A Little Bit of History on BBQ Sauce

Delicious BBQ sauce has become a standard item in kitchen pantries and backyard cookouts throughout not only the United States of America but the entire world. Can you imagine a rack of pork ribs that’s not slathered with tangy BBQ sauce? How much less messy and less satisfying they would be! BBQ sauce also enhances our hamburgers and hotdogs, and some folks (myself included) like to dip fresh cut french fries in it. BBQ sauce is pretty much good on anything, as long as the anything in question is savory. Ever notice how some people like to dump ketchup on everything they eat? Same concept with BBQ sauce, only tastier and tangier, thicker and richer. But where did BBQ sauce come from? For that matter, where did BBQ itself come from?

BBQ stands for barbecue, and is at once a method and an object. The method is how food is cooked, as in, “I’m going to barbecue these ribs.” The object (originally describing wood resting on sticks) is what is used to cook the meat on, as in, “Go and toss these ribs on the barbecue.” The word itself likely comes from barabicu, which means sacred fire pit in the language of the Taino culture of the Caribbean, where barbecue is thought to have originated. That said, some scholars believe they can trace the practice of barbecuing meat all the way back to King Midas’ Tomb all the way back in 700 BC.

Attempting to pinpoint the exact origin of BBQ sauce is tricky business, as it seems to be obscured in the fog of history and no one can agree on a time and date, or even a location. Although the precise origin of BBQ sauce is not known, some believe that Christopher Columbus brought it from the Caribbean. In 1926 (1923 according to other sources), the Lewis Maull company, a family business from St. Louis founded in 1897, was the first entity to sell BBQ sauce commercially. It was called Maull’s BBQ sauce, and has become a staple of St. Louis BBQ. They’re motto was, “Don’t baste your BBQ, Maull it!” Before it began selling its famous sauce, the Lewis Maull company sold a variety of condiments, but Maull’s BBQ sauce became so popular that the company quickly decided to disregard their other condiments in favor of focusing solely on the BBQ sauce. Thankfully, Maull’s BBQ sauce is alive and well today, and Maulls offers their classic original recipe as well as eight new flavors, including Sweet N Mild and Beer flavored.

Although the Lewis Maull company was the first to sell the sauce commercially, the first entity to distribute BBQ sauce across the United States was none other than Heinz in 1951, followed closely by Kraft. Today, as we all know, Heinz is still in the BBQ sauce business, offering up a handful of varieties, including garlic and sweet and smokey.

Back in the good old days, there was no standard method used to refrigerate meat, so United States Southerners would cure the meat with peppers, vinegar, salt, and water. The addition of tomato sauce gives us a more modern idea of how BBQ sauce came to be, provided you’re not inclined to believe the Christopher Columbus story. It makes sense, as the south is renowned for their barbecues and sauces to this day. However it was accomplished, the general consensus is that it was a very good thing, and it’s difficult to imagine a world without BBQ sauce. Today many different companies make and distribute BBQ sauce, including the wonderful K.C. Masterpiece, and BBQ sauce of all brands and flavors is sure to remain a staple of the world’s diet for centuries to come.