Spice Things Up

Sauce-y summer techniques and recipes for tasty barbecues.
Don’t let the summer go by without enjoying a barbecue featuring homemade sauces and rubs!

Ain’t no bones about it: Whether it’s Texas-style brisket, ribs, or pulled pork, summers are made for barbecue. And we’re here to pass on our favorite recipes for a special rub and a knock-out sauce that are sure to make your next backyard dinner a gourmet delight.

We’ve also rounded up a few tips and ideas to make your get-together extra special.

Don’t let the summer go by without enjoying a barbecue featuring homemade sauces and rubs!

Tyler Johnson’s small-batch rub mix

A barbecue rub that includes different types of paprika, plus garlic and onion powder, ranks high on Tyler Johnson’s list.

For Tyler Johnson, general manager of downtown Midland’s Molasses Smokehouse & Bar, there are no secrets to great barbecue. Just take your time. The real secret is knowing that your next effort will be even better than your last, because everyone learns on the job. Johnson has been practicing that adage since entering the food and beverage game 17 years ago.

“Remember the old saying, ‘If I told you I’d have to kill you’? Well, some pitmasters would swear that there are a slew of secrets they’ll take to their grave. The reality is that everything in barbecue has been done before and will be done again,” Johnson says.

Here’s Johnson’s small-batch rub mix:


1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


Don’t bother with rub on the “fat cap,” and don’t rub it in, Johnson advises. Place the roast fat-side down; that allows for a better “bark” — a dark layer that builds up on your cooked meat. Cook at least an hour per pound at 250 degrees. Always use indirect heat.

“You want the internal temperature of the roast to be between 190 and 200 degrees, but that’s not the end. It needs to be in long enough to break down the connective tissue.

“When the meat thermometer slides in like butter, it’s done. If you’re done well under the hour-per-pound rule, lower the temperature next time. Don’t go over 264 degrees in your cooker, though, because the sugar in your rub will start to burn,” Johnson says.

For a juicy finish, place the butt in butcher paper. Yes, that’s right. Wrap it up. “There are two schools of thought here. The longer you keep something unwrapped, the better the bark,” he says. “However, to retain moisture, you can also spray it with apple juice or water. And use butcher paper. Take the piece off and wrap it when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. There’s such a high fat content in that piece that the fat starts to render and breaks down from its solid state and turns into delicious juices inside of the meat,” he explains.

Other cooks may simply take the meat off the heat, wrap it, and place it in a cooler for two hours.

Johnson says don’t rub the rub in!

Tyler Johnson’s Tips for Success

Start with a forgiving cut, says Tyler Johnson, general manager of downtown Midland’s Molasses Smokehouse & Bar. “A pork butt, known as a Boston butt or pork shoulder, is the best to start with.” With one of these generous cuts, be prepared to invite plenty of friends. “These cuts are about 8 to 10 pounds and offer a ton of forgiveness in cooking, while also allowing you to build confidence as a new pitmaster.” Above all, know that if your first “cook” comes out perfect, you’d be the first. “Barbecue is a learning process,” he says.

Marlene Bonner’s Special Sauce

Ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar are a few of the ingredients in Marlene Bonner’s special rib sauce.

This vinegar-based sauce, with a recipe provided by Detroiter Soncha Barthwell, is reminiscent of others that use that same main ingredient from the Carolinas. Barthwell says her late sister-in-law put a little twist on an old family recipe to make her sauce. “I’ve prepared several batches of this recipe before, and can attest that it’s great.”


1 quart vinegar
2 32-oz. bottles of ketchup
5 oz. prepared mustard
4 lemons, peeled and sliced
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 oz. chili powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp garlic powder


Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Simmer at least three hours. Spread liberally on your choice of main course.

Soncha Barthwell’s Tip for Success

Cook the sauce slow and low, at least three hours, so the liquid reduces and flavors blend to make a smooth, thick, succulent sauce for dipping or slathering.

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