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Color, texture, taste distinguish barbecue sauces

Published October 4, 2006

Television chef Rachael Ray recently made her own barbecue sauce for chicken, saying it's as easy as store-bought. Taster's Choice panelists said they are more likely to buy a bottle of ready-made sauce.

With all of the choices available, our panelists can't be the only ones who do that. We sampled 17 varieties, coated on bites of grilled chicken.

By the time judges got to the 10th and 11th bottles, most of them had abandoned the chicken and were tasting sauces by the spoonful.

Albertsons "Original BBQ Sauce" ($1.49 for an 18-ounce bottle) was their favorite. Judges awarded the sauce 83 out of a possible 100 points.

For starters, we surveyed the sauces side by side and discovered an array of colors and textures. The more robust sauces were dark brown and thick. Some were practically orange and much weaker in flavor. Those, says our chef panelist, have the most vinegar. The darker sauces have molasses.

The first ingredient in two of the top picks, however, was high fructose corn syrup, followed by tomato juice.

For the record, Ray added fresh tomatoes and brown sugar to her sauce.

Our panelists preferred the dark color of the Albertsons sauce and the hickory smell.

One judge liked the "shiny, apple butter" look of the Albertsons brand.

Another judge tasted a peppery flavor "that gives off just enough heat."

All five judges said they would buy Albertsons sauce.

The first ingredient in their second-choice sauce was ketchup. Judges gave the original "Allegro Bar-B-Q Sauce" ($5.19 for an 18-ounce bottle at Albertsons) 71 points.

The Allegro bottle pictures a drawing of a rancher cooking on a rotisserie over an open fire pit. The sauce is about as dark as the winning store brand, but judges said it was sweeter.

Allegro's brand was so thick that it didn't drip off the spoon when it was turned upside down. It also had a good mix of spices in the flavor.

"I think this would stick well to chicken and red meat and I love the heat," said one panelist. Four of the five would buy the Allegro brand.

The store brand from Publix (89 cents for an 18-ounce bottle) was the third choice, with 69 points. Again, four of the five judges would buy the Publix original barbecue sauce.

"This is yummy and has a great neutral taste," said one panelist. "I think this would go on anything." Another tasted rosemary in the creamy sauce.

"Smooth" was the most often used description of the Publix sauce.

Also sampled were barbecue sauces by: Tony Roma's ($4.89 for a 21-ounce bottle at Albertsons); Annie's Natural Organic ($2.69 for a 12-ounce bottle at Nature's Finest Foods); Sticky Fingers ($3.79 for an 18-ounce bottle at Publix); K.C. Masterpiece ($1.95 for an 18-ounce bottle at Publix); Pat's Ho Made ($1.95 for a 15-ounce bottle from Publiix); Stubbs Original ($3.59 for an 18-ounce bottle at Publix); Open Pit ($1.69 for an 18-ounce bottle from Publix); Sweet Baby Rays ($1.99 for an 18-ounce bottle at Publix); Jack Daniels ($2.49 for a 19-ounce bottle at Publix); Bullseye Original ($1.50 for an 18-ounce bottle at Publix); Kraft (89 cents for an 18-ounce bottle at Publix); Cattleman's ($1.49 for an 18-ounce bottle at Sweetbay); Johnny Harris ($3.59 for a 12-ounce bottle at Sweetbay) and Hannaford Original ($1.29 for an 18-ounce bottle at Sweetbay).

Panelists were: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Gary Kawalec chef-owner of the Tampa Bay Supper Club in Safety Harbor; personal chef and mother of four Julie Overton; and Cosette Saba and Jim Yockey, manager and aesthetician, respectively, at Indulgence Medical Day Spa in St. Petersburg. All foods were tasted blind.

[Last modified October 3, 2006, 12:36:58]

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