Food & Drink

A Different Kind of Barbecue Sauce

Kentucky mutton dip makes a tasty complement to smoked meat of any kind

Barbecue lovers from Pikeville to Paducah should give thanks for Wes Berry, the English professor and ‘cue enthusiast whose new Kentucky Barbecue Book is a survey of all things smoked and sauced in the Bluegrass State. Packed with recipes from and interviews with the people who make smoked meat happen in Kentucky, the book offers a rare but focused peek into a lesser-known barbecue culture.

The most unique facet of Kentucky barbecue is the smoked mutton found in the western part of the state. Harking back to a time when sheep were plentiful in western Kentucky, mutton barbecue is traditionally dressed with a Worcestershire-based “dip” that is a dark cousin to the more traditional pepper-and-vinegar concoctions popular in the rest of the state.

In Berry’s book, he shares a recipe for mutton dip that he wrangled from the owners of Ole South Barbeque, a joint located in the smoked-mutton mecca of Owensboro, Kentucky. While this sauce is meant for basting and dressing up mutton, it makes a tasty complement to smoked meat of any kind.



  • Ole South Barbeque’s Mutton Dip (Makes about 2 1/2 quarts)

    • 1 qt. Worcestershire sauce

    • 1 qt. water

    • 1/2 tbsp. salt

    • 1/4 tbsp. black pepper

    • 1/2 cup white vinegar

    • 1/4 cup lemon juice

    • 1/2 lb. brown sugar

    • 1 1/4 lb. tomato paste


  1. In a large pot, cook all ingredients until paste dissolves. Use it to baste meats, preferably mutton, periodically throughout the many hours of cooking required to tenderize the muscle tissues. When serving mutton, offer this dip in a bowl on the side for the dipping of individual pieces. Store in the refrigerator.

Adapted from The Kentucky Barbecue Book, by Wes Berry. Photograph by Wes Berry. Recipe and photograph used with permission of The University Press of Kentucky.