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I Asked Pro BBQ Cooks What Sauce to Buy At the Grocery Store. One Bottle Dominated

Drumroll, please ...

rack of baby back pork ribs on bbq grill

For the past three decades, Jack Daniel's has hosted one of the world's premier BBQ competitions. Hosted down the road from the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, TN, the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue — better known as "The Jack" — is one of the world's preeminent BBQ competitions. Championship professional BBQ teams from around the world compete at The Jack, and I was in attendance at this year's competition.

I had the chance to speak with six of the 81 teams competing ahead of the competition, where I asked one question that I thought would be of interest to the casual at-home BBQ cook: In an emergency situation where you couldn't make your own sauce, which supermarket BBQ sauce would you buy off the shelf? The answers varied, but one very common BBQ sauce came away as the clear consensus winner.

Most Recommended BBQ Sauce: Sweet Baby Ray's

Sweet Baby Ray's Original Barbecue Sauce

"I like the flavor and the family history." – Thomas Roy of TNT Explosive BBQ in Waldorf, MD.
"It's honestly the most solid one." – Jonathon Indermuehle of Heifer's, Butts & Clucks BBQ in Johnstown, CO, which placed eighth overall at The Jack.
"I like its sweetness. It's not thin. It's not vinegary. It has great spices and nice seasoning, especially for us California folk." — Benny Watsman of B’Mackin BBQ in El Cajon, CA, which placed second overall at The Jack, earning them the title of Reserve Champion and a $10,000 prize.

I'll admit, the love for Sweet Baby Ray's surprised me. I knew the brand was popular among the general public, but I assumed professionals would scoff at its mass appeal and high fructose corn syrup. I was wrong. With 50 percent of our teams choosing this sauce, including the only two teams I interviewed that finished in the top ten, it's clear that Sweet Baby Ray's — which is very sweet, sticky and just a tad smoky — is doing something right.

Famous Dave's Rich and Sassy

Famous Dave's Rich & Sassy


"It's middle-of-the-road and not too overpowering." — Nick Holman of Burnt Trees BBQ in Minot, ND.

Rich and Sassy is Famous Dave's bestselling, most-awarded sauce, and Holman's take explains why: It's just agreeable with a lot of different tastes. It's a typical KC-style sauce, meaning it's very thick and rich, leaning on the sweet side with just a little bit of heat.

Blues Hog

Blues Hog Original Barbecue Sauce

$6.88 (19% off)

"Best sauce out there, guaranteed." – Stephen Nieto of Stevo's BBQ in Las Vegas, NV.

Blues Hog's own take isn't too dissimilar from Nieto's, as the brand boldly proclaims itself the "best sauce on the planet" while also claiming to be used by 90 percent of competition bbq teams nationwide. It's known as a sticky sauce that does an excellent job of clinging to your meat, while offering a more balanced blend of sweet and spicy (though still leaning more to the sweet side).

Head Country

Head Country The Original Bar-B-Q Sauce

$3.19 (77% off)

"All in all a good sauce." – Dan Jacobellis of Top Gun BBQ in Staten Island, NY.

Oklahoma's Head Country is the least sweet of the sauces our respondents recommended — it's the only sauce without a type of sugar as its first ingredient, and the only one to eschew high fructose corn syrup completely. It's more of a blend of savory, sweet and spicy, making it similar to Texas's Stubb's BBQ Sauce, which also has no corn syrup and was Top Gun BBQ's second choice.

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