I thought it would be fun, and maybe beneficial, to take a look at some sauces that are widely available in supermarkets. One that I've always been curious about is Sweet Baby Ray's. It has kind of a plain looking label, which is intriguing to me. Also, I like the name.
For the most part, any time I buy barbecue sauce from the grocery store, I have low expectations. Barbecue sauces produced for the masses tend to have very little depth of flavor, relying instead on liquid smoke and pedal-to-the-metal sweetness. They all seem to be variations of KC Masterpiece, which has, for all intents and purposes, become the archetype of barbecue sauce in mainstream America.
On the surface, Sweet Baby Ray's in no exception. It is an unabashedly Kansas City style sauce - thick and dark, sweet and smoky. However, I found the sweetness to be lighter and more playful than the cloying assault normally associated with mass-marketed barbecue sauce. It has no spiciness to speak of, but there is plenty of smoke flavor. And a refreshing bit of vinegar twang rounds things out.
All in all, I must say that I am pleasantly surprised. This is not a bad barbecue sauce at all. In fact, it is actually better than some of the highfalutin' sauces we have examined here. If you must buy barbecue sauce at a grocery store, Sweet Baby Ray's is not a bad way to go.