Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Head Country BBQ Sauce

Head Country BBQ Sauce


Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3.5 out of 5) This is a measure of thickness, not quality
Aroma *** (3.5 out of 5)

Appearance *** (3 out of 5)

Packaging ** (2.5 out of 5)

Head Country is one of those sauces that are ubiquitous on the competition scene. I know first hand that many competitors use the sauce straight out of the bottle or with some minor modifications (a little cider vinegar as you head south, a little honey up north, etc.). It has recently come to my attention that many competitors that sell their sauce are actually selling Head Country under their own label.

Their omnipresent nature points to both positives and negatives with the sauce. The flavor profile is so spot-on for what the judges like to taste that you can do fairly well by just using it straight out of the bottle. The negative is that it doesn’t have a well defined identity that screams ‘Head Country’. It’s almost as if they have become synonymous with competition sauce, like Kleenex is with tissues. Normally, that’s not my thing. I prefer sauces that are a bit off the beaten path.

As a matter of fact, I would almost like to ascribe more vehemence to the negative side of the equation, but the sauce is just too good to do so. Although I often beat the drum of experimentation and uniqueness, this sauce is fine just the way it is. There is a reason why it is used by competitors. It is excellent.

The labeling is pretty mundane. A white label adorns the bottle. Red lettering highlights the display and there is an award ribbon on the top left. Rather unpretentious for such a well respected sauce.

Bottled in an 18oz thick, glass jar, Head Country pours easily. Middle of the road in coloring (not too dark, not too bright), the sauce doesn’t offer much visual variation. No ingredients are visible aside from the ketchup base.

When you hold the sauce up towards your nose you are offered a strong aroma of a vinegary ketchup. It’s quite nice. We have mentioned before that it seems to be more difficult to get a nuanced aroma in a KC style sauce than it is to get a nuanced taste.

‘Smooth’ would be a good word to describe the texture of the sauce. I would have preferred something a bit more interesting, but again; that’s not what the manufacturer is doing. There are no detectable ingredients that you can crunch on or roll around separately from the rest of the sauce. There are no sizeable pepper flakes or diced onion. Just straight up sauce. The sauce is just the right thickness to hold onto the meat well. Proper application of this sauce will ensure no dripping and no mess.

The flavor is excellent. It has the clean, refreshing taste of a sauce made without corn syrup. The brown sugar offers a light, sweet taste that makes it such a natural companion to the ketchup. The sauce has a slight tartness that lasts after the meat is eaten. Lifting the sauce to the roof of your mouth helps to pull out the mild but enjoyable heat that offsets the sweetness.

If you want to see what the serious competitors are using and why, give Head Country a try. Quality and simplicity trumps everything else in this excellent sauce.

I do the majority of the sauce analysis on this site. I have often been assisted by Will Breakstone of Willie B’s Award Winning BBQ (pitmaster, competitor and caterer). The foods used with the sauces are usually brisket, pulled pork and chicken. On occasion, other foods will be used if recommended by the manufacturer (ex. burgers, fries, meatloaf, etc.).

Most of the food used for the reviews is cooked on a Weber Smoky Mountain or a Lang 84. The basic BBQ accoutrements (such as tool sets, chimney starters, etc.) are by Weber. Knives are by Mercer Cutlery. Fuel is either a cherry/oak mix or whatever charcoal I’m in the mood for.



BP said...

Great review!

Mike Haws said...

"one that are?" Do they not teach conjugation in english anymore?