Add Southern kick to your barbecue chicken with this Alabama White Sauce recipe! This recipe is tangy, easy to make, and uses no corn syrup.
Over the course of our travels, I have developed an appreciation for barbecue, and an interest in finding out what makes different styles of barbecue so appealing. When the Godmother and I found out we were moving to Alabama, we saw this as an opportunity to embrace some of their unique takes on cuisine. Barbecue was one of them.
A little food history…
Despite the name, Alabama White Sauce seems fairly limited to the northern half of the state. If you’re south of Birmingham, you may have a hard time finding establishments that specialize in making this sauce.
“What is white sauce and how did it come to be?” you may ask. My best explanation for this is that Alabama White Sauce appears to be an evolution of vinegar-based barbecue sauces found in Georgia and East Carolina. The difference? Mayonnaise is combined with vinegar to make the sauce base. Having mayonnaise as the base ingredient makes it ideal for barbecuing chicken, though it can also be used for certain cuts of pork as well. The sauce also tastes great with other poultry, like turkey.
Tips for properly cooking chicken on the grill
Barbecuing chicken can be rather difficult because it requires a high cooking temperature for safe consumption. The meat temperature has to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, the essence of barbecue is low-and-slow cooking. The risk with low and slow here is ending up with chicken that is dry and/or overwhelmed from the barbecue smoke.
However, by applying Alabama White Sauce to your chicken as you cook, you retain moisture and keep the chicken from drying out when you remove it from the grill or smoker.
Like most other styles of barbecue, indirect heat is what works best to prepare and serve chicken with Alabama White Sauce. However, I have found it necessary to set the grill temperature somewhat hotter than other barbecue styles. I set the grill to 300-325 degrees Fahrenheit vice 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chicken on the bone still remains a rather difficult meat for me to cook on its own. As a mild flavored meat, chicken relies heavily on your manner of preparation for flavor. In this recipe, the chicken isn’t heavily seasoned and relies on the smoke and sauce for flavor. The great thing about Alabama White Sauce is that you can add as little or as much you’d like to your chicken or pork. It’s okay to just lightly brush the chicken or drop it in a bowl of sauce. Both are correct!
Variations of Alabama White Sauce
If you have the desire to find the best Alabama White Sauce in the state, be prepared to find some variations in the recipe. Some versions of the recipe include corn syrup to increase thickness of the sauce. Other versions have varying amounts of heat to play off the sourness from the vinegar. The best version, of course, is the one you enjoy making at home.
We make our Alabama white sauce without corn syrup. We also keep the heat to a minimum because of the tiny humans. The latter may change in the future.
This recipe is an absolute hit with our family, and I hope it provides you with an added perspective to Southern cuisine. Enjoy!
- 6 Chicken Quarters
- 3/4 cups Mayonnaise
- 1/3 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/4 cups Lemon Juice
- 1/4 cups Orange Juice
- 1 tablespoon Powdered Garlic
- 1 tablespoon Horseradish
- 1 tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Mustard Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 16 drops Tabasco Sauce
- Ground Black Pepper
- Mesquite Wood Chips
- In a bowl, combine all of the sauce ingredients and whisk until it reaches a uniform consistency. Refrigerate the mixture for at least two hours before applying. Generously add kosher salt and ground black pepper to both sides of the chicken quarters.
- Set up your grill in such a way that the chicken will be cooked via indirect heat. That is, the coals will be on the sides of the grill's ash pan and the center will be empty. Add a few mesquite wood chips (no more than a handful) to the charcoal. Fahrenheit. If you have a gas grill, use the outside burners but use the space where the center burners are to place the wood chips (soaked in water) inside aluminum foil shaped like a paper boat. Regardless of grill type, ensure the temperature does not exceed 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the chicken quarters on top of the center of the grill with the skin side up. Cook for 45 minutes or until the meat temperature reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit. When the chicken reaches the temperature, flip the quarters to skin-side down and continue cooking until the meat temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once the chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, remove from the grill and apply as much Alabama White Sauce as desired (brush or dunk). If needed, re-whisk the sauce (or shake its container if applicable) prior to brushing onto the chicken to maintain uniform consistency.
Use a meat thermometer for food safety!