A good mop sauce is your best friend when throwing a BBQ party. You want your food to be the talk of the town, right? Then a mop sauce is what you need. It’s simple yet unique, and all of your guests will be wondering what your secret ingredient is!

What is a mop sauce?

Mop sauce is the real “star” of BBQ – it keeps the meat moist while providing it with a unique flavor. But don’t mistake it for what’s commonly known as a BBQ sauce. A mop sauce has a thin, watery consistency, it’s based on vinegar, tomato juice, apple cider or similar ingredients, and it’s applied to the meat throughout cooking. A BBQ sauce, on the other hand, is a last-minute, finishing sauce we apply on the meat prior to serving. Generally, a good BBQ recipe consists of three flavoring elements: a rub applied before cooking, mop basted during cooking and a BBQ sauce brushed after cooking.

How to use a mop sauce?

Baste the meat with a mop sauce throughout the whole cooking process. This should be done every 20 minutes or so. Mop sauce combined with the rub applied before cooking creates a juicy crust around the meat. Make sure you go light-handed with a mop, otherwise you might end up removing the rub from the meat. 

As the name suggests, we use little cotton mops to apply the sauce onto the meat. They basically look like a tiny version of regular mops we use to clean the floor. Some people do prefer using silicone-bristled brushes, but we find cotton mops more suitable for such a watery sauce. Plus, you can reuse them a few times, just rinse them with soapy water and let them dry.

How to make a mop sauce?

The great thing about mop sauces is they can be plain simple and still an important piece of a BBQ recipe. The base of a mop sauce should be a liquid of thin consistency. Water-based mop sauce is the simplest way of keeping the meat moist. If you want your meat to be more tender, then vinegar is a good alternative for your base. For extra flavor, you can start with Worcestershire sauce, beer, soy sauce or similar liquids. 

Once you choose your base, add some seasonings to it. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm the meat with different flavors. If you already applied a rub to the meat, it’s best to make a mop sauce using those same ingredients.

Mop Sauce Recipes

We’ve selected a couple of mop sauce recipes that will knock your socks off once you try them and will surely become your BBQ staple and a secret your guests will die to learn.

Texas Hillbilly Mop Sauce

This mop sauce recipe comes straight from Texas and works well with just about any type of meat. The ingredient that makes this sauce unique is lemon – it adds a bit of tartness while keeping the meat juicy. Paprika and chili pepper are to be thanked for that beautiful dark meat color, and we also add a decent amount of hot sauce to spice things up.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ⅔ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 pulped, cut in half lemons 
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 6 crushed bay leaves 
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

Mix all the ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, turn the heat to low and continue cooking it for another 10 minutes. Once cooked, remove it from the stove and let it cool a bit before mopping it onto the meat.

You can also make this sauce up to 3 days before using it on the meat. After you cook the sauce, let it cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to use it, warm it up but do not boil.

Basic Beer Mop Sauce

For this mop sauce recipe, you’ll have to use one beer can out of that six-pack you just bought. Don’t worry, it will be worth every drop. This sauce is perfect for beef briskets.

The great thing about beer mop sauces is that there’s such a huge beer market out there – stout, pilsner, ale, lager… If you like experimenting, then this is the perfect sauce for you – the possibilities are endless! 

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces beer
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup canola or corn oil
  • ½ chopped onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brisket seasoning

Whisk the ingredients together into a large pot and cook until thoroughly dissolved. Let it cool for about 10 to 15 minutes before using it. 

This mop sauce can be prepared up to 5 days in advance. Store in the refrigerator and reheat in the microwave for one minute to warm it up a bit. 

Coffee Mop Sauce

This is another Texan-style mop sauce recipe. It’s sweet and spicy at the same time, and coffee takes all the credit for the sweet bark around the meat.

You might notice that there’s Catsup on the ingredient list. If you’re not familiar with the term – that’s basically how Ketchup used to be called before Heinz commercialized the latter name. In a way, we can say that Heinz was revolutionary – they managed to create a condiment that activates all of your receptors. It’s sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. 

What we meant by this digression is that for this recipe, instead of Heinz, you should pick ketchup that’s a bit more sweet and spicy. If you can get a Mexican product in a nearby store, choose that. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Dark/Strong Coffee
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup Catsup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce

Mix all the ingredients into a large saucepan and simmer lightly for 20 minutes. The sauce should have a thin consistency for meat basting. If you want to also serve it as a dipping sauce, allow it to thicken some more before serving.

Pickle Juice Mop Sauce

This might sound odd, pickle juice on meat? But, we dare you to try it and not like it! This is a great mop sauce for tender meat like beef tenderloin, pork chops or even poultry breasts. This sauce is a bit spicy, thanks to crushed red pepper and cayenne pepper. But if you’re not a fan of heat, you can omit these ingredients and you’ll still have a great mop sauce.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 grated medium-sized onion
  • 1 cup dill pickle juice
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 thinly sliced lemons
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Put butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add onion and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for another 20 minutes. 

Bourbon Mop Sauce

Bourbon is a great mop sauce ingredient – its strong and sweet caramel notes are perfect for ribs or brisket. Combine that with sugar, agave syrup and ketchup and you get a mop sauce everyone will talk about for days.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup Kentucky Bourbon
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup pureed sweet onion
  • ¼ cup agave syrup
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons water

Combine all the ingredients into a medium saucepan on medium to low heat. Mix until sugar has melted. Since mop sauce should be of a thin consistency, add water if needed. Once the sauce is done, let it cool to room temperature before serving. 

This mop sauce can be made ahead of time. If you do so, put it into an airtight food storage container and store it into the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

East Carolina Mop Sauce

The coast of North and South Carolina, often referred to as “East Carolina,” is probably the birthplace of BBQ. This means their mop sauce is also one of the oldest ones. We can presume its original version was just vinegar and hot sauce combo. Throughout the years, pitmasters have added their personal touch to it, and that’s how we got the mop sauce that’s nowadays used on pulled pork throughout the Carolinas. 

The recipe is still rather simple, and it’s great for people who love a bit of heat. You can always add a bit more hot sauce and red pepper if you’re bold enough.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put the ingredients into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Mix until sugar has dissolved, while not allowing the mixture to boil.

Final Verdict

A lot of people give BBQ sauces too much credit – sure, they give the meat a nice crust, but if it wasn’t for the mop sauce, you would probably end up with a dry piece of meat, and no added flavor can make that tasty.