Rib Rack Hot Honey BBQ Sauce
Rib Rack Hot Honey BBQ Sauce
Approximately $4.00 for 19oz at local grocery stores
Brown Sugar, Tomato Puree, Distilled Vinegar, Honey, Molasses, Corn Starch, Salt, Spices, Dried Onion, Garlic Powder
When I first saw Rib Rack hit the shelves in my local grocery stores about five years ago, there were just a handful of sauce varieties in the line-up, but the brand has since prospered and now boasts nine unique sauces along with rubs, marinades, and pork rinds. To get to the start of things though, you need go even further back in time when Mike Owens and Mark Tomas forged a friendship over barbecuing outside of their fraternity while at Central Michigan University. The two followed their own career paths after graduating, but barbecue once again brought them together in 2004 when they decided to open a smoke joint in Lathrup Village, MI, which they called Rib Rack. They opened one additional location Waterford, MI before calling it quits on being restauranteurs and shifting their efforts to barbecue sauce production and sales. With a focus on simple, natural ingredients, the Rib Rack brand has steadily expanded its offerings and reach since the time I picked up that initial bottle in 2019.
There's a strong sweetness in the first whiff of this sauce, but the profile leans in favor of molasses and tomato over honey initially. A deeper noseful does bring honey into the picture though, while also adding mild amounts of vinegar and garlic too. While all of these form to provide a definite barbecue aroma, there's a lack of any further complexity.
Thickness & Texture
This maroon sauce has a very glossy sheen too it and is quite opaque. That may be why you can't really see any spices. The sauce has syrupy consistency and is a notch or two above the medium thick point. All of this combines to leave the sauce falling off of a spoon in one large drip at first, followed by an uneven medium pour that quickly changes to a couple smaller, slow drips and ceases, leaving a medium coating of sauce left clinging to the silverware.
Out of the Jar
The first taste is like taking in a spoonful of sugar. The initial sweetness gains a depth from molasses and honey as it settles on the tongue, while tomato adds a sweet ketchup-like flavor. It takes a few seconds more for vinegar to provide a little contrast to the sugars, and a light peppery kicks joins at the same time. There's the faintness garlicky undertone as the peppers ramp up to a mildish heat which finally tempers some of the sweetness and leaves a more balanced aftertaste of sweet tangy tomato with enough peppery kick to impart a slight tingle on the tongue.
Slathered & Cooked
This sauce brushed onto the chicken in a medium, uneven layer that also remained pretty splotchy looking after multiple brushings and allowing time for the sauce to set over indirect heat. This led to a lot of sauce loss once the leg was moved directly over the coals, and maybe that's why there was also very little caramelization and no burning despite there being an obvious sugar-heavy content. An extra brushing before consuming helped the chicken have more suitable layer of sauce in the end. The flavor skewed even heavier in favor of sweet after being cooked and was very sticky. The honey actually tasted stronger at this point, but there was still a heavy molasses backing it up. It took a few bites to get any vinegar to enter, and the heat didn't make itself known until the leg was almost done being consumed.
Put to Use
I eventually plan to get through the entire Rib Rack brand of sauces, but they seem to always be in stores and I've found each one to be pretty solidly ranking in the middle of the road, so I'm never in a rush to get to the next one. The Hot Honey recipe just further solidified my pervious findings with a flavor that definitely delivers on the brand's promise of simple tasting, but to a fault. With such a strong sweetness without a lot of complexity to make it interesting, the sauce ultimately falls flat when compared to many others. I was hoping the "Hot" portion of this sauce would win my heart more than the past Rib Rack sauces I tried, but the heat was too subdued, especially after being cooked. Pair that with less than ideal grilling qualities and I think you can safely skip this sauce, although if you do pick it up, it will deliver a barbecue flavor that's not objectionable in any way, it just won't render your chicken, ribs, burgers, etc. all that they could be.