Here’s how we make our Nashville Crossroads Barbecue Sauce. No secrets going on here. Made from everyday ingredients from a regular store.
THE KEY to our Crossroads sauce is the 1-1-1 ratio of the main ingredients: use equal parts ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider.
This straightforward homemade barbecue sauce ratio is the result of years of judging the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, TN, and also from testing hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of over-thought, overwrought recipes submitted by contestants in the Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce contest, bless their hearts.
Beyond the revelation of the 1-1-1 ratio, the second most important finding to share from all this sauce testing is this one:
People include far too many ingredients in their barbecue sauces. More ingredients do not make a better sauce. In fact, they get lost in the confusion. What makes a sauce, a dish, a meal, a work of art, or piece of music great is balance. Balance is everything.
Here in Nashville, we’re at the center of a spiderweb of interstates that lead to every kind of regional barbecue across the South and Midwest. That’s why in our book Cheater BBQ: Barbecue Anywhere, Anytime, in Any Weather we organized our interpretations of regional barbecue sauces according to the interstate system. We’ll take you all over the country in the book, but our hands-down, go-to favorite anytime R.B. has the smoker going is Nashville Crossroads Barbecue Sauce. Crossroads shows off the easy balance between sweetness and tartness. It begins with the critical foundation ingredient of a well-minced onion sautéed in a little oil. Don’t skip this step. Then, add the even-ratio ingredients plus touches of Worcestershire sauce for umami, Kosher salt and black pepper, and cayenne pepper for a little heat.
The best advice we can give about making a barbecue sauce is “don’t complicate the simple.” Start with our even ratio and heat it through. Then, if you want more sweetness, up the brown sugar; more tang then add vinegar. Dial it in as you like it and depending what you are saucing. Make it your own. Of course, you can double, triple, etc., this recipe as you need. We make a big batch and keep some at the ready in a bottle in the fridge. Super good on our crock-pot pulled pork barbecue as well.
- 1 small onion, grated (use the big-holed side of a box grater to mince very fine)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarsley ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke (optional)
Cook the onion in a small saucepan over medium heat until tender, about 7-8 minutes. Stirr frequently and do not burn the onion.
Stir in the remaining ingredients. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, then simmer until thickened and smooth, 10-15 minutes. Use immediately or cool and refrigerate.