Hunt’s, one of the most well-known brands in the ketchup market, traces its origins back to 1888 when Joseph and William Hunt started a fruit packing company in California. Despite its acquisition by larger companies over the years, it continues to stay true to its roots by offering a range of canned tomatoes and related products such as ketchup, pasta sauces, and barbecue sauce. Currently, Hunt’s boasts three distinct varieties of barbecue sauce in its lineup.
Upon catching the first whiff of this sauce, you’ll notice the essential elements of barbecue sauce—tomato, vinegar, and sugar. However, the aroma is rather subtle. Instead of the typical boldness associated with barbecue, it resembles a slightly enhanced version of ketchup. The primary fragrance is sweet tomato with a gentle hint of tangy vinegar. Adding depth is a subtle touch of molasses, accompanied by underlying notes of onion and smoke.
Thickness & Texture
This sauce exhibits a smooth and glossy texture, sitting right in the middle of the thickness scale. When poured from a spoon, it maintains a syrupy consistency, flowing evenly after an initial large droplet is released. As the flow decelerates, it begins to drip from the spoon’s edge, leaving behind a medium, semi-transparent coating. Within this thin layer, you can spot small specks of spices scattered throughout.
Out of the Jar
The ketchup-like aroma offers a hint at the overall flavor profile of this sauce—it essentially resembles a mildly seasoned ketchup. In fact, it might even be less flavorful than ketchup itself. The tomato intensity is subdued by the addition of a generous amount of corn syrup and a dash of vinegar. Unfortunately, the vinegar fails to balance out the sweetness, resulting in a mild tang. Similarly, the small amount of molasses cannot overcome the overpowering taste of corn syrup. While a touch of onion emerges as the sauce sits on the tongue, there are hardly any other spices to speak of. The overall heat level is negligible, leaving a lingering aftertaste similar to that of super-sweet ketchup.
Slathered & Cooked
When applied to chicken, this sauce forms a thick, slightly uneven coating. Unfortunately, it does not bake down under indirect heat, which causes it to quickly burn away when exposed to direct heat. Nonetheless, there is a mild caramelization that adds an appealing appearance to the grilled chicken leg. However, whatever little flavor the sauce had straight from the jar becomes almost nonexistent after grilling. Only a hint of sweet tomato remains, leaving behind the stickiness as the sauce’s main characteristic.
Put to Use
I wouldn’t discredit ketchup as a base for barbecue sauce. For years, I believed using unsweetened tomato sauce provided a better foundation for my recipes. However, I discovered that ketchup lends a more pleasing flavor and texture to build upon. The key phrase here is “to build upon,” and unfortunately, Hunt’s Original BBQ Sauce falls short in creating a fully flavored barbecue sauce. All the essential elements are present—vinegar, molasses, smoke, and spices—but their quantities are so meager that they fail to make a significant impact, especially in comparison to the heavy dose of corn syrup. Moreover, almost all the flavor vanishes after grilling, making this sauce’s attractive feature its affordable price, often less than two dollars. However, spending two dollars on a sauce that adds little to your barbecue experience is hardly a wise investment.
Published on Thu Jun 18, 2015 by Joshua Bousel