue sauce to go with it.

A while back, I found a barbecue sauce recipe at, a site I’ve used on a couple of occasions as I’ve learned the ins and outs of good homemade ‘cue.  I tried it and found it tasty but not quite what I’d grown accustomed to as I’ve tasted my way around Kansas City.  There were a few flavors that seemed to be missing, most notably tomato, celery seed and cumin.

So I worked with it a bit and came up with the version you can find after the jump.

Try it with your next barbecue and see if it brings back memories of tangy-sweet ribs, or use it as a sauce for pulled pork or brisket.  It even works as a glaze for grilled chicken!

Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce


2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup steak sauce
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 cup light brown sugar

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 medium cloves of garlic, crushed


1) In a small bowl, mix the chili powder, black pepper, salt, celery seed and cumin. In a large bowl, mix the ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, tomato sauce, tomato paste, lemon juice, steak sauce, molasses, honey, hot sauce, and brown sugar. Mix them, but don’t worry about mixing them too thoroughly.

2) Over medium heat, warm the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and saute about 5 minutes until they’re clear and soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the dry spices and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the liquid ingredients. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes.

2) Taste and adjust. Strain to remove the onions and garlic or leave them in as you’d prefer.  Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Note: It may taste a bit vinegary at first, but the flavor mellows over time.  Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for as long as two months.


Let us know what you think if you end up giving this a try.  And if you’ve got a can’t miss BBQ sauce recipe of your own, let me know so I can check it out.

Enjoy the outdoor cooking this summer!