Porky’s Pulpit: Sauce Bottle Etiquette

Shake it!

Inevitably newcomers to the world of North Carolina barbecue, and even seasoned veterans, encounter the following dilemma: the bottle of sauce on the table has a pour spout that doesn’t allow shaking without spilling, and putting a finger over the spout seems uncouth. 

Why not just pour the sauce without shaking?  Well, the signature element of traditional NC BBQ sauce is the hot pepper flakes and (sometimes) other spices mixed into the vinegar that is sauce’s primary ingredient.  Unfortunately, spices settle at the bottom of the bottle rather than floating up top where they could pour out easily.*  How should a BBQ eater pour sauce so that spices come out along with vinegar?  Shake it, of course, but how?

To shake a “classic” NC BBQ sauce bottle (like the one pictured to the left…roughly), you have two standard options: shake the bottle without covering the spout at the risk of spraying vinegar on yourself and those in your vicinity, or put your grubby finger directly over the spout and risk spreading germs or offending those watching you.  Luckily, the sophisticated BBQ eater has other options:

1) Remove the spout from the bottle and shake it freely, giving everyone around you a vinegar shower. What could be better than being covered in barbecue sauce?

2) Put your grubby finger over the spout and shake, shake, shake to your heart’s content. Remind anyone who glares at you that vinegar is a pretty good disinfectant.

3) If you want to be classy for a change, pick up a napkin (a clean one, you lout!) and place it over the spout before shaking.

4) For a higher degree of difficulty than the napkin trick, use a clean teaspoon to cover the spout when shaking the bottle. The teaspoon trick is not a 100% effective splash control method but avoids the potentially embarrassing issue of bits of napkin getting stuck to the spout.

5) Eat your barbecue without sauce. Everyone should eat barbecue completely unadorned from time to time.

*Note that this issue is more common in Eastern North Carolina but occurs in joints serving Lexington-style ‘cue too.

4 Responses

  1. Great post!!! I wrestled with this dilemma briefly ONCE, but QUICKLY recovered and went ahead and put my filthy finger over the spout and shook vigorously! The way I figure it, barbecue is NOT a highfalutin, grandiose, formal gastronomy; therefore, it doesn’t require the pretentious and ceremonious formality reserved for such cuisine. Besides that, I too believe that the vinegar will pretty much disinfect whatever germs I leave behind.

  2. I guess the wine-drinker’s swirl is a bit too fey to be worth a mention on this site? On the other hand, perhaps appropriate for the Barbecue Joint crowd…

  3. Finger over the spout, no doubt about it. As Tom says, this is BBQ, not fine dining. This is related to a debate my wife and I have regularly have about sauce sampling. I maintain it is perfectly acceptable while waiting for BBQ to arrive to sample a little sauce from the table bottle by squeezing a dab on your finger and tasting it. She maintains this is a low, common, and gross practice. I’m right of course, but could use some moral support.

  4. BBQ.Tom and Robert, I applaud you. Nate, good point. Plus, the swirl doesn’t work–I’ve tried but don’t tell anyone!

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