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4 Secret Barbecue Sauce Ingredients

Hello everyone! People are always asking one question to myself and other Pitmasters: What’s your secret ingredient? Well, sometimes it’s not an ingredient but actually a cooking method. Other times, it is indeed an extra-special something.  

To the latter point, I have simple answers. Sometimes I can tell you without a doubt what makes a recipe so special. Today, I’m going to do just that. I’ve compiled a list of 4 Secret Ingredients that you can use to experiment with in creating next-level Barbecue Sauces.  

Secret Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:

Crushed Pineapple

Pineapple is delicious. But we can’t just stop there. There’s a principle to talk about: Consider varying your sugar sources. We don’t have to rely entirely on brown sugar and molasses to create that savory sweetness that we love. Pineapple is a very sweet fruit and what’s more, it has an enzyme that further tenderizes meat. If you’re using it on your meat during the cooking process, you will benefit not only from the unique flavor of the fruit, but the fall-off-the-bone effect that the juice can bring.  

You can go straight from the can, or grill it and crush it to add to your sauce. To enhance the process, let meat marinate in your Barbecue Sauce for 15 minutes or more before cooking. A final benefit of pineapple in your sauce is that it creates a thick and sticky consistency that is finger-lickin good.  

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is another way for us to vary the sugar source for our Barbecue Sauce. Real maple syrup is the only way to go here. Anything else is going to leave you lacking in the real benefit: the flavor. Maple syrup has a flavor that reminds me of the meeting of caramel, molasses and honey, but with an earthy flavor. It makes sense since it comes from a tree, right?  

Maple syrup can add a smoothness to the flavor of your barbecue. It lends itself very well to a Kansas City style sauce. Pair this in your sauce with either a good source of acidity or a good source of heat, and you will certainly wow at your next cookout.  

Drippings from the Smoked Meat (Pan Sauce)

This just might be my personal favorite “secret” ingredient. I’m a big believer in the concept of “fat makes flavor”. To that end, I suggest using drippings from your smoked meat. You’ll have to wait until after your meat is cooked to make your sauce, or save it for your next cookout to include in your sauce. However, if you can obtain this delicious nectar and include it in your recipe, you will taste a little slice of heaven.  

The fat in the drippings coupled with whatever rub you decide to use will naturally merge together as heat is applied via the smoker. This means that you may have flavors in your drippings that you are planning to use in your sauce. You’ll need to balance the quantity of ingredients used in your sauce as it is possible for us to overdo it with certain potent spices. 

Chefs call this Deglazing. It is the technique for removing and dissolving browned food residue from a pan to flavor sauces, soups, and gravies.


Coca-Cola is a unique choice. It provides a sweetness that is reminiscent of a light molasses, but the sauce must be simmered low and slow to allow the ingredients to blend and the cola to break down properly. Generally speaking, I suggest 45 minutes to an hour of simmering for proper combination of flavors.  

I would highly suggest not using diet cola for this. Sure, you can reduce some calories, but you’re going to be missing out on the sugars that break down during the cooking process. Diet sodas use artificial sweeteners that simply do not assimilate well and neither do they have a naturally pleasing flavor. One interesting variation might be to use the “real sugar” Coca-Cola variation. For someone who wants a more natural cola, this could be the ticket.  

I hope this gives everyone some food for thought. Secret ingredients are a source of inspiration, but always remember that the cooking process is equally important. Have a great day and happy grilling! 

By: Joshua Rooks



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Posted in: Advice

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