Rodney’s Sauce

Rodney’s Sauce
Jerrelle Guy

BACK in Hemingway we used to make barbecue sauce right next to the pit. The pots we used were too big to really fit on a kitchen stove, plus it was more efficient
to use hot coals from the pit as our heat source. We’d put a piece of roofing tin down on the floor and then set some hot coals on top of that, and then we would put the pot right on top of the hot coals. When I was a kid, it was mostly men making the sauce—but I was always the designated stirrer.

You can still do it that way if you want to do all the cooking outside, but these days at the restaurant, we make sauce on the stove.

The two main ingredients are vinegar and pepper, so you have to balance them right. You don’t want the vinegar to be overwhelming. Distilled white vinegar has less acid than other white vinegars, so it helps keep the bite in balance. Also, heating the vinegar takes away some of its sharpness.

When it comes to the pepper, you want a little spice, but you don’t want it so overwhelming that you can’t take it. The goal is to get an immediate heat that goes away just as fast as it started. If it lingers too long, you added too much pepper. You know you have it right when you taste a few drops of the finished sauce and, after you taste it, your mouth forms a kiss.

If you are cooking a whole hog, you’ll need a gallon of sauce. But if you’re using it for any of the other recipes, you can make only half a gallon.


  • 1 gallon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup cayenne pepper
  • 1 ¼ tablespoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups sugar


  1. In a small stockpot, warm the vinegar over medium-high heat. After about 5 minutes, when the vinegar reaches 150°F on an instant-read thermometer, just before it starts to simmer, add the lemon slices and continue to cook until the lemon peels begin to soften and wilt, about 10 minutes more.
  2. Whisk in the black pepper, cayenne, pepper flakes, and sugar. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the sauce reaches 190°F, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to completely cool before using. Once the lemon is removed, the sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 8 weeks.

Reprinted with permission from Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day is a Good Day by Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie Copyright © 2021 by Rodney Scott’s BBQ, LLC, a South Carolina limited liability company. Photographs copyright © 2021 by Jerrelle Guy. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 

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