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Published Jun. 20, 2012

Whether your summer grilling plans include chicken, pork, beef or fish, barbecue sauce adds lots of flavor, color and texture, depending on how long it crisps over the coals or flames. Our panelists were divided over their preferences for thick or watery sauces, but we sampled a total of 20 brands that included a mixture of both types. While many of the sauces come in a variety of flavors, we selected the "original" flavors of each. Because we found so many brands, we chose six winners in all. This week's column features our top three picks among the first 10 brands sampled. On the Fourth of July, we'll share the results of 10 more sauces found on local grocery store shelves.

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Product/Score (out of 100) Bull's-Eye 80 Stubb's 58 Weber 55
Judges' comments Strong smoky flavor put this sauce on the top of the list for our panelists. They liked the bold, brown color and the mix of ginger and spices they detected. "It has a great combination of sweet and smoky flavors," said one judge. "Bring on the brisket!" Another appreciated what she described as a strong hickory flavor. "It has a lot of kick and tastes like Memphis - smoky and happy in the mouth - one of the kings of barbecue," said another. "This looks rusty like a hot sauce and tastes vinegary with a fair amount of heat," said one judge. "It's not sweet and it doesn't have a lot of smoke, but it would be really tasty on chicken wings." A couple of panelists said the sauce was very heavy on tomato. "It's very hot and peppery," said one. "This is for you if you want hot and spicy." Classic was the word panelists used to describe this sauce. They liked the blend of flavors, including pepper and ginger. A couple said the sauce was "fun" with "a sneaky heat kick." One said the Weber sauce would be good on a variety of foods from ribs to chicken breasts. "Cowboys around the campfire would be happy with this," said another.
Would they buy? All four judges said yes. Three of the four judges said yes. Two of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information $1.77 for an 18-ounce bottle from Publix. $3.99 for an 18-ounce bottle from Publix. $2.79 for an 18-ounce bottle from Sweetbay.

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Serving size 2 tablespoons 2 tablespoons 2 tablespoons
Calories 60 30 35
Fat/Fiber 0g / 0g 0g / 0g 0g / 0g
Sugars/Sodium 12g / 370mg 4g / 220mg 6g / 220mg
Carbs/Protein 14g / 0g 6g / 0g 8g / 0g

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Also Sampled: Publix Original ($1.39 for an 18-ounce bottle, 44 points); McCormick Grill Mates ($3.79 for a 19-ounce bottle from Publix, 31 points); Pat's Ho-Made ($1.95 for a 15-ounce bottle from Publix, 48 points); Open Pit ($1.49 for an 18-ounce bottle from Publix, 30 points); Sticky Fingers Memphis Original ($5.49 for an 18-ounce bottle from the Fresh Market, 50 points); Wholly Smoke Sweet Heat ($4.99 for a 20-ounce bottle from the Fresh Market, 29 points); and KC Masterpiece ($2.69 for a 12-ounce bottle from Publix, 54 points).

Panelists: Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Clinique of Plastic Surgery in St. Petersburg; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to