BBQ sauce of some type or the other is always incidental to pork ribs or shoulder. Twenty-five years of life in Memphis, TN enabled me to enjoy the best BBQ in the known world. There are a number of top-notch BBQ joints in the Memphis area, and they all have this one belief about sauce in common.

LUntil I was introduced to Sweet Baby Ray’s, I never touched the stuff. Personally, I think sauce is needed only when necessary to cover up the flavor of really bad BBQ. My discovery of Sweet Baby Ray’s however, changed my opinion, and it all came about as a result of some really terrible grilled chicken. Notice that I did not say BBQ Chicken. One grills chicken, beef, lamb, sausage and baloney. BBQ is PORK. At any rate, the grilled chicken was a disaster.

The rookie on the grill used charcoal lighter fluid to start his fire, and he began cooking the chicken long before it had burned off, so the coals weren’t ready for cooking. The result was chicken that was burned on the outside, raw on the inside and had the flavor of BP’s disaster in the Gulf.

Vacationing at a lake that was 35 miles from the nearest Sonic or Dairy Queen, I was presented with the problem of having nothing else to eat, so out of desperation, I reached for the bottle of BBQ sauce on the picnic table. The label on the bottle read: Sweet Baby Ray’s Gourmet Sauce, and I thought, Yeah, right, I’ll bet it’s gourmet; just like this is grilled chicken.

The bird was so bad that the sauce could only be an improvement, so I poured a small glob on the side of my paper plate and stuck my toe in the water. Guess what? Sweet Baby Ray’s was really tasty. I wouldn’t put it on The Rendezvous’ ribs or The Cozy Corner’s shoulder, but if you really need to make something edible, Baby Ray is your guy.

Formulated by a Chef in Chicago who named it for his brother’s hoops handle, Sweet Baby Ray’s came in second out of 700 entrants in the Chicago based Mike Royko Rib Off, and the rest is history. Clearly I’m no authority on BBQ sauce, but Sweet Baby Ray’s has a different basic flavor, not vinegar or ketchup based, but smoky and sweet. It is now the dominant premium BBQ sauce sold in America’s grocery stores.

Available in Alabama at Winn-Dixie, Wal-Mart and Publix, I can honestly recommend Sweet Baby Ray’s.

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