There are many ways to divide up the world of barbecue sauces. Sauces can be sweet or hot. Sauces can be thin or thick. No matter how you want to categorize barbecue sauces, you will always end up with exceptions. Though I don't know where exactly to pigeonhole the great Alabama White Barbecue Sauce, I find that most serious barbecuer's categorize sauces by what they are based on. Most barbecue sauces are based on tomatoes, vinegar, or mustard.
Of course, there are differences between marinades, mops, sops, finishing sauces, etc. Sauces are used throughout the barbecue and grilling process, but you need to be careful with sauces that contain a lot of sugar since they can burn at high temperatures.
Tomato based barbecue sauces are by far the most commonly used, but the most avoided by the oldest barbecue traditions. To make a great tomato barbecue sauce, remember to cook the sauce thoroughly to break down the tomato flavor and to blend with the other ingredients. In fact, it is best to make it a day or two before you plan to serve it. This way the flavors will be well diffused into the sauce making it much better.
The vinegar based barbecue sauce is the creation of traditional North Carolina barbecue. These thin sauces can be used throughout the cooking process and aid in tenderizing of foods. Also, since vinegar is acidic it has the power to carry flavors deep into the meat. Try mixing up a sauce of cider vinegar with red pepper to make a hot, flavorful, yet simple barbecue sauce.
If you head south of North Carolina you will find the mustard-based barbecue sauces. These wonderful sauces are perfect for pork whether you plan on smoking a whole hog or grilling up some pork chops.
Every barbecue cook has his or her favorite sauce and just about everyone has their favorite way of serving them. Sauces can be carefully guarded, constantly being improved, and unique to any great barbecue. I have a wide variety of sauce recipes to help you start formulating the sauce that is right for you. Remember, like all great cooking, the secret is in the experimenting.
The great secret of sauces is finding what you like and what works for you. I know a guy who uses straight Tabasco as his primary baste on a brisket. That will clear your head and have you back next weekend. So get tasting, testing, and experimenting. It's the only way you'll find the one sauce that works best for you.
If you are looking for a new barbecue sauce, try my Barbecue Sauce Recipes to get you to the sauce that is right for you.