I am going to break every rule of recipe writing in this post. I’m going to be approximate,give you guidance that you may or may not take, play loose and wild with temperatures and even use a technique different than the title. But I promise there’s a payoff. The purpose of this post is to share a technique that you can use with almost any ingredients to make your own cold smoked BBQ Sauce Recipe. I’m going to share a handy trick and a little ratio that will make your BBQ sauce a surefire winner!
This is a sauce I made on the weekend (before it was blended). I forgot to add the garlic (more on that soon), the heat got out of control and turned my cold smoker into a hot smoker, I was too lazy to take the roots off (they are made of onions) and see the 4 dark rectangles on top of the onions? Those were pieces of mozzarella that I had leftover from making cheeseburgers from lunch – rather than running back to the house, I just laid the cheese on top of the onions to smoke. I over smoked the cheese (it was not really edible) but when mixed into the sauce it was fantastic!
I use a smoke maze (like this) to turn an unlit BBQ into a cold smoker (the team at Whiskey n’ Cleavers turned me on to these years ago). They burn wood pellets (I used Alder) and work similar to incense other than you have to light the ends with a blowtorch! If you’ve never used a torch before don’t be worried – they really are no more difficult or scary than a proper BBQ lighter.
As I said before, if you’re going to make this recipe don’t worry about messing it up. Had I properly cold-smoked my ingredients above the onions would not be wilted/cooked. I smoked them as you see in the picture so the onions that wilted literally dropped into the tomato juice underneath it. Any small amount of charring on the ends just became more flavor.
Cold Smoked BBQ Sauce Recipe – the Smoke
To make this sauce I start with a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes (plus their sauce) or 1 quart jar of home canned tomatoes. I dump them in a stainless steel bowl that I have reserved for smoking (even when clean it shows the sign of hanging in smoke for hours on end). I then add 20-25% of their volume of other ingredients. Green onions, some jalapeños, garlic, leeks, cheese, whatever you want. The key is to add lots of few ingredients (i.e. lots of onions but not lots of onions and lots of garlic and lots of cheese etc). If the other ingredients can be left somewhat exposed (like I did by resting them on the bowl), it will increase the amount of smoke they take on. I then smoke the ingredients under a heavy smoke for 6-8 hours. I take it out when it tastes a little TOO smoky for my liking (the next phases will mellow it out).
Cold Smoked BBQ Sauce Recipe – Assembling the Sauce
Once I have my main ingredients smoked I mix them in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until all of the ingredients are cooked soft (the bulbs were still a little firm coming out of the smoker). I add a healthy pinch of salt and blend the ingredients into the sauce and continue to reduce it until it thickens to the consistency I am looking for.
As the sauce reduces I add my final two ingredients – honey and apple cider vinegar. This is the magical part of the recipe! Instead of predetermining how much to add, I add a ratio – 2 Tablespoons honey to every tablespoon cider vinegar. I taste as I go. it usually takes 8-10 Tablespoons of honey and 4-5 of vinegar to become smoky, sweet and tangy but you may want to adjust to your own liking!
Cold Smoked BBQ Sauce Recipe – Bonus Tips
Here’s two tips that you can ignore if you’d rather (I know some prefer a recipe to be short and sweet):
- Adding a final touch of salt and a portion of honey and vinegar at the very end of the cooking process will really brighten the sauce.
- If the sauce is too smoky for you, you can add beer and cook it down to the thickness you prefer. This will significantly lengthen the process but add another layer of flavor and reduce the smokiness.
Cold Smoked BBQ Sauce Recipe – The Recipe in the Picture Above
Here’s what we did to make this sauce on the weekend:
- 28 Oz can plum tomatoes with juices (or a 1-quart jar of preserved whole tomatoes)
- 2 bunches green onions
- 3 thick slices mozzarella cheese
- Healthy pinch of salt
- 5 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 10 Tbsp honey
- Also requires:
- Cold smoker
- Wood (we used Alder Pellets)
- Stainless steel bowl for smoking
- Light your cold smoker and allow it to build smoke while assembling ingredients.
- Pour tomatoes and sauce into stainless bowl. Drape with onions and rest cheese on top of that. Place in smoker and smoke for 6-8 hours.
- Carefully transfer ingredients into a saucepan and simmer over medium until onions are soft.
- Add a generous (1/2-1 tsp.) coarse salt.
- Blend into a sauce and return to a simmer over medium heat.
- As the sauce reduces, add 1 Tbsp vinegar and 2 Tbsp honey and taste. Continue to add as it reduces, tasting as you go (as described above). Your taste preference may require more or less honey/vinegar.
- Taste and add salt if needed.
- Remember - you're a rockstar!