The Hog's Rack California Original
The Hog's Rack California Original
$17.95 for 2 16oz bottles at The Hog's Rack
Molasses, Tomato Sauce, Yellow Mustard, Ketchup, Honey, Sugar, Liquid Smoke, Water, Tomato Paste, Garlic Powder, Soybean Oil, Chili Powder, Black Pepper, Paprika, Onion Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Sea Salt
"The Hog's Rack" certainly elicits visions of barbecue, but the phrase is not what you probably think it means. Toby Thurman, the owner of The Hog's Rack, comes from a family uses the term "rack" as a fill in for "food" or "eating," and "hog" has a positive connotation that, when paired up as "hog's rack," means good and plentiful eating. The origin of the name is not the only unique thing about this sauce, it's also an attempt to start to define a barbecue sauce style that's Californian, a state that lacks a clear home-grown barbecue sauce profile. While the bottling of this sauce is fairly new in recent years, it actually has a longer history, having been first developed at a now shuttered restaurant twenty years ago in Fairfield, California. The Hog's Rack brand currently boasts two sauces, with a couple more in the developmental stages.
A wave of sweet molasses dominates the aroma when taking in the first noseful of this sauce. While the molasses is quite strong, it's not overly sweet as a combo of acidic tomato and pungent mustard help keep the sugars in check. There's also an upfront smokiness that melds well with the molasses. It take some deeper whiffs to get the underlaying spices to come out, but when they do, garlicky, oniony, and earthy notes all help solidify the barbecue profile.
Thickness & Texture
This glossy, dark maroon sauce is opaque, but despite those traits, it's still easy to see a ton of white, red, and black spice specs that are mainly small, but there's a few medium sized bits mixed in too. The sauce has a medium-thin thickness and a very smooth and syrupy consistency, which combine to have the sauce falling from a suspended spoon in a fast and steady pour. After most of the sauce has released, the stream changes to numerous slow drips before ceasing and leaving a thin coating of sauce left clinging to the silverware.
Out of the Jar
Like in the aroma, the molasses hits first and stays with you from start to finish. During that time though, various layers build a unique barbecue profile starting with a sugary tomato that quickly turns acidic and lightly pungent as it mixes with mustard. It's right when that sweetness starts to fade that a smokiness comes in and remains present from there on out. Right before the sauce starts to exit the mouth, the spices come in and are synced up to deliver a lot of complexity that tastes most strongly of garlic, but has onion and pepper undertones. The peppers start as primarily earthy, but impart a slight heat in the aftertaste, combining with an increased tang and still strong molasses to leave a strong and deep flavor lingering.
Slathered & Cooked
This sauce coated the chicken in a thin and even layer that baked down like a champ over indirect heat. This led to no sauce loss over direct heat, and allowed the well adhered sauce layer to caramelize quite well without any burning. The molasses was still the main story after being cooked, but it found a better balance with the tomato and sugars, leaving the taste not overtly molasses. That simple combo was what defined the chicken in the initial bites, but about halfway through eating the leg, the smoke, spices, and light mustard pungency rounded out the flavor, albeit all of these traits were more mellow than what was experienced out of the jar.
Put to Use
I'm a spicy sauce guy, which leads me to try out hot recipes in a brand's line-up first because they're the most likely to win my heart. That's exactly what I did for The Hog's Rack, but after now sampling both sauces, this is one instance where I actually prefer the less spicy version. Both sauces are built from the same base, which is heavily molasses. A strong molasses flavor is not my cup of tea, but I could appreciate the quality and unique flavor that this sauce delivered. I found that deep molasses flavor more at home in the original recipe though, where the sauce tasted more in sync and had just enough heat to add some bite, but not enough to cause an identity crisis. I did have a preference for the sauce in its raw state because, even though it performed exceedingly well on the grill, the flavor was not as robust and nuanced after being cooked. Still, the sauce worked well in both contexts and if you're a molasses fan, there's going to be a lot for you to love here with a flavor that can well paired with many types of dishes like beefy burgers, rubbed and smoked ribs, mellow poultry, and much more.