We Asked An Expert: This Is The Right Way To Order Sauce At A Barbecue Restaurant

It's easy to think of barbecue sauce as being essential to the barbecue experience as a whole, but "barbecue," first and foremost, refers to how meat is cooked. One of the biggest barbecue myths is that cooking anything on a grill counts as "barbecue" but technically the term refers to when meat is slowly cooked over a long period, allowing for the smoke to impact the flavor. This means that a piece of meat can be a barbecue dish whether or not you add barbecue sauce. But, of course, the sauce is delicious so the two make for a great pairing. So, how should you go about ordering sauce at a barbecue restaurant? To find out the specifics, Tasting Table spoke with an expert: Bob Bennett, the head chef of Zingerman's Roadhouse, a barbecue restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"I personally feel ordering the sauce on the side shows someone who is respectful of the work," Bennet says. "Tasting the barbecue 'naked' really gives you the full experience and then saucing it up seems like the way to go." With this method, you get the best of both worlds: Tasting the flavor of the barbecue on its own, and then pairing it with a delicious sauce. Bennett still sees sauce as "super important" to the barbecue experience. He continues, "I see it as a complement to the work that has already gone into the barbecue."

Try serving the sauce on the side when cooking barbecue at home

The idea behind asking for the sauce on the side, as chef Bob Bennett suggested, is that the barbecue should be flavorful enough to enjoy all on its own. With this in mind, if you're making barbecue at home, your goal should be to cook meat that is so delicious the sauce isn't even needed, but, rather, is a tasty bonus. If you pull it off, then it's a guaranteed way to impress any guests you're serving.

For example, Tasting Table's recipe for apple cider smoked pulled pork lists barbecue sauce as an "optional" ingredient because the meat contains so much flavor from the seasoning and the slow cook which gives it the smoky aspect. The addition of barbecue sauce — especially a homemade sweet and tangy barbecue sauce — will certainly complement the pulled pork, but, by serving it on the side, you can let your guests decide just how much sauce they want, if any at all. Another good option is the slow cooker barbecue brisket, a recipe that doesn't even call for sauce. In other words, the only way to include sauce for this recipe is on the side.