Skip to Content

Easy Memphis BBQ Sauce

The idea behind this Easy Memphis BBQ Sauce is to produce a tasty sauce with minimal effort while being true to the style. Memphis BBQ Sauce is thick and tangy, and frankly, pretty straightforward. Feel free to use this as a starting point to customize as you need.

Memphis Ribs
Memphis ribs ready to eat

Whether you like to refer to it as BBQ sauce, or BarBQ sauce, or the more formal barbecue sauce, the technique is simply to mix all the ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. That is it. However, I have found that the flavors are richer if done the day ahead and allowed to mellow in the refrigerator overnight.

This is one of three sauces published by Zous Chef. Additionally, there is an Alabama Red Sauce based on the approaches found in some rib houses famously associated with College Football and a Texas Sauce that is wonderful with beef brisket. Lastly, I have posted an overview of my research into Southern BBQ and the differences.

Notes on the Major Ingredients

A good deal of the stylistic differences in Southern BBQ sauces comes down to the proportions of the tomatoes (through tomato sauce or ketchup), the vinegar, and the sugars. The Memphis sauces are rather tomatoey. A ratio of 2-to-1 is used here. My research showed many sauces with a ratio as high as 4-to-1. Those seemed way too high for me. In this recipe I used a bit less sugar since the ketchup called for has sugars already.

The Classic Cheat – Ketchup

The easiest way to create a BBQ sauce is to start with ketchup. Otherwise, one starts with tomato sauce, flavoring and cooking it down to produce something that is . . . well is pretty much ketchup. If you have a brand of ketchup you like, you are almost finished before you start.

Vinegar and Brown Sugar

The flavor of Apple Cider Vinegar is less harsh than white vinegar and is used here. Dark brown sugar gives the richness needed.

Other Ingredients

Flavor enhancements

Worcestershire Sauce: Seeming non-southern is the use of Worcestershire sauce; however, I have found through my research that it is used in most BBQ sauces. It adds a bit of depth to the overall taste.

Onion and Garlic Powder: While not the same as fresh onion and garlic, using the powdered form is a standard in many BBQ sauces and greatly reduces preparation time.

Celery Salt and Chili Powder: These two spices round out the flavor of the sauce, counteracting some of the sweetness added from the brown sugar. Chili Powders vary by manufacturer but usually contain a mixture of smoked peppers, like paprika and cumin — both flavors that add to the rounding out of the sauce.

Cayenne Pepper: I call for cayenne pepper which of course delivers quite a bite. Feel free to reduce or add more to suit your taste or substitute a milder pepper.

Notes on Equipment

Southern Barbecue requires slow cooking at a low temperature. The colloquial phrase is, “low and slow is best.” This is especially true with pork generally used in the Memphis barbecue. Therefore, a grill that will allow for the low and slow approach is required. With grill prices reaching the price of household appliances, this can be a problem. Personally, I have been very successful with the reasonably priced Char-griller AKRON Kamado grill. This works very well with the heat deflector accessory that helps with the modification of heat. Generally, you are shooting for about 225°F (approximately 110°C), and it can be hard to keep that low, so the deflector really helps. Also, of note, sugar burns at about 300°F, so keeping the heat low allows you to add sauce while cooking if you like. I generally add it about 30 minutes before completing cooking.

Additionally, I have found the grill works efficiently for traditional grilling and as a wood fired pizza oven.

Char-Griller AKRON
Char-Griller AKRON
AKRON Deflector
AKRON Deflector

Notes on Technique

Approaches that are required sacraments of some barbecue artists are sacrileges to others. Sauce or not while on the grill, or not at all. Rubs, no rubs, etc. Therefore, I have left my analysis only to the sauces. However, if you want a guide to grilling, nothing comes close to Meathead Goldwyn’s book Meathead. This is a thorough guide to the practical lessons of grilling, as well as, the scientific reasons behind it. Get it, read it and develop your own techniques.

Memphis ribs

Easy Memphis Barbecue Sauce

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Rich, thick with a bit of a kick

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion powder
  • 1  teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Instructions

    1. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan, over medium-low heat. Stir to combine and bring to a low simmer.
    2. Simmer for 10 minutes. It is ready to use or to store in a refrigerator. If to store, transfer immediately to a sanitized glass container. The sauce should store well refrigerated for a few days.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 60Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 577mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 1g

Calculated Nutrition is estimated.

Psst! We are not bugging you with a pop-up to sign up for our mailing list. But it would be great if you did, just submit your email address below.

Skip to Recipe