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Powdered Pitmasters: Honey BBQ Barbecue Sauce

As you all know, becoming a Pitmaster takes long hours of practice. It takes long days and nights of smoking meats and vegetables and even cheeses, to achieve that smoke ring goodness.

Know what else it takes?

A LOT of fridge space for liquid sauces, marinades and juices that you need. Sometimes so much fridge space that you find it hard to find space for the milk, eggs and juice drinks and the filtered water pitcher.

Know what makes your life easier?

Cabinet space.

For that you need dried ingredients that tolerate storage and come in containers that require very little space. Oh yeah, I don’t mean the tiny containers of spice that you find on racks at the grocery store. And I SURELY don’t mean those spices that have anti-caking agents. I mean containers that you can easily grab if you need to whip together a bulk sauce for an impromptu competition. Or that you can easily grab from the counter, take on the road, whip together your rubs and sauces and still have enough to return and season some ribs, salmon and cauliflower steaks on the grill. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome when you have a BBQ pit in your backyard.

But for those of us without that kind of space…okay, I digressed. Let’s focus.

Don’t get me wrong, you can find a lot of spices in the grocery store that you may not be able to find in the bulk aisles of the Costcos and Sam’s Clubs of the world. Those are great for niche cooking at home. But if you want real workhorses, and you’re willing to search a little to find them (I believe that you are, considering you’re here with us – we appreciate that!)

So, let me give you a pertinent example. Honey is one of the greatest sweeteners on the planet. It is also one of the sweeteners that’s very low on the glycemic index, which helps us diabetics enjoy our BBQ sauces that are sweet, without the guilt. Honey is versatile enough to go from the pit to the kitchen. Kids love honey so much, you often find the best honey bottled in the shape of teddy bears. Honey has been around since the Egyptian pharaohs – so much so that they wanted it in their afterlife. As you can see, pharaohs die – honey doesn’t. Awesome, right?

Know what else honey is? Sticky (hard to clean off bottles and children); easily melted in high heat conditions (like in the heat of a BBQ competition, where the last thing you need is something spilled on the ground and sticking to things); and fairly easily crystallized when exposed to oxygen (try opening a jar of honey that got left open for a while and see how the stickiness and the crystals make it hard for you). Don’t let the kitchen cleaner of the house see you dropping that residue on their counter, either.

Solution: our good friend powdered honey.

You can throw a whole cup of this into any sauce you’re making and come up with great results. The sweetness doesn’t overpower any of the other flavors, but instead smooths them out. If you have something with red pepper flakes, you can add some honey and the pepper won’t bite you as hard.

And you don’t have to worry about the caramelization that you need for good BBQ. In fact, fructose (the sugar molecule in honey) undergoes the Maillard reaction (which causes caramelization) faster than sucrose (the molecule in brown and refined sugar). That means that your sauce will bubble faster so you can reduce the heat on it while it thickens and browns on lower heat, You can use the extra time spent monitoring it to make your side dishes and watch your meats in the pit.

My choice of honey powder comes from the good people at Hoosier Hill Farms. But, look around, you’ll find many Brands.  

That said…

You know I wasn’t going to leave you without a sauce to work with, right?

This sauce will take you an hour to make (5 minutes to assemble all the ingredients, 55 minutes or less to cook and reduce).

You should have enough sauce for 2 racks of ribs, or 2 whole chickens, or a side of salmon, or whatever you decide to prepare. If you need more, you can feel free to double the recipe if you decide to take it on the road with you.

Honey Barbecue Sauce


  • 2 cups Honey powder
  • 2 tbsp Paprika
  • 1 cup Bourbon
  • 2 cups unprocessed apple cider
  • 1/4 cup Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 small Chopped yellow onions, equivalent to roughly 2 cups
  • 2 tbsp Minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp Onion powder
  • 1 tbsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Thyme
  • 1 small can Tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil


  • Finely dice the onions.
  • In a small pot over medium-low heat, warm the avocado oil until it starts to shimmer, which until a paste that looks blonde forms. DO NOT raise the heat yet, you don’t need to. The fresh and powder forms yield an excellent base of flavor, and as they continue to reduce and release more liquid, they will melt into each other. This also serves to thicken the sauce as the other liquids will balance it.
  • Pour in the cup of bourbon and stir the mixture until smooth and you can see gentle bubbling, NOT boiling.
  • Add the honey powder, stirring gently as you add it in slowly. Stir until it turns into paste form again.
  • Add all remaining ingredients, including the tomato paste. Save the apple cider for last, and add 1 cup. The sauce should now be gently boiling, and you can now raise the level of heat to just under medium.
  • You will see a slight boil. You don’t want a rolling boil here, you just want enough for bubbling.
  • Add the remaining apple cider. Keep the heat consistent – if you boil too hard, you’ll get stuff stuck on the bottom of your pan and you can’t use that carbon.
  • At this point, having stirred in the last of the apple juice, you can turn down the heat to low and let the sauce reduce. You can now get to your other business in the kitchen.
  • Once it reduces to your desired thickness – feel free to slather on your favorite food.
  • ENJOY!

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