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Cooking with Fire

Cooking With Fire: Alabama White Sauce

Justin Cary

Big Bob Gibson was an imposing figure... a railway worker who stood six foot four inches tall Bob would frequently host gatherings of his friends and family at his home in Decatur, Alabama in the early 1920s.

Big Bob would line up an impressive array of meats including whole pork shoulder and chicken on a large oak plank table that was nailed to a sycamore tree in his backyard.

But the chicken wasn't your standard fare... because Big Bob Gibson had created a sauce that would one day make him a household name for barbecue lovers around the world.

Alabama White Sauce, as it is now known, is a thin sauce made of mayonnaise, vinegar and other spices that Bob would use to coat his smoked chicken. No one knows for sure why he created the sauce, but the most popular theory is that the fat of the mayonnaise would coat the chicken and keep it from drying out as it sat waiting to be served.

In 1925 Bob built his first restaurant in Decatur, and while it has moved locations a few times, Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue is still a famous destination for those seeking the best barbecue in the world. Now run by pitmaster Chris Lilly, who married Gibson's great-granddaughter Amy, the restaurant is known for their classic white sauce that is used on everything, from a coating on the chicken to a dip for fried potatoes to salad dressing.

The bottled sauce is popular around the world, but the original recipe is easy to find as Bob Gibson wasn't afraid to share it with those around him.

And for that, we thank him.

Chicken with Alabama White Sauce


  • 1 whole chicken
  • salt and pepper

For the Alabama White Sauce:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 6 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp prepared horseradish


  1. Build a hot charcoal fire in your grill, with the grill set up for direct and indirect grilling.
  2. To make the Alabama White Sauce, combine all ingredients and whisk well to combine. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Divide the whole chicken into quarters. First, remove the backbone. Place the chicken breast side up. Slide a sharp knife into the body cavity alongside the backbone and press down to cut through the bones. Repeat this on the other side of the backbone. Flip the bird over and continue along the backbone until it is fully removed. Slice down through the breast bone to separate the breasts. Remove the thighs/legs at the joint where the thigh meets the carcass.
  4. Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper.
  5. Grill the chicken over direct heat until nicely charred, cooking with the lid closed. Flip and repeat. Move the chicken to indirect heat and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF. Remove from the grill, immediately dip in the Alabama White Sauce and transfer to a serving platter.