Guy Fieri Barbecue Sauce Allays Suspicions

Guy Fieri Barbeque Sauce

Guy Fieri Barbeque Sauce

I Paid: $4.29 per 19-ounce bottle (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3 stars

Marketing: 3 stars

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.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.