In some Texas barbecue circles, adding sauce to expertly smoked meats has been, and always will be, an absolute taboo. Sure, great BBQ needs to be tender, juicy, and tasty enough to be enjoyed neat, but a deliciously prepared BBQ sauce can really elevate something already perfect to a whole new level of flavor pleasure (like ranch sauce on a slice). pizza).
So we turned to Justin and Diane Forton, the founders of the hugely popular Pecan Lodge restaurant in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood, where customers regularly line up around the block to learn a little about different types of Texas barbecue sauce. We then asked them to share their recipe for their restaurant’s signature sauce, a delicious concoction with a touch so luxurious it deserves a place on the Pantone color palette – maybe Pecan Lodge Saucy Red?
To understand everything it takes to get that rich burgundy hue in their sauce, we must first delve into the different types of sauce common in different parts of the state.
“There are several regional variations of barbecue sauce in Texas. East Texas sauce is ketchup-based and usually sweeter. In Central Texas, the sauce is often as simple as meat drops mixed with a little vinegar, salt, and pepper,” says Justin. “South Texas is more influenced by its proximity to Mexico and Louisiana, where you’ll find dried chili used and the sauce takes on a more savory flavor.”
In other parts of the country, sauces sometimes play a more important role.
“Kansas City-style sauce tends to be sweeter, and in this culture barbecue sauce is just as important as meat, where many dishes are known primarily for their sauce,” Diane says. “Carolina has a vinegar-based sauce, a mustard-based sauce, and a ketchup-based Lexington-style sauce, but it’s a thinner, watered-down version of what you can find in Texas. In Memphis, sauce is generally avoided in place of dry rub, which is applied after the meat has been cooked.”
Then comes the source of much controversy.
“In general, I find that Texas BBQ sauce has a ketchup base and is usually used more as an afterthought rather than as a necessity. Texas purists insist you don’t need sauce for great barbecue, Justin says.
But that doesn’t mean great barbecue and great sauce can’t exist in perfect harmony, as they do at Pecan Lodge.
“Our BBQ sauce is closer to what you can find in South Texas. We use a ketchup base and a mixture of dried chili peppers for spiciness and flavor. While there is sugar in our sauce, it helps balance the spiciness rather than dominating the flavor. The finished sauce has a complex taste with a slight spiciness,” says Diane.
The sauce that exists today is a bit of an old family recipe with a dash of modern craftsmanship.
“Although I didn’t have an official family recipe to write down, our sauce is based on my memories of a barbecue my grandfather used to cook,” says Justin. “While he lived in East Texas, his style of barbecue was more influenced by Cajun and Louisiana Creole cuisine, which was dominated by flavors of pungency and spice rather than sweetness.”
To experience it for yourself, visit the Pecan Lodge at Deep Ellum. Or make the same version right at home with the following recipe, which has been scaled down for home cooks.