But what’s the next step after purchasing your meat of choice? Luckily for backyard-cooking enthusiasts, Oklahoma has more barbecue sauce selections than ever before.
In recent years, the popularity of grilling in a smoker or covered grill has hit an all-time high. Many Oklahoma businesses have more than embraced the trend. Along with the big-name brand sauces, you’ll notice store shelves are loaded with more locally produced sauces.
The Made in Oklahoma Program reported a decade ago that two dozen companies in the state produced barbecue sauces. Today, that figure has grown to 43, many of which are available at your neighborhood market. That puts the Sooner State on track to outpace national brands 4 to 1 in many local grocery stores.
Specialty shops are happy to share in the fiery fun, too.
Scott and Christy Grigsby have been doing just that since opening Everything Barbeque, 13833 N. May, back in 2007.
Christy Grigsby said their store’s most popular sauces tend to represent a common flavor found in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. It consists of a mild, tomato-based sauce that can be used as a base for hotter versions.
“Every single sauce or spice we carry is taste-tested by Scott, [myself] and our employees before making it onto our shelves,” Grigsby said.
Okies, however, are also fortunate to have long-standing barbecue tradition. The state’s largest producer, Ponca City’s Head Country Bar-B-Q, has been a backyard staple for more than 66 years. The recipe blends ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and spices. It’s sold in original, hickory and hot flavors.
“We have a lot of loyal customers,” said Paul Schatte, company vice president and co-owner. “The beauty of [our sauce] is that one taste will hook you.”
Crafting 6,000 gallons of sauce daily, Schatte said that Head Country’s sauce doesn’t overpower the meat, adds another level to the palate and enhances the dining experience. Sales reflect the appeal, he said, adding that the company has grown to 12th among retailers in the national market.
But taste buds also have plenty to celebrate and explore with lesser-known vendors.
“No matter what your taste — sweet, spicy, mustard or ketchup-based — we have a wide variety,” said Julie Fitzgerald, Made in Oklahoma Program coordinator.
Earnest Carr Jr., a relative newcomer to the scene, is stirring up a lot of diversity at Bronko’s Pit Bar-B-Que. The Checotah resident, who goes by the nickname Bronko, markets six sauces from classic to sweet.
It’s his Chocolate Dreams sauce, however, that’s winning him attention.
“I was entering a brisket contest, and I joked that I was going to do a chocolate brisket,” he said. “I got home and thought, ‘If I really do one, I would have to do a chocolate sauce.’” The result was a wildly delicious sauce that had delicately balanced Hershey chocolate and bold spices.
“This became one of my selling points when I started my business three years ago, because no one had a sauce like this on the shelves,” he said. “It was a golden opportunity out there.”
His products can be found at metro Homelands and Buy for Less.