The Condiment That Less Than 10% Of People Prefer For A Barbecue Sauce Base

With summer having unofficially kicked off on Memorial Day, barbecues and cookouts are surely ramping up fast across the United States and in other countries where the spring climate is thawing out. For many of us, that means firing up a gas or charcoal grill, possibly for the first time in months, cleaning and oiling those grill grates, and lining up our favorite foods for searing and enjoying with a cold beer or cocktail. Whether your favorite grilled food is chicken, ribs, steak, or vegetables, chances are you'll be pulling out your favorite bottle of BBQ sauce to slather on either pre- or post-cooking in order to bring that sweet, tangy stickiness to cookout foods.

Within the United States, there are a number of regional styles of barbecue sauce, whose flavor and texture are mostly determined by their base ingredient. According to Eater, four of the most well known varieties of barbecue sauce are Eastern North Carolina vinegar sauce, based on (of course) vinegar; Piedmont or Lexington-style barbecue sauce, based on tomato; South Carolina-style mustard sauce, based on (you guessed it) mustard; and Alabama white sauce, based on mayonnaise. 

Here at Tasting Table, we were curious which type of barbecue sauce is preferred by cookout fans across the country, so we asked 515 poll respondents which base — vinegar, tomato, mustard, or mayonnaise — is their favorite to reach for when buying BBQ sauce or making it at home.

Mayonnaise isn't preferred as a barbecue sauce base

When you think of barbecue sauce, which flavors come to mind? For many, a thick, glossy, tomato-based sauce made with ingredients like ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, and mustard (via Taste of Home) is probably the first type we think of for slathering on everything from pork ribs to chicken thighs to steak. Unsurprisingly, more than 50% of respondents to a Tasting Table poll asking participants to name their favorite base for BBQ sauce chose tomato, likely thinking of this most common and versatile type of sauce.

At the other end of the spectrum, there was a clear loser in the poll, and that was mayonnaise, which is typically used as the base for white BBQ sauces such as the type that is typically associated with Alabama-style barbecue. Only about 8% of respondents, or 40 people, named this type of BBQ sauce as their preferred style. Twenty six percent of respondents said they like to reach for a vinegar-based BBQ sauce, a style that's typically associated with Eastern North Carolina and also features ingredients such as cayenne, black, and red peppers, hot sauce, and salt (via Eater). Mustard-based barbecue sauce, the most well known version of which hails from South Carolina, was preferred by nearly 16% of poll respondents. 

Whatever your BBQ sauce base of choice is, it's good to remember when it comes to barbecue, there are almost as many versions of it out there as there are palates.