Grilling season is in high gear, and this weekend will see record numbers of Americans celebrating Independence Day with family, friends, and … barbecued meals. Many of you will flavor your meats with an all American barbecue sauce. The origins of this marinade are unclear, but it is definitely a new world formulation. Though many varieties exist, barbecue sauce usually includes tomato sauce, vinegar, a sweetener, and spices.
We took the opportunity to compare two ready-made options available in the supermarket.
Kraft recently rebranded their barbecue sauces. “NEW LOOK – Same Delicious Taste”, claims the package. Here is Kraft’s Original Barbecue Sauce ingredient list:
high fructose corn syrup, vinegar, water, tomato paste, modified cornstarch, molasses, contains less than 2% of salt, natural hickory smoke flavor, dried garlic, mustard flour, potassium sorbate (to preserve freshness), spice, dried onions, caramel color, paprika.
The first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. While many barbecue sauces call for added sugar, Kraft has taken it a bit too far. The cornstarch is used as a thickener. The “natural hickory smoke flavor” is lab-made, even if the ingredients used are not synthetic. Potassium sorbate is a mold inhibitor that may cause DNA damage. Caramel color has been in the news because some types, depending on production methods, may be carcinogenic.
From a nutrient perspective, a 2 tbsp serving of Kraft’s sauce has 50 calories and 270mg of sodium. Kraft’s previous formulation had 430 mg of sodium, so this is an impressive 40% reduction! The previous recipe used artificial colorings, which have now been removed. While we’re no fans of this product, to Kraft’s credit, they have made slight improvements. It’s interesting to note that the company does not play the nutrition card in its marketing message.
Let’s take a look at another sauce, this time a Barbecue Sauce from Trader Joe’s. Here is the ingredient list:
Water, tomato paste, sugar, distilled vinegar, cornstarch, salt, spice, molasses, natural flavor, caramel color, onion, garlic.
It has 45 calories and 210 mg of salt, lower than Kraft’s. The ingredient list is also cleaner, with a smaller amount of sugar. It’s interesting to note the use of water in both products. There are several reasons for using water: it’s cheap, it’s voluminous, and it’s lower in calories than oil. While some homemade barbecue recipes include water, others simply rely on the water in crushed tomatoes.
What sauce will you be using this weekend? Is it a secret homemade recipe? Please tell us…