I Paid: $4.29 per 19-ounce bottle (prices may vary by region)
Why would we trust Guy Fieri to sell us barbecue sauce? And why, for that matter, would we trust Guy Fieri to do anything whatsoever?
Detractors of the spiky-haired TV host and food "personality" miss no chance to rake him over the coals; for the fooderati, there are no greater evils out there except, perhaps, for HFCS and Rachael Ray. Why? For example: The press release for Fieri's new line of barbecue sauces quotes him as saying that "these sauces add big, off da hook flavor." It's precisely this sort of calculated faux-edginess that inspires fits of compulsive eye-rolling.
But there's no getting around the fact that with Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Fieri has probably done more to introduce the general American public to the charms of well-crafted, simple food than anyone else over the past decade. Beyond that: He's no fan of HFCS, at least in his barbecue sauces. They contain no HFCS, fat, or cholesterol; three of the sauces are also gluten-free.
All well and good, but the taste is the thing. I tasted Fieri's four flavors (Bourbon Brown Sugar, Carolina #6, Kansas City, and Pacific Rim) alongside a $2 bottle of terrible local grocery store stuff and a bottle of my favorite sauce, Show-Me Liquid Smoke Bar-B-Q from Kansas City.
Fieri's sauce blew away the grocery store crap, which was one-dimensional glop containing HFCS and liquid smoke. Moreover, the grocery store version had 70 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, roughly double that of Fieri's offerings (which are 35 to 40 calories a serving except for Carolina #6, which is a mere 15).
No surprise, Show-Me is still my favorite sauce for its depth of flavor and powerful but balanced smoky taste. But Fieri's sauce held up OK. In particular, the vinegar-tomato kick of Carolina #6 was really enjoyable, and his Kansas City version had a nice sweet-smoke combo that was evocative of Show-Me while falling a little short of it. Lacking smoke, Bourbon Brown Sugar tasted like a less interesting version of Kansas City, but the garlic-gingery Pacific Rim Wok Sauce would be a fine addition to a weeknight stir-fry.
This stuff won't be winning over barbecue purists, but for the casual user, it's not a bad start.