Molasses, in fact, isn’t very slow. At least not compared to my preconceived ideas about it, having heard the idiom “slow as molasses” all my life.

I first had occasion to cook with molasses about a year ago. I was making my first from-scratch BBQ sauce, a delicious Memphis-sweet concoction with liquid smoke, brown sugar and molasses (and other ingredients I shall not divulge ;). When I grabbed the molasses I was prepared for a honey-esque pour. What I got was very different. The room-temperature molasses shot out of that jar like … well, not like molasses. It quickly filled the tablespoon and overflowed into the bowl.

I’ve since learned that refrigerated molasses is somewhat slower than that, but neither version compares to my preconceived notions.

Slow as molasses? Not so much.

I could have gotten mad that I’d ruined the recipe. Reality didn’t quite jibe with the things I’d been taught, the things I thought I knew. I’d spent 35 years believing molasses was slow, I’d even used the phrase “slow as molasses” to describe people and things. Was this a sinister plot perpetrated by George Soros or the Koch brothers?

How could this be?

The answer is easy, I grew up in North Jersey surrounded on all sides by Jews and Italians. Not a lot of molasses happenings in the suburbs of New York. When I finally had occasion to cook with molasses I realised that I had strongly believed in it’s lack of speed based upon things I had been told rather than something I had experienced.

The experience has obviously made me a better chef, but it’s also made me a better person because it’s helped me to recognise that the things I “know” may not be accurate.

Indeed, I’m that much more open-minded and apt to listen to things with which I disagree.

  • mw

    Memphis BBQ is good but too sweet for my taste. I’m more of a KC bbq guy. Specifically Arthur Bryants. Truly a unique sauce unlike anything you’ll get anywhere else. Not sweet at all, it’s a paprika, peppery, vinegar sauce with a burnt orange color. I’m drooling all over my keyboard just thinking about a plate of Arthur Bryants burnt ends smothered in that sauce.

  • theWord

    Burnt ends are good, I prefer Jack Stack there but The BBQ shop (Home of the Dancing Pigs) in Memphis is the highest art form achieved to my lips.

  • kranky kritter

    Anyone who really likes BBQ and cooking owes it to themselves to mess around with the basic components of BBQ sauce to figure out what they really like. I like a balance of sweet, vinegary, and heat. And having tried lots of commercial bbq sauces, I have found that OTC sweet baby rays really suits my tastes quite well and isn’t at all pricey. But if you know the basic components, you can usually “fix” most OTC sauces.

    I am more of a pragmatist than a purist when it comes to cooking. I am too lazy to undertake smoking my own. So I am happy to concede the basic superiority of doing so while insisting that making them via shortcut is plenty delicious.

    If I must have the real smoked thing, I have places I can go. But most times I’ll cook up a pork butt or some ribs in the pressure cooker, in less than an hour. And the I use the oven to carmelize on a tasty sauce, and no one ever complains. The added bonus to using a pressure cooker is that you also have 6 to 8 cups of pot liquor left over to make something else delicious with, like 8-minute greens or some knee-buckling red beans and rice.

    If anyone wants to know why a piece of pig leg is called pork butt, I can answer this mystery.

  • Jacob

    KK: I’ll bite

    I can’t imagine when I’ll ever get to Kansas City but if someone wanted to overnight me a jar of sauce ….

    I really enjoy preparing my own sauce. The Memphis sweet is my favorite, I chunk the onions and use more fresh chiles than I should – the result is sweet and spicy and smoky and compliments the hell out of a crockpot-cooked pork shoulder.

    I also do a chipotle BBQ sauce that’ll knock your socks off.

  • Jacob
  • theWord

    I’d suggest going here.

    It’s Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue Store. Best stocked place I have ever ever seen for BBQ supplies. They have Arthur Bryant’s and a ton of others there.

    This is the place I think is great in Memphis

    Kranky is correct about Sweet Baby Rays. They have a number of good sauces and rubs. Menards Hardware carries them for some reason and I believe, I have seen gallons of the sauce for sale there in the past.


  • mw

    Yes. I am strictly an originalist, but given your propensity for a sweeter sauce – you should probably get the mixed 3-pack.

  • Mike A.

    Menards carries everything!

  • kranky kritter

    They sell sweet baby rays at Walmart, and it’s less than $2 a bottle, and it’s very good sauce. I’ve paid more per bottle for inferior stuff. And I’ve tried dozens of bbq sauces.

    My sense of BBQ sauce is that it’s yet another domain dominated by information asymmetry and bullshine. If someone is charging you 6, 8, 10, 12 bucks for a bottle of bbq sauce, you may be getting poned….paying for cachet. But then I enjoy going mad scientist on this sort of stuff. I had been in the practice of buying lower end and doctoring to taste, depending on mood. But the SBR is good enough that I’ve been just using that.

    If you think about it,. one of the reasons why there are so many craft versions of hot sauce and bbq sauce is that there really isn’t all that much to either, in other words, the entry bar is low. men are lazy, and they like seasoned meat.

    The primary components in most dry rubs are salt, sugar (inc. brown), paprika, and pepper. Then other seasonings are worked in at lower rates. BBQ sauce works on the same principle, but now you have a base of a syrup (cb molasses or karo or honey), maybe tomato sauce, and vinegar, and then the same approach as with rubs, with salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper, and then other seasonings at lower levels. Garlic and onion powders are probably top of the list, but not too many of the common meat seasonings would bring any false notes.

    The deal on pork butt? A ham is a leg. The lower thinner portion is the shank, and the higher wider portion is the butt, in the send of the “butt end” of the leg. So there’s the shoulder, then there is the butt, and then there is the shank. Same terminology applies whether or not the meat in question has been smoked and made pink.

  • mw

    Dammit. I’m drooling on the keyboard again.

  • DPirate

    Maybe you bought cheap, water-down, mass-produced molasses instead of thick home-made molasses like they had on the pre-industrial farm.

  • cutiepink

    wow i likes BBQ and cooking..This is basic way how to use barbecue sauce . ..Thank you for sharing!!:D