Your own dang good BBQ sauce!

Not long ago I tried my hand at brewing up a campfire BBQ sauce. Sure, you can bring along a store-bought bottle of some of the finest concoctions, but why not give your own sauce a try and impress your friends. I promise you that once you simmer it down over a good smokey fire, you’re never going to look at barbecue sauce in the same light again.


Obviously, there are a myriad of sauce choices at your local supermarket and most people find their go-to, old trusty taste-maker and never look back. But for others, like myself, it can take some time before finding that one perfect condiment. Personally I’ve found that most brands tilt more on the sweeter side so I decided to whip up my own to balance the sweet and savory ratio to my own liking.

To sharpen up our skills, Zara and I recently attended one of Jill Santoprieto‘s classes at our local community food center called 18 Reasons. If you’ve never taken one of her classes, they are a must; she is extremely knowledgeable, and a candid educator with an acute palette.
Jill introduced us to one of her favorite sauces, which I recreated out at camp one night. This sauce has the right mix of sweet, savory, smoky and tart. 

Tip: There are a handful of ingredients that you’ll need to have on hand so from experience, I’d recommend that you go prepared and pour exactly what the recipe calls for into a container ahead of time so you are not lagging around a bunch of bottles like I did. To do this, take all the liquids mentioned in the recipe below, whisk together and pour into a sealable container. 

Jill Santopietro’s BBQ sauce recipe:

  • ¼ cup finely diced bacon (about 1 ounce)
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion (about ½ small onion)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tbsp dark or robust molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¾ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp ground mustard
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Feel free to try out different ratios: less vinegar, more bourbon, different spices and heat (using chilies) or substitute the sugar with agave nectar, honey or maple syrup. 


Step 1

Add the bacon on a small saucepan over medium heat while stirring occasionally until the bacon crisps up, about 8 minutes. Set the bacon aside in a small bowl, but keep the bacon oil on the pan.


Step 2

Move the pan to an area of the fire pit with less directional heat, about medium low, and toss in the diced onion on the bacon fat until softened, about 3 minutes. 


Step 3

With the onion still in the pan, add the garlic and cook briefly for about 30 to 60 seconds. 

Step 4

Whisk in all the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir.


Step 5

As the sauce starts to thicken, add the reserved bacon and bring the mixture to a boil. Move the saucepan further away from the fire until the sauce is slightly thickened and holds a line on the back of a wooden spoon when you drag a finger through it, about 25 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. 


Make sure to prepare enough so that everyone has the opportunity to smother on the sauce over whichever delicious cut of meat is coming off the fire.


This stuff can be addictive and you’ll feel a sense of pride when everyone gives praise to their new favorite BBQ sauce made right on the spot.


Slather away, my friend. 

: Jaime

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