Pat Neely: Brother Tony has a terrific palate, and his true genius is in having developed the right “tempo” for the barbecue sauce–and, boy oh boy, he never lets us forget it! This recipe, which includes Neely’s Barbecue Seasoning and eleven other ingredients, became one of the keys to our success as restaurateurs. Now it can be the base of your own kitchen success.
Memphis barbecue sauce is known for its sweet and tangy tomato base. This sauce keeps true to that tradition, striking a perfect balance between the sweet (they use brown and white sugar), the tangy (cider vinegar), and the tomato base (good ole ketchup!). Any self-respecting Memphis pit master will tell you that the sauce must complement the meat without overpowering it, and theirs does just that.
At the restaurant the sauce is simmered for five hours, and we always taste the blend before cooking it, making sure we’ve got all the ingredients working. Over the years, we’ve learned that if it tastes good before it cooks, it’s gonna be outstanding after a long, slow simmer. The end result: an insanely thick, rich, and sweet sauce, and the perfect adornment for any rack anywhere.
We never salt our Barbecue Sauce because of the sodium content in the ketchup and because other ingredients like onion powder and Worcestershire sauce provide so much flavor. Since our sauce is mostly used on grilled items (that are seasoned) and combined with other foods (like Barbecue Spaghetti and Molasses-Baked Beans), we don’t want to end up with food that is too salty. So we err on the side of slightly underseasoning this sauce (although believe me, no one ever says that it lacks flavor). If your taste buds yearn for a little more salt, you can season the sauce–at the end of the cooking time–as you please.