Tuesday, July 24

Homemade Barbecue Pizza (Secret Ingredient Included)

You would think that by the time you reach your mid-20’s, you'd know the definition of certain words. I’m not talking about esoteric words; I’m talking about familiar ones, like barbecue. Yet, when Jeff and I moved from Rhode Island to North Carolina, we quickly discovered that some words have distinctly different meanings in different places.

Shortly after we moved to Chapel Hill, we were asked by one of our new friends, Mary-Ellen, if we had ever been to a barbecue before. Well, sure we had. What did they think? That people in New England lived in a permafrost where it was never warm enough to cook outside? Yet, she kept carrying on about this being our first barbecue in North Carolina. We were mystified; in Rhode Island, the only thing people get that worked up over is lobster.

When we arrived there wasn’t even a grill; however, there was what appeared to be a large steel oil drum cut in half with thick white smoke pouring from it. This was no barbecue. We had been duped! Jeff, turned to me and whispered, “I don't think we're having hamburgers, Sue.” Before I could answer, Mary-Ellen grabbed us by the arms and escorted us to the main attraction: a large butchered animal, that appeared to be straight out of Jeff's gross anatomy class, splayed out over the flames. No kidding.

Jeff said, “Well, that looks like a pig, Mary-Ellen.” To which she replied (more to her guests), “See, these Yankees know a thing or two about barbecue after all.”

We learned that in North Carolina, “barbecue" refers more to the method of cooking the pork than it does to the sauce you put on it, and definitely not to grilled hotdogs and hamburgers. North Carolinians love their barbecue so much that they even have two types—Eastern and Western, or Lexington-style. I won’t attempt to explain all the specifics since they have an entire lexicon for barbecue. We heard most of it that day at Mary-Ellen's, which after about two hours, made me a little bleary-eyed. ‘Course that could have been the acrid smoke from the barbecue pit.

For me, the best part of any barbecue is the sauce. The main difference in the sauces is that Lexington-style has a tomato base, such as ketchup or tomato paste, whereas Eastern doesn’t. In fact, I learned three important things about barbecue sauce:

1. Never buy bottled sauce.
2. If you do, lie and say it was homemade.
3. Say that there is a “secret” ingredient in it, then tell no one, even upon threat of bodily injury.

So it was that living in North Carolina convinced me to abandon my bottled barbecue sauce in favor of homemade. Though I do not purport to be any type of barbecue sauce expert, I’m a Lexington-style gal; I love ketchup in my sauce. But I wouldn't tell that to a staunch Eastern barbecue devotee, such as Dennis Rogers, who claims: "People who would put ketchup in the sauce they feed to innocent children are capable of most anything."

After I start with some ketchup and vinegar, the ingredients vary—sometimes chipotles for a smoky flavor, sometimes grilled peppers and onions for a slightly sweet-slightly charred flavor.

The following recipe, however, is my go-to barbecue sauce. Every time I eat it, it never fails to excite my tastebuds. Its’ pure salty-sweet-tangy deliciousness. (That’s Food Blogga barbecue lexicon.) So, I’m submitting it to Andrew of Spittoon Extra who has chosen sauces (great theme, Andrew!) for this month’s Waiter, There’s Something in My…event.

Food Blogga's Never Fail BBQ Sauce
Print recipe only here.

1 cup Heinz ketchup (I simply won’t use any other brand. Sorry.)
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 heaping Tbsp brown spicy mustard
3 Tbsp SECRET INGREDIENT** (see below)
7-8 good shakes of Tabasco sauce

This barbecue sauce is excellent on grilled meats, sandwiches, crispy eggs, and, my favorite, pizza. With fresh corn on the cob, sweet Vidalia onions, and creamy smoked Gouda, this is a swoon-worthy summertime pizza that I return to again and again.

BBQ Pizza with Fresh Summer Corn and Sweet Onions
Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

1 pound pizza dough
1 tsp canola oil
1 sweet onion, such as a Vidalia, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 tsp sugar
1 ear of corn on the cob (about 1 cup)
½ cup never-fail bbq sauce
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese (or sharp cheddar, if you prefer)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, optional garnish

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onions and sugar; stir occasionally, until the onions caramelize and turn a deep golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Add the corn, and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven (see temps below). Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a sheet of parchment paper (if using a stone) or to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread barbecue sauce evenly over the dough; top with ½ shredded cheese. Arrange the onion and corn mixture on top. Top with remaining ½ shredded cheese.

For a pizza stone, bake at 500 degree for about 10 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.

For a baking sheet, bake at 450 for about 20 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.

Let cool slightly before slicing. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley if desired, and serve with a side of barbecue sauce for dipping. (Oh, Jeff just reminded me—and a cold beer).

**OK, I give. My secret ingredient is soy sauce. So, PLEASE, no threats of bodily harm. Would you share YOUR SECRET INGREDIENT with us?

You might also like:

Grilled Lobster
Of Yankees and Yams
Dad's Potato Pizza

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Asha said...

Yes Ma'am,Lexington BBQ rocks!! I made that sauce with Chicken Burgers for Independence day lunch and posted it at FH too!:)
Looks and sounds fabulous.I will try your's version too.My daughter loves BBQ Chicken Pizza too.

Matt said...

BBQ Pizza... WOW! I can only imagine the flavor the grill infused into this pizza.

Mishmash ! said...

Well..that was lots of info about BBQ sauce, atleast for someone like me who keep comparing each time I taste a bbq sauce as none taste the same!! Bookmarking your recipe..thanks :)


Meeta K. Wolff said...

Incredible. BBQ taste on a pizza what could be more irresistible. Susan, I love this recipe it's perfect!

Abby said...

Ohhhhh boy. I'm a Western gal married to an Eastern guy whose uncle actually is a BBQ king (restaurant and all in Bob Garner's bbq book!)

I'm torn. I like them both. But that keeps everybody happy.

And soy sauce! GREAT idea.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

My secret ingredient is coffee! I've actually never made a BBQ-topped pizza -- ever since I tried one at California Pizza Kitchen back in the day, I haven't been able to bring myself to eat another. But your recipe looks so good.....

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

WaaHoo not that is a pizza I'd like a slice of! That looks excellent, love the corn.
I've made some BBQ sauces but like North Carolina, Texas is a place one must be very careful about what is called BBQ.

Katie Zeller said...

My secret ingredient is molasses!

I have barbecued a pig - in the permafrost of Minnesota. We don't even bring up the subject here in France, sigh.... The only time we did, we got some, um, sausages with tripe and, um, bones and other unchewables...okay, I'm done.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the recipe for the bbq sauce. I love Heinz too! Barbecue does have so many meanings. In the Philippines it means meat on a stick or kabobs. Imagine my surprise when I came to Richmond,Va and find out that it meant something smoked and pulled with "bbq" sauce...

Anh said...

Oh, so the 'secret ingredient' is soya sauce. Thanks for the tips, Susan. I'll try it out!

SteamyKitchen said...

Soy sauce.!?!?!?

Thats my peeps contribution to American BBQ?

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

That is one fine looking pizza! And a recipe made from Heinz Ketchup! You are a culinary soul mate!!

Stella said...

Thanks for encouraging me to make my own bbq sauce Susan, especially with Soy sauce, it must taste great!
You're pizza sure looks uber delicious & finger licking good!

Toni said...

I love this post, from start to finish! Seems that the people in the south share something in common with the people in New Mexico. The site of that drum with smoke coming out of it sounded all too familiar....

And oh....do I long for that pizza! Oh yes! My late husband used to use the just-about-scraped-out bottles of anything and everything in the kitchen to make a barbecue sauce. And yes, Heinz ketchup was definitely one of the ingredients!

Thanks for this post, Susan. As they say in the south, "I'm all over that like white on rice!"

Anonymous said...


Now you know that when you are invited over for barbecue, why you don't wear your favorite new white shirt, and if they say 'Come on over for a cook-out" that it's probably OK.

'Cue is my fav, but I am kinda against ketchup for personal reasons, although I likely couldn't tell that your sauce was made from it.

Susan Voisin said...

The sauce and the pizza look yummy.

My secret ingredient is really a whole recipe. When I first moved to South Carolina, I was amazed to see that their barbecue sauce is yellow. I don't know if it's in any way similar to NC's Eastern style, but the main ingredient is mustard. At first I was kind of horrified, but I really came to love it. I posted my recipe on my blog, so it's no secret anymore!

Anonymous said...

Hey yins all, I'm from W Pennsylvania, where barbeque is a thin red liquid smothering chipped ham. For the past 15 years I've been in SE Virginia where Carolina pork Vinegar bbq with cole slaw and hot sauce rules! I love me some eastern Carolina bbq!!! Oh and if you think the revelation you had at Mary-Ellen's was a shocker...you should've seen my reaction when my husband informed me that the children I had given birth to...were southern red necks!! LOL

Patricia Scarpin said...

Gosh, that pizza looks delicious, Susan!!

What a brave girl you are, revealing your secret to us! :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Asha-Yeh! Another Lexington lover! I actually put grilled turkey on my husband's sometimes.

Suburbangourmet-Oh, it's yummy!

Shn-Oh, thanks so much! The variations are endless.

Meeta-Aw, so glad you like it!

Abby-Seriously? How cool! And you're a smart girl, Abby. Compromise... it's the secret to a good marriage, and some bbq sauce doesn't hurt either.

Lydia-Ooh, I'd love to try it with coffee!

Tanna-I haven't ever tasted bbq sauce from Texas. I'm sure like NC, it has its own lexicon and cultural traditions.

Katiez-Oh, yes, I love, love, love dark, sticky molasses. As for the tripe, well...:)

Veronica-They love "pulled" pork in NC too. :)

Anh-Hope you like it!

Jaden-Hey, it's multicultural. :)

T.W.-You're a Heinz devotee as well? Rock on! ;)

Valentina-I actually do quite a bit of finger licking when I make this sauce. It's just sooo good. :)

Toni-Hah! :) Don't even get me started on all of those fabulous colloquialisms!

Kate-Funny you should mention the white shirt, since Jeff was wearing one this past weekend while eating the pizza. And after one particularly big bite, a dollop of bbq sauce splattered on his white shirt. Thank goodness for "SHOUT," cause we weren't about to stop midway through the pizza to do laundry!

SusanV-I make some with mustard too. I wonder if you use only golden or yellow or dry mustard.

C'tina-Then I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I? You crack me up.:)

Patricia-It's just among friends, right?

Anonymous said...

The pizza and the sauce both sound wonderful, Susan. Soy sauce, eh? That's also my wife's secret ingredient for her chili.

Sara said...

I hope one day to be able to head down to the southern US to have some real bbq. Your pizza looks fabulous, can't wait to try it!

Nupur said...

I don't make barbecue sauce at home, but if I did, the secret ingredient would be sambal oelek (my new love!)
We make chicken barbecue pizzas a lot at the community kitchen I work at...they are such a crowd-pleaser.

Deb said...

That looks soooo good....I don't think I could make them fast enough at my house!

bazu said...

That pizza looks fabulous! I love the idea of soy sauce as secret ingredient. Our secret ingredient is celery. Oh, and Coke! That's right, some flat coca cola and you've got yourself a not-so-healthy but oh-so-delicious BBQ sauce!

Judy said...

Oh wow, that sounds so good. Oh pizza, my love....

Amy said...

Soy sauce as a secret ingredient is a great idea! BBQ pizza sounds delish!

Sea said...

Looks delicious!!! Corn is a popular ingredient in Japanese pizzas- as is mayonnaise, but corn and BBQ sauce sounds really intriguing! I just made a killer pizza last night with roasted veggies... next time I'll try bbq sauce and see how it goes. And yes, I have a secret recipe too... ;)

-seamaiden from www.bookofyum.com

Chris said...

This looks great. I am not a huge fan of BBQ - which causes some issues down here - but your pizza looks very inviting!


Anonymous said...

What a great line: “I don't think we're having hamburgers, Sue.” Like, ""Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." (Home of another great barbecue, by the way.)

Pizza looks and sounds delish!

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

If it weren't so true it would be funny!
You know the famous line in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes is 'The Secret's in the Sauce'

KellytheCulinarian said...

Hey I just came upon your blog. Great looking pizza. I did a similar one a few months back, but it yours is much prettier. Check it out at: http://kellytheculinarian.blogspot.com/2007/05/cooking-kelly-bbq-chicken-pizza.html

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Terry-Well, then, I'm in good company!

Sara-It's a fun experience.

Nupur-Oh, your secret ingredient sounds so much more exotic!

Deb-They are addictive.

Bazu-Celery? Really? Coke I've heard of but never tried. I'm game though. When do you wanna come over?

Judy-Pizza is my love too....

Amy-A little salty and tangy.

Sea-In Japanese cooking? I didn't know that. Thanks for sharing.

Chris-I could see how that would be problematic. ;)

Christine-I actually thought about that line when I was writing the post!

Sandi-Ah, yes, great flick!

Kelly-Thanks so much, and I will!

bazu said...

Hey Susan,
I just wanted to clarify about the celery in the BBQ sauce- we put 2 2-3" pieces in the sauce as it was simmering, and then removed them before using the sauce. So it was celery as a flavoring agent, not as a final component. It adds a great savory taste, though!

Hey, my dad's been bugging me to come to L.A. for a visit. So I may be coming over sooner than you think..!

Anonymous said...

Soy sauce..brilliant!
This pizza looks so good. Perfectly made with a delicious amount of toppings.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your secret with us! :) You've inspired me to make my own sauce from scratch!

I love barbecue pizza!

Anonymous said...

I have to get my mind around barbecue sauce on pizza (although if you say it's swoon-worthy, I'm sure it is-- I trust you on these things)but my first thought is how good this would be on grilled chicken.

Scribbit said...

I had no idea that there was anything but plain old BBQ-no east v. west thing. And until this moment I'd nearly always bought my sauce. I had tried making it myself once but found the results to be inferior and never tried it again but never again. You've convinced me.

J said...

That seems a nice BBQ sauce. There seem so many variations!

Sig said...

Nice post Susan... I got very confused about Barbecue too at one time when I first came into this country... and did a lot of research to figure out whether it is a sauce or type of cooking, and finally figured that it just depends on who you ask! anywayz, thanks for all that info, and I loved your secret ingredient... I'm not a bbq sauce fan though, so never made the sauce hence don't have a secret ingredient... if I did, it would be some kind of alocohol I'm sure :D

Nora B. said...

Loveky post, Susan. And thanks for sharing your SECRET INGRDIENT. Since you have been so kind as to share that, I will share mine with you. It's...
(did I keep you in suspense? )

Hope you are having a lovely week.

Ciao, Nora

WokandSpoon said...

Hello there! Thanks for stopping by my blog and for sharing your secret ingredient in your BBQ sauce!! I totally agree - I only ever buy Heinz ketchup as well!

s'kat said...

Goodness, I have never had a barbecue pizza! You are going to have me cooking/chopping up a storm this weekend.

I've never actually made barbecue sauce (I use Pigman's thinned out with cider vinegar), butif I did I'd try out just a little touch of fish sauce.

Pip said...

I'll definetly try to make this BBQ sauce, looks delicious!
I've never tried a BBQ pizza, but this mix of Gouda, onion, corns and BBQ sauce seems simply great!! :PP (I'm not one of those Italians who have pizza with tomato and mozzarella only, I like to experiment)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Bazu- Thanks, I appreciate it!

Kristen-I like it loaded with toppings!

Joey-Glad to hear it!

Julie- Trust me. I wouldn't lie about something as serious as bbq sauce.

Michelle-I hope you try it; you're kids will probably like it.


Sig-You crack me up. ;)

Nora b-Good one, Nora. ;)I've got to try coffee now!

Wokandspoon-Yes! Another Heinz devotee! ;)

Skat-Oh, go make one. Right now! Hurry!

Pip-That's so cool to hear!

Jeanne said...

Oh Susan, that's hilarious! Reminds me of my post comparing the South African and English styles of BBQing (or braaing!). I'm sure there's a thesis lurking in there somewhere: "A comparative analysis of the impact of cultural markers on open-air cooking". Maybe a little joint research project? LOL!

I have also never made my own BBQ sauce but I think I may start. My secret ingredient would either be chipotle paste, or South African Mrs Balls hot & spicy chutney.