The Meatwave

Cattlemen's Classic Barbecue Sauce

Cattlemen's Classic Barbecue Sauce

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Cattlemen's Classic Barbecue Sauce

Cattlemens' BBQ Sauce

Approximately $2.79 for a 1 lb 2 oz bottle

Tomato Paste, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Molasses, Salt, Mustard Bran, Natural Hickory Smoke Flavors, Spices, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Sodium Benzoate, Caramel Color, Sugar, and Natural Flavors

 Barbecue Sauce


I searched the internet far and wide, and this is the first sauce I wasn't able to come up with some sort of history for. The website and bottle just have some marketing speak about "30 years of experience" and the "#1 choice of professional chefs." What I can tell you is that Cattlemen's is a fairly common supermarket brand, distributed by French's Foods. It also looks like some re-branding has been done, and the bottle I picked up of "Cattlemen's Classic Barbecue Sauce," is now called "Cattlemen's Kansas City Classic." The list of ingredients is identical, so I'm guessing it's still the same sauce in the bottle.


A strong, deep tomato smell fills the nostrils when taken in. There's a heavy smokiness to it, hickory to be exact. There isn't too much sweetness, but molasses comes through, along with a little mustard tang.

Thickness & Texture

This medium-thick sauce has a few spices visible as you watch the sauce fall off a spoon in globs. It has a little bit of a grittiness in an otherwise smooth sauce.

Out of the Jar

There's a definite grittiness to the sauce on the tongue, and not one of the more pleasing ones. The flavors here are bold and in your face. Tomato is the first to hit, but quickly gives way to a heavy burn of vinegar. There's a smokiness throughout, but that plays second fiddle to the two dominate flavors. Managing to pull out some more notes, I could taste garlic and onion, but while high fructose corn syrup and molasses were high on the ingredient list, sweetness was not much of a trait here.

 Barbecue Sauce

Slathered & Cooked

With the gritty texture and overpowering flavors of the sauce out of the jar, I wasn't expecting much from the cooked sauce, but I was left pleasantly surprised. The sauce had excellent grilling properties—it clung to the chicken, baked in layers, and caramelized perfectly. Behind the good looks was also some really nice flavor. The tomato was robust with a nice touch of smoke. The vinegar backed down and the sweetness found a way out, creating a pleasing balance that wasn't too sweet, too smoky, or too tangy, it was just a great piece of barbecue chicken. For a deep, delicious, and dominant tomato flavor, this was actually one of my favorite sauces so far.

Put to Use

Too bold and too gritty, I was ready to dismiss this sauce as normal supermarket mediocrity on first taste, but it found real life after being cooked. You want to taste the great tomato flavor and see the beautiful caramelization, so I think chicken is really prime candidate for this sauce, although it could find a happy home on ribs and other pork products as well. Even though it did produce a good looking and good tasting chicken leg, it still didn't have much defining it beyond a respectable major brand. If you're going to be grilling with sauce, and limited to what's in the supermarket, this is a solid choice, but in the larger world of sauces, this falls somewhere just above average.

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  1. Philip Berne My wife worked at the French's parent company. I think this sauce was really a contest winner, and they bought the rights to the recipe. I'll ask her and see if she had more info. This is one of my favorite bottled sauces, too.

  2. Josh @Phil That would be great. I could become the internet's #1 resource on Cattlemen's history, haha.

  3. Bkhuna I like to use Cattleman's Classic as a base. Out of the bottle it's OK, but a few "secret" enhancements and it's spot on for ribs and chicken.

  4. Josh @Bkhuna That brings up a really good point, that often these supermarket sauces can be a great base to start your own. I've started to discard the mediocre leftovers from my sauce tastings and only saving the best of the best (otherwise I'd be swimming in sauces), but experimenting with improving them would be much more productive :)

  5. concerned baby jacks bbq in bartlett tn is using cattlemans sauces 5 of them under there own name, straight out of your bottle into theirs and selling as well as in store saying it is there own recipe. i think that sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!! wanna be bbq restraunt