Unveiling the Magic: The Story of Rodney Scott’s BBQ Sauce

The long-kept secret is out! Step into the world of Rodney Scott, the renowned pitmaster of South Carolina, as we explore the history and magic behind his famous BBQ sauce. This is not just any sauce; it’s the mop sauce that seasons the hog on the turn and graces the tables of Scott’s BBQ joints. Get ready to embark on a flavorful journey!

Discovering Tradition

Rodney Scott’s BBQ sauce recipe is more than just a recipe; it’s a reflection of the rich tradition and history of barbecue itself. Born in Philadelphia in 1971, Rodney Scott moved to rural South Carolina with his parents, Rosie and Ella Scott, when he was just a toddler. They settled in Nesmith, near Ella’s father’s land, and began farming, cultivating crops, and raising hogs. The family’s self-sufficiency extended to their dining table, where they enjoyed homegrown sweet corn, cucumbers, butter beans, and okra. The centerpiece of their special occasions was a whole hog, seasoned with their secret homemade mop sauce recipe.

From Variety Store to BBQ Empire

In addition to their farming endeavors, the Scott family ran Scott’s Variety Store, a humble country store in Hemingway. It was there that they sold gas and other goods, and eventually began cooking hogs on the side for extra income. Little did they know that their small store would become the foundation for Scott’s Bar-B-Que, an empire in the making. Rodney, growing up in the midst of the pits, cooked his first hog at the tender age of 11, learning the art from his father and uncle. These formative years laid the groundwork for Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ.

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A Rise to Stardom

Within three decades, Rodney Scott became an icon in the world of barbecue, catching the attention of national media outlets like the New York Times, Time Magazine, and the Washington Post. It was his whole hog barbecue and his famous BBQ sauce recipe that propelled him to stardom. In 2018, Scott was honored with the prestigious title of Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation, solidifying his status as a culinary legend.

New Ventures and a Bittersweet Departure

Prior to his success, Rodney Scott left his hometown of Hemingway to embark on a new venture in Charleston. Inspired by his friend Nick Pihakis, founder of the Alabama BBQ chain Jim and Nick’s, Scott opened Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston in 2016. The joint venture between Scott and Pihakis flourished, with locations now in Charleston and Birmingham, Alabama, and an upcoming restaurant in Atlanta. However, leaving Hemingway and the family business, with which he had been deeply involved for almost three decades, was not an easy decision.

Unveiling Rodney’s Sauce

Now, let’s dive into the heart of the matter: Rodney Scott’s BBQ sauce recipe. Rodney’s mop sauce is a vinegar and pepper-based concoction that embodies the flavors of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Vinegar-based barbecue sauce is a staple in this region, and Rodney’s variation stands out for its unique blend of spices. While he shared a simplified version on the Today Show, it is clear that there are a few more secrets in his sauce.

According to the recipe, the ingredients for Rodney Scott’s BBQ sauce include distilled white vinegar, black pepper, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, and lemon. However, the bottled sauce available in his restaurants also includes water, distilled vinegar, sugar, black pepper, spice, lemon juice concentrate, and xanthan gum. Although the two recipes may differ slightly, the essence of Scott’s sauce remains intact.

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The Secrets Behind the Sauce

Rodney Scott is not afraid to share a few tips and tricks for creating the perfect mop sauce. He suggests adding a citrusy touch to the sauce, such as lemon juice, as it helps break down the toughness of the meat. However, he advises using white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar when incorporating citrus flavors.

While the recipe provided may serve as a baseline, Scott acknowledges the importance of certain spices in creating a flavorful mop sauce. Cayenne, paprika, and dark chile powder add depth and complexity to the sauce, while black pepper and pepper flakes provide a kick of heat. These additional spices are not listed in the original recipe but are vital components according to Scott himself.

The Whole Story

As you explore the flavors of Rodney Scott’s BBQ sauce, you may notice that the bottled sauce differs slightly in color and taste from the recipe shared on the Today Show. This leads us to believe that there may be more to his sauce than meets the eye. While we cannot confirm all the ingredients, it is widely speculated that Scott’s mop sauce includes Accent (MSG), which adds a unique flavor profile.

Regardless of the precise details, one thing is certain: Rodney Scott’s BBQ sauce recipe is a testament to his passion for barbecue. It is a sauce that has captivated taste buds and earned him accolades throughout the years. So fire up the grill, grab a bottle of Scott’s sauce or gather the ingredients to create your own, and get ready to savor the flavors of Southern tradition and true barbecue mastery.

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Rodney Scott mopping ribs with his signature mop
Photo courtesy of Rodney Scott’s BBQ. Angie Mosier, photographer.

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