I may be a city girl through and through, but I still like to reconnect with my inner outdoorswoman every so often by grilling up a big chunk of meat over an open flame on a warm summer day. There’s a satisfaction in cooking on the grill that I don’t get from cooking on a stove or in the oven, like I’ve somehow bent an elemental force to my will just for the sake of making dinner.
That said, a big chunk of meat on its own isn’t all that tasty, unless we’re talking about a particularly fine piece of grass-fed steak. For everything else, a good barbecue sauce is critical – one that transforms that hunk of meat into something more by adding another layer of heat and spice and smoke, and that caramelizes to form lovely crusty sticky bits.
When it comes to barbecue sauces, I still have a soft spot for the bottled sauces of my childhood, the thick, sweet tomato-based kind that would get slathered onto an economy pack of chicken leg quarters at almost every pool party and barbecue of the summer. The kind that goes with creamy macaroni salad and finely shredded pastel-green coleslaw from plastic tubs, with handfuls of salty chips, cold briny pickle spears and freshly buttered corn on the cob.
It’s not to say that the yellow mustard-based sauces of South Carolina or the watery chile-and-vinegar sauces of North Carolina don’t get my tastebuds excited, but they just don’t have a dozen years of fond childhood memories to back them up. No… what I crave on my barbecue is a thick, brushable sauce that gets your fingers sticky, with a flavour that’s equal parts tangy, smoky, spicy and sweet…. and this Honey Chipotle variation certainly fits the bill. It’s got all the things I love about those bottled barbecue sauces I still remember so fondly, but it’s even better.
I’ve had a small Mason jar of this sauce in my fridge all summer, and it’s gone on just about everything. It’s absolutely gorgeous brushed onto grilled chicken, grilled pork chops or smoked baby back ribs during those last few minutes of grilling (just make sure to put them on indirect heat once they’ve been sauced). It’s been poured on pulled pork sandwiches and slathered in burgers. Even once barbecue season is done, I’ll be reliving the memories by brushing it on meatloaf, swapping it for tomato sauce to make a BBQ chicken pizza, and dunking homemade chicken fingers in it. This sauce can do no wrong, in my books.
Simply put, it’s good just about everywhere you’d have put a bottled sauce once upon a time… except maybe that simply perfect hunk of grass-fed steak. That, my friends, needs nothing more than a dash of salt and pepper to achieve perfection.
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ¾ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1½ tbsp unsulfured molasses
- 3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp ancho chile powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp dry mustard powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil for 8-10 minutes, or until onions are very soft and lightly golden. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes to blend the flavours.
- Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the mixture until very smooth. If the sauce is too thick or chunky, add a little water (a tablespoon or two at a time), until the desired consistency has been reached.