The Tangy Ingredient That Makes South Carolina BBQ Sauce Unique

To say that barbecue is just one thing is a serious understatement. It's not only the name of a cooking method, and it's not only the name of the food that's prepared: It's a highly regionalized art form, one that genuine barbecue aficionados travel out of their way to enjoy. Barbecue is also a source of serious regional pride, and that's particularly true in South Carolina. The South Carolina Barbecue Association even claims: "The true barbeque aficionado can not say that he has completed his barbeque quest without a visit to South Carolina where the art of barbeque was invented and where it is still practiced in both its purest tradition and its most diverse styles. So, y'all come to South Carolina and eat barbeque with the people who know the most about it and have the longest history of preparing it."

While their neighbors in North Carolina, with its two distinct regional BBQ sauce styles, might disagree about the history, South Carolina certainly lays claim to one unique feature that distinguishes its most famous and distinctive sauce. What is it that makes South Carolina barbecue stand out from the crowd?

It's all about the mustard

South Carolina itself has a number of regional variations within the state, as BBQ Hub explains. Regardless of how the sauces may vary, the meat that's cooked low and slow over hardwood is " invariably pork — sometimes pulled from a whole hog, sometimes chopped from a slow-smoked shoulder or ham, but always deriving from somewhere on the pig." And, the most famous of all the South Carolina sauces features mustard, giving the sauce a bright yellow color and tangy flavor. Sometimes tempered with brown sugar or honey for sweetness and usually kicked up with cider vinegar and black pepper, South Carolina BBQ sauce is the perfect savory-sweet foil for unctuous, smoky pork.

It's most often plain yellow mustard that gives South Carolina's sauce its color and kick and it's delicious on barbecue chicken in addition to the traditional pork, according to Taste of Home. According to a Tasting Table poll, nearly 16% of respondents indicate mustard-based sauces are their favorite style. Perhaps a field trip to South Carolina is in order!