Arthur Bryant's Original Barbeque Sauce
Arthur Bryant's Sweet Heat was one of the first sauces I reviewed, and I remember it fondly. Looking back through my archives, I decided I wanted to revisit some of the sauce producers from my early reviewing days and see how they stand up now that I've worked my way through more than 100 bottles of sauces.
Arguably one of the most famous barbecue joints, most of have probably at least heard of the name Arthur Bryant's. This Kansas City institution has been around over 100 years, starting in 1908 when Henry Perry began selling barbecue in the Garment District. Charlie Bryant was under Henry's employ when the store moved to its current location in the 18th Street and Vine neighborhood. During these formative years, Charlie's brother Arthur paid him a visit and never left. Following Henry's death, the business switched hands to Charlie, and then later to Arthur after Charlie's passing. Arthur took the time to really perfect the smoked meats and sauces that still continue on today.
This sauce has a strong spiced vinegar aroma. It smells like a complex and earthy pepper sauce, something akin to Frank's Red Hot without as much heat and a less harsh vinegar tang. There's a deep tomato backdrop to it without the sugar, very much hitting on the tomato paste base. Within the barrage of spices, notes such as onion, garlic, and hot pepper are distinguishable, although definitely not the only players at the party.
Thickness & Texture
The rusty orange sauce is mostly smooth, but has a bit of a textured appearance from all the spices and thick tomato paste. Though its opaque, some of these spices can be seen, mostly as black specs of pepper, with the rest blending in with the orange tomato base. From a suspended spoon, this sauce first falls in a fast and steady stream, but then begins to get a little chunky as it slows. Three or four final drips quickly leave the spoon, ending with a medium coating left clinging, whose opaqueness completely masks the silverware underneath.
Out of the Jar
That load of spices really defines this sauce from start to finish. The fist taste is a mix of earthy spice suspended in a mellow vinegar. As the sauce settles on the tongue, the tartness amps way up to an unpleasant apex, while the tomato comes out and adds depth with no sweetness to balance out the extra acidity. The spices create a gritty texture that lingers as the sauce begins to leave the tongue. As this point, more earthiness from the peppers comes out along with heat. It's a very off flavor and leaves an awkward hot and spicy aftertaste.
Slathered & Cooked
The sauce coated the chicken evenly and baked down very well. Too well in fact, as all the moisture left the sauce and created a dry spice coating on the leg. The crust remained unchanged over direct heat, with no burning or burn off. As the looks implied, there was no real sauciness to this, it was all spice. Like out of the jar, it was super earthy with a mild heat. The rather off and unpleasant characteristics of the spice mixture remained, making the final chicken leg taste a little dry, confused, and overly complex.
Put to Use
I really want to get a bottle of Sweet Heat again and see how it holds up to my more discerning taste buds now. It's hard for me imagine that an Arthur Bryant's sauce I loved so much had much in common with this original recipe. Sure Arthur Bryant's Original hit barbecue sauces points along the way—tomato, vinegar, heat, etc.—but it did so in such an odd and off balanced manner that it was somewhat unpleasant on the whole. I think more sugar and moisture would fix this sauce, which maybe is why the Sweet Heat worked where this one failed. I've yet to visit Arthur Bryant's, but when I finally do, I'll shy away from the Original recipe and leave my smoked meats bare or use Sweet Heat to ensure I have an optimal experience.
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MikeinMN I feel a little better after reading this review, as all I have ever read is raves about everything Arthur Bryant's. I was there on a busy day.The sauces were midway through the long line, and I bought a 3 pack before trying them because I didn't want to wait in line twice. I thought their BBQ was OK at best, and I was also disappointed in the sauces. Maybe I caught them on a bad day for the meat (it happens) but the sauce was, in my opinion, about a 3 of 10 just as reviewed here.
Walash As a native Kansas Citian, I disagree but get where you're coming from. Tart and sharp, earthy and sometimes awkward, it's an acquired taste for sure. To me though what sets it apart is there's nothing quite like it out there. Maybe it's flavored with a bit of nostalgia, but it's definitely more than a three
KC isn't next door to NYC, but worth the trip for the BBQ if nothing else. I recommend timing it with the American Royal or a Chiefs home game for the tailgating.
Bob I'm also native to the KC area, and have never understood why people rave about Arthur Bryant's. It's not that it's horrible, disgusting and vile, because it isn't, it's just that labelling it "barbeque sauce" sets expectations for what it's going to be like that don't really match the actuality. "Nothing quite like it out there" is fair enough, but I think I can possibly be a bit more descriptive.
Imagine someone from to whom the very notion of BBQ sauce is a foreign concept. He's never actually tasted any ... in fact, the only sauce of any kind he's ever had is Worcestershire sauce. However, he's heard about this "BBQ sauce" thing and wants to try his hand at making it, but the only description of it that he can find that makes any sense to him is that it's got vinegar in it, but it also has tomato paste and spices and is somewhat thick in consistency. It's not outside the realm of possibility that he might come up with something resembling Arthur Bryant's Original, which to my tastebuds bears more than a passing resemblance to Worcestershire sauce with tomato paste and "BBQ spices" added.
David I like the earthy flavors. I also like the fact that, like the other classic KC joint, Gates, their sauce isn't sugary. My thinking is that sweet does not compliment meat at all... people just have sugar cravings. For me, don't mess with a great sauce... eat a candy bar.
yucca tan I try new foods/sauces, that I don't like, a couple of times to finalize my feelings about it. Author Bryant's original BBQ sauce just out right sucks, it taste horrible. Get a spoonful of paprika and suck on it, that's what ABs BBQ sauce taste like. There's really nothing good I can say about the taste. I threw it out after a month of 8 tries. I would give it to someone I don't like as a gift.
Peter I've always loved this sauce precisely for three reasons: 1) its unique flavor, heavy on celery seed. 2) It's not a sugar bomb like most sauces and 3), no "smoke flavoring"/Liquid Smoke in it. It's a true barbecue sauce in the original sense, a sauce to be used for barbecue, not a sauce that tastes like barbecue (although, yes, the definition has shifted to the latter for most people.)
HungryHeath I used this sauce for the 1st time yesterday & ruined a batch of burnt ends. Worst sauce I have ever tasted!
Sam Nachbar Well obviously you're not a president & your tastes are not refined enough.
charlie tango I lived in Kansas City from 1953 tp 1961.. My father worked downtown and got paid every Friday.. About twice a month, he would stop by CHARLIE Bryants and buy about 2 or 3 pounds of BBQ Beef Brisket at Charlie's.. They would always give you a small container of their sauce.. Dad was a "purist" and loathed ANYTHING on his BBQ Beef.. but I liked the BBQ Sauce.. His hair would bleed when he saw me dump Charlie's sauce on my strips of BBQ Beef Brisket.. Charlie would have jugs of his sauce displayed in the windows for sale..
"Arthur" Bryants sauce sure as Hell ain't Charlies sauce.. Arthurs is junky sweet like all the rest of the commercial BBQ sauces you buy.. Charlie's sauce was ORANGE..not Red colored and I thought it weird ( I was 5-13 yrs old then) cause it tasted "different" and, like I said, it was ORANGE not Red and not even sweet at all..
He used a LOT of Black Pepper (when wet or mixed with liquids, Pepper tastes kinda "green".. took me a while to figure that out) and not sweet, and tasted of some kind of chilies and VINEGAR.. im guessing it was old man Perryis original recipe, and had MUSTARD in it.. It may have had a little sweetener in it.. but not much.. "Arthur" Bryants is NOT THE SAME.. I was very disappointed when I tried it.. The basic flavor can be found in Tapatio and Pico Pica Mexican hot sauce.. Dump some Black Pepper in those and a little vinegar and a pinch of Brown Suger (VERY LITTLE) and it comes kinda close to it.. I live in Arizona (since 1961) and sure miss CHARLIE BRYANT'S SAUCE.
Mike I'm a native Iowan , but I moved to Kansas City in 1980. Like the rest of the country north of Missouri I thought grilling was BBQ.
I tried all the famous places around Kansas City and it didn't take me long to realize that Bryant's was the best of the lot. BBQ, in essence, is smoked meat. The sauce is just a finish. I don't know why everybody thinks meat has to be drowned in a sweet syrup to be good. If you use sauce at all you just caramelize it on at the very end of the smoking process. Thats how they've been doing it for better than 100 years.Bryant's sauce should be used in moderation, like all things. BTW, any pit THAT USES liquid smoke in ANYTHING on their menu is just serving Mcribs.