Old Arthur’s Barbecue Sauce: More than 160 Years in the Making

Old Arthur’s Barbecue Sauce: More than 160 Years in the Making

CHICAGO, IL, UNITED STATES: The best family recipes are infused with a family’s legacy. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a richer history than that of Old Arthur’s barbecue sauces and rubs.

The heirloom recipes—passed down through five generations of the Watts family—have been made commercially available. For two consecutive years, Barbeque News has placed Old Arthur’s Barbecue Sauce among the top 10 commercially available barbecue sauces. Additionally, Food & Wine Magazine called Old Arthur’s “One of America’s Best Barbecue Sauces.”

Arthur Watts (dubbed “Old Arthur” because he lived to 108) was born into slavery on a Missouri farm in 1837. From childhood, his daily task was to prepare barbecue over an open pit on the big “production farm” which enslaved him. There, he first began crafting sauces and seasonings to compliment his BBQ—recipes that would serve him well following his Emancipation in 1863. As a free man, he went on to earn his living as a highly-regarded pit master, catering massive barbecues for city festivals, county fairs and large-scale social functions throughout central Illinois.

While Arthur never learned to read or write, his eldest son Eudell—the first of five generations to bear the name—wrote the recipes down, and descendants kept making them on special occasions. When friends kept requesting the sauce (one going so far as to make it his annual holiday gift to clients), the family decided it was time to go into business.

“We made minimal changes to the original recipes,” says Eudell Watts IV, who runs the business with his father, Eudell Watts III. “We were careful to stay true to the original flavors.”

While Old Arthur’s has earned recognition in central Illinois and Chicago, Watts IV—who teaches grilling classes —has begun to share his family legacy with the wider world. Old Arthur sauces and rubs are avilable at www.OldArthurs.com, Mariano's supermarkets and on Amazon.