Bobby Flay Spruces Up Store-Bought Barbecue Sauce With 3 Simple Ingredients

Homemade barbecue sauce is undoubtedly delicious, but not everyone has the time to bring out a bunch of shakers, jars, and bottles to make it whenever the craving strikes. Store-bought sauce is a great shortcut ingredient to have on hand, and with just a few simple additions, you can take it from good to great. Even grilling aficionado Bobby Flay endorses using a premade base, as long as you spruce it up a bit for less of that "out of a bottle" taste.

While there are many different styles of American barbecue and corresponding sauces, Flay has some great tips for dressing up the popular sweet, tangy, and thick tomato-based kind, also known as the Kansas City style. Start with a bottle of sauce from the store or your favorite local BBQ joint, or go for the barbecue sauce Bobby Flay always keeps in his pantry. The pro chef makes the flavor more dynamic by adding pureed chipotle peppers in adobo, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. 

Just pour a bottle of sauce into a saucepan, stir in Flay's recommended extras, and allow it to simmer covered for about 10 to 15 minutes so all the flavors can meld. Your tastebuds will be thoroughly woken up by the delicious harmony of sweet, savory, and sour notes.

The benefits of Bobby Flay's barbecue sauce upgrades

Each of Bobby Flay's chosen ingredients brings something important to the table: heat, umami, and acid. Chipotle peppers are smoked and dried jalapeños. They are commonly sold reconstituted in a spiced tomato-based sauce called adobo, either whole or pureed. If you can't find the puree, you can mash the whole chilies with a fork, chop them with a knife, or blitz them in a blender. Bobby Flay throws a healthy spoonful of puree into his barbecue sauce, which adds a pleasant smokiness and sweet heat.

Worcestershire sauce has a deep, salty, fermented tang, which comes from a combination of onions, garlic, anchovies, molasses, and tamarind. It packs a serious umami punch and adds a welcome depth to store-bought sauce, which can sometimes taste a little flat straight out of the bottle. There are also fish-free versions that would be suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Finally, lime juice adds brightness. While most barbecue sauces usually have a notable tanginess, lime juice adds another layer of tart and fruity flavor that makes the mixture more vibrant. Flay adds the juice from half a small lime — this is enough to give the sauce some lift, but not so much that it will taste discernibly sour and citrus-forward. The resulting sauce would be delicious on pulled pork, grilled chicken, veggie skewers, or even fish filets.

More ways to spruce up store-bought barbecue sauce

Need a tasty barbecue sauce ASAP, but you don't have Bobby Flay's go-to additions on hand? You can still utilize the same concepts behind his trick with some thoughtful substitutions. In place of the chipotle peppers, use a little bit of chili powder, cayenne pepper, or hot smoked paprika. You could even try Korean gochujang; Giada De Laurentiis' favorite chili paste; a drop of liquid smoke; or a few dashes of hot sauce.

To bring some salty and fermented flavors to the party, reach for soy sauce, tamari, coconut aminos, miso paste, or even hoisin sauce instead of Worcestershire. As for the acid, a spritz of lemon juice would be the closest substitute for lime, but you can also use a little orange juice for a sweeter take. Even a splash of vinegar can provide that important hint of brightness.

Whether you're following Bobby Flay's instructions exactly or improvising on your own, make sure to taste the sauce as you go. Start by sampling the condiment on its own, and give it another taste after each addition. Also, add a little bit of each ingredient at a time — you can always incorporate more later. The goal is a barbecue sauce that is both interesting and balanced, and that is definitely attainable with these easy upgrades.