AmazingRibs.com is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Sunlite Kentucky Black BBQ Sauce And Dip Recipe For Lamb and Mutton

lamb chops in kentucky black sauce

A Kentucky original, this bold sauce and mop is perfect for cutting through the richness of lamb and mutton.

The first sheep came over with Columbus on his second voyage and were grown more for their fleece than their meat. Demand for wool kept the US herd up near 60 million head through WWII, and it has been on a steady decline since then, down to about 6 million head today. Tender young lamb is still a popular meat, but far less popular than beef, pork, and chicken.

When a lamb is no longer producing enough wool, more than 1 year old, it is slaughtered for food and the meat is called mutton. It has a distinctive and gamier taste than younger, more succulent lamb. As with so many other BBQ meats such as pork ribs and beef brisket, mutton found its way to the low slow smoker because it is tough, full of connective tissue, and less desirable than lamb.

And why Western Kentucky? Once upon a time, in the 1800s, Kentucky was the largest lamb producing state. It has now fallen to number 34. But the tradition of BBQ mutton lives on in dozens of barbecue joints and church socials. The cuts of choice are shoulder and rear leg.

Black BBQ Sauce sounds weird, but it is remarkably effective. I was pretty skeptical, but once I tasted it, I understood. Sweet sauce would be all wrong. This thin tart sauce cuts the rich fat, which is more intensely flavored than beef, pork, and chicken by far. The sauce is used as a baste, called a dip, because it is thin and penetrates. It is also used as a finishing sauce.

The meat is prepared in a similar fashion to pulled pork, but it is usually not shredded, it is sliced. It is then doused with the thin sauce that enters all its the openings it can find.

Some places, like the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, the most famous of all the Western Kentucky BBQ joints, have two slightly different recipes, one for basting, and one for serving. Moonlite published some of their recipes in a cookbook, Family Favorites from Moonlite, which I tried, and frankly, wasn’t impressed. So I studied their published recipes, ordered a bottle from their website, set about trying to reverse engineer it, and then I amped it up a notch. In head to head blind tasting, everyone liked mine better. So I called it Sunlite just to make sure there is no confusion.

Now keep in mind, this is a technique for long low and slow smoked mutton in the fashion of pulled pork. Shoulder or leg can be cooked this way, but for leg of lamb, I prefer a much different method. You can also break shoulder down into cubes and do spiedies or mechoui.

Sunlite Kentucky Black BBQ Sauce Recipe


sunlite kentucky black sauce for lamb
Tried this recipe?Tell others what you thought of it and give it a star rating below.
3.52 from 37 votes
In Western Kentucky the BBQ is mutton, and the sauce is vinegary, spiked with Worcestershire sauce. Here's a recipe for black BBQ sauce inspired by Moonlite Bar-B-Q Sauce and Dip. This thin tart sauce cuts the rich fat, making it perfect for use as a deeply penetrating baste as the meat cooks or as a finishing sauce.

Serve with: a stout or porter.


Course:
Sauces and Condiments
Cuisine:
American
,
Southern

Makes:

Servings: 3 cups

Takes:

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

The Sauce

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Lea & Perrins Worcestershire
  • 1/2 cup distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 7 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Morton coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice

The Meat

Notes:
About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page

Method

  • Prep the sauce. Mix all of the sauce ingredients in a pot.
  • Cook the sauce. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.
  • Prep the meat. Prepare a shoulder of mutton or lamb by removing all the surface fat and the tough silver skin hiding under it.
  • Coat it with a generous layer of Dolly's Lamb Rub And Paste.
  • Fire up. Preheat your smoker to about 225°F/107.2°C. If you are using a grill, set it up for 2-zone cooking and get the indirect zone to 225°F/107.2°C.
  • Cook the meat. Smoke it low and slow as you would a pork shoulder for pulled pork bringing it up to 203°F/95°C. Beware of the stall. It can make the process take hours longer. How long will it take? Depends on how thick your meat is, and whether or not you use the Texas Crutch. But it could take up to 8 hours. Start early and have a faux cambro on hand.
  • Serve. Cut the meat off the bone in 1/8 to 1/4"/3.2 to 6.4 mm thick slices and douse with warm sauce just before serving.

Related articles

Published On: 4/6/2015 Last Modified: 9/9/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and much more!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 4,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner like TV network or a magazine publisher to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club, but please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get 21 great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial membership, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click for comments...

Spotlight

These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs


The Cool Kettle With The Hinged Hood We Always Wanted


Napoleon’s 22″ Pro Cart Charcoal Kettle Grill puts a few spins on the familiar kettle design. In fact, the hinged lid with a handle on the front, spins in a rotary motion 180 degrees. It’s hard to beat a Weber kettle, but Napoleon holds its own and adds some unique features to make the 22″ Pro Cart a viable alternative.

Click here for more about what makes this grill special


Grilla Pellet Smoker proves good things come in small packages

We always liked Grilla. The small 31.5″ x 29.5″ footprint makes it ideal for use where BBQ space is limited, as on a condo patio.
Click here for our review on this unique smoker


GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone


GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Click here for more about what makes these grates so special


The Undisputed Champion!

Thermapen One Instant Read Thermometer

ThermoWorks’ Thermapen ONE provides an accurate reading in one second or less. The ONE also includes features that are common on high-end instruments: automatic backlight, rotating display, and water resistant seals. Don’t accept cheap substitutes.
Click here to read our comprehensive Platinum Medal review


Compact Powerful Sear Machine For Your Next Tailgater


Char-Broil’s Grill2Go x200 is a super-portable, fun little sizzler made of heavy, rust-proof cast aluminum. The lid snaps shut. Grab the handle and you’re off to the party! Char-Broil’s TRU-Infrared design produces searing heat while reducing fuel consumption. A 16 ounce LP gas canister is enough to keep you flipping burgers for hours.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order


Masterbuilt MPS 340/G ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker


This is the first propane smoker with a thermostat, making this baby foolproof. Set ThermoTemp’s dial from 175° to 350°F and the thermostat inside will adjust the burner just like an indoor kitchen oven. All you need to do is add wood to the tray above the burner to start smokin’.

Click here to read our detailed review


Fireboard: The Ultimate Top Of The Line BBQ Thermometer

Fireboard Labs Product Photo Shoot. Kansas City Commercial Portrait and Wedding Photographers ©Kevin Ashley Photography

With the ability to monitor up to six temperatures simultaneously with either Bluetooth or Wifi on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer, Fireboard is the best digital thermometer we’ve tested.
Click here to read our detailed review