Ace Loud Mouth BBQ Review: Can A Hardware Store Do Sauces And Rubs?

Ace Hardware (yes, the hardware store) released a line of grilling rubs and two barbecue sauces last month in order to usher in the backyard lounging season. Picking up impulse groceries at Ace alongside your emergency monkey wrench might seem like an unlikely pairing, but the hardware store has quietly grown a reputation for having a well-curated section of sauces and seasonings to complement the goods in its barbecue supply department. 

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I reached out to the brand about this following, and Brian Wiborg, senior vice president of merchandising for Ace Hardware, gave me a bit of background on its history: "Starting back around 2017, we were seeing great growth in our BBQ department. That is when we set out on a mission to become the BBQ destination in all the neighborhoods we serve. That began with grills, fuels, accessories and quickly grew to sauces and seasonings."

That's why the birth of Ace's new in-house Loud Mouth Barbeque line makes more sense than you'd think. There are five rubs ($6.99 per container, varying weights) and two sauces ($8.99 per bottle) designed to fit all tastes, ranging from salty to spicy to sweet, and considering that Memorial Day is upon us, I wanted to see if this new family of products is fit to use on your home grill.

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Loud Mouth Barbeque features a rainbow of rubs

What immediately stands out to me is the variety of Loud Mouth's rub selection. There are five different ones meant for different uses, all with decidedly Guy Fieri-esque names (exclamation points and all!) and funny fonts slapped on them. That's Poppin' is a savory blend, Mmmm Baby! an all-purpose rub, Whoa There! is smoky and sweet, Uhh-Huh! is hot and sweet, and finally, Zowie! is hot and spicy.

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For sanity's sake, I broke the rubs down into two categories. One is "Swiss Army knife-style seasonings," specifically That's Poppin' and Mmmm Baby!, which you can generally use across the board. The other I loosely classify as "specialty seasonings," which are the Woah There!, Uhh-Huh!, and Zowie! blends, meant for more of a "barbecue" flavor, so to speak. In order to get the clearest sense of their abilities, I used them on chicken drumsticks roasted in the oven since any level of grill char might get in the way of the taste of the rub.

Each blend has a recommended selection of protein to use them on. That's Poppin', Zowie!, and Mmmm Baby! can be used on any type of meat, while the sweeter Uhh-Huh! and Woah There! blends are ideally meant for chicken and pork. 

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When in doubt, go for the all-purpose seasoning

Between the That's Poppin' savory herb rub and the Mmmm Baby! all-purpose one, one's usefulness stood out way beyond the other. Mmmm Baby! is just way easier to use in most applications because it hits you with a heavy dose of salt. Though there's sugar listed in its ingredients, the sweetness isn't enough to come through strongly and overpower your senses. While not all of its flavoring agents are listed on the label, the ones that are include onion, garlic, paprika, and celery seed, all of which have natural umami-boosting qualities. The aggressive salt level is somehow also its weak point, unfortunately. Because the salt in this rub is coarse with a lot of volume (visibly so), it's easy to oversalt your food without punching up the spice flavor as much as you'd like.

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I'd loosely liken the That's Poppin' savory blend to a generic mix of Italian herbs (none are specified on the label), but they run into the issue I have with most dried herbs, which is that they are relatively flavorless. Even a generous amount of this stuff didn't come through quite so much, and having to use so much of it means you run the risk of scorching the seasoning before the meat is done cooking. 

Let's keep things hot, spicy, and simple

Two of the Loud Mouth specialty rubs are sugar-forward, the Whoa There! (smoky-sweet) and the Uhh-huh! (hot and sweet). In fact, sugar is listed as the primary ingredient on both, which makes sense, based off their purposes. But that selling point is a problem in multiple ways — because the sugar takes up so much space in the rub that the spices themselves don't get a whole lot of love in the shaker. Unlike the all-purpose Mmmm Baby!, you have to use a ton of each, resulting in only a whisper of seasoning bolstered with the advertised sweetness. 

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The other issue is, as you probably know, sugar can go from an appealing caramel to a scorched disaster within an instant. In the oven, the sugar that accumulated beneath the drumsticks turned into a blackened, hardened disc that was impossible to pull off the foil without tearing it. Sure, I wasn't attentively flipping these legs on the grill outside like many would, but when you need to use a lot of rub to make a difference, a distraction of beer, conversation, or kids running around might result in a few of them that come out looking less than ideal.

Fortunately, Zowie!, the hot and spicy rub, avoids all of this by staying on the savory side with a glorious dose of monosodium glutamate added to it. The right proportion of MSG will raise umami levels without being obnoxious, which is what Zowie! manages to pull off. Yes, there's a little heat, but you won't actually need enough of the rub to notice much other than a tingle. I'm a big fan of this one, but don't worry, sweet barbecue fans, not all is lost.

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If you only want sweet, Ace has you covered

Don't worry, it wasn't all boring oven-roasted dry-rubbed chicken for today's research. Ace's Loud Mouth brand extension includes two sauces: Boom Shaka-Laka, which is an apple habanero BBQ, and Kaa-Blamo!, which is a hot and spicy BBQ.

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It's hard not to crave that signature tangy and sweet flavor you expect from barbecue chicken. The sweet rubs didn't do the trick, but that's why we have thick, sugary, and messy sauces to smear all over our faces when we're sitting on our folding chairs. I took a few legs, slathered them with each sauce, and finished them off on the grill to get a caramelized finish. 

Though the promise (or threat, depending on how you look at it) of habanero in the Boom Shaka-Laka sounds a little scary, if it's there, the capsaicin is hard to detect. This sauce runs a little on the thin side and ultimately tastes like sweet and sour sauce. Between its texture and the too-easygoing flavor, it only offers sugar and little else. Instead, reach for the Kaa-Blamo!, which is billed simply as hot and spicy. It's thick and gloppy in the most affectionately American of ways, it thickens over open flame, and there's a little bit of heat. Is it life-changing? No. Is it reliable? Yes.

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Use the Loud Mouth products that cover all of your bases

Pecking through a line of five rubs and two sauces involves a lot of decision-making, which is why going for the blanket approach on the ones you'll use most is the best idea. So that's why I recommend you just stick with the seasonings you can use off-season, too, namely Zowie! and Mmmm Baby!, because you also want these things to have full utility through fall, winter, and early spring for indoor cooking. Just be mindful of how much you use until you figure out what works for you, since these two pack the salt. 

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As for whether or not Ace Hardware's Loud Mouth rubs and sauces are worth picking up versus sticking to your tried-and-true home favorites, the only one out of the three pictured above that I'm truly excited about using is the hot and spicy Zowie!, which, strangely enough, reminds me of instant ramen seasoning. Otherwise, the Kaa-Blamo! sauce and Mmmm Baby! rub are serviceable but aren't different enough from name-brand sauces and rubs you can get at the grocery store to warrant a special trip for them; they're best if you're already at Ace picking up other grilling supplies and happen to need a last-minute refill for the cookout you're hosting in a few hours. But that's the thing – isn't practicality the whole point of being at a hardware store, anyway?

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