Kansas City–style barbecue | The ultimate comfort food. Hearty, satisfying, and delicious

kansas city

Kansas City–style barbecue is a slowly smoked meat barbecue originating in Kansas City, Missouri in the early 20th century. It has a thick, sweet sauce derived from brown sugar, molasses, and tomatoes. Henry Perry is credited as its originator, as two of the oldest Kansas City–style barbecue restaurants still in operation trace their roots back to Perry’s pit.

Type Lunch, dinner
Place of origin United States
Region or state Missouri & Kansas
Associated cuisine United States
Created by Henry Perry
Invented 1908
Main ingredients Beef, chicken, and pork

Overview of Kansas City

Kansas City barbecue has a wide variety of meats: pork, beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, sausage, and sometimes fish. It is seasoned with a dry rub, slow-smoked over a variety of woods and served with a thick tomato-based barbecue sauce.

Most local restaurants and sauce companies offer several varieties with spicy and tangy flavor profiles. Historically, the sauces were not sweet until Rich Davis, a child psychiatrist from KC developed the KC Masterpiece sauce with molasses, which varies greatly from the more traditional sauces at the longtime KC BBQ restaurants where orders are made at a counter.

Burnt ends are the crusty, fatty, flavorful meat cut from the point of a smoked beef brisket. Side dishes include a unique style of baked beans, French fries, and coleslaw.

Kansas City Ingredients

For the Rub:

  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons celery salt
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the Ribs:

  • 2 racks pork ribs, baby backs or spare ribs
  • 4 to 6 fist size chunks of medium smoking wood, such as oak or hickory
  • 1 recipe Kansas City-style barbecue sauce


  • Mix together the brown sugar, paprika, white sugar, celery salt, kosher salt, granulated onion, granulated garlic, chili powder, white pepper, and black pepper in a small bowl to make the rub.

  • Remove the membrane from the back of the rack, and trim the ribs of excess fat. Rub each rack liberally with the rub. Wrap ribs in foil or place in a large container and store in the refrigerator over night (optional).
  • Remove the ribs from the fridge while preparing the smoker or grill. Fire up smoker or grill to 225°F, adding chunks of smoking wood chunks when at temperature. When the wood is ignited and producing smoke, place the ribs in the smoker or grill, meat side up, and smoke until the ribs have a slight bend when lifted from one end, about 4-5 hours for baby backs or 5-6 hours for spare ribs.
  • In the last 1/2 hour of cooking, baste the top of each rack with barbecue sauce and continue smoking. Remove from the smoker, slice, and serve.

Special Equipment

Smoker or grill

What makes Kansas City BBQ different?

Kansas City barbecue’s signature touch is the crisp, charred ends of pork or smoked brisket. Meanwhile, the sweet and spicy tomato-based sauce that tops everything off is another hallmark of this regional culinary style.

Why is Kansas City BBQ the best?

Since the early 1900s this place has done slow-cooked meat and large portion sizes better than most others. KC BBQ is all about the sauce and Bryant’s sauce stands apart from the thicker sauces you typically see. The thin and unique sauce isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth giving it a try.

What food is Kansas City known for?

Kansas City, located both in Kansas and Missouri, is considered the world capital of barbecue due to how many different styles of barbecue were created here. Some of the most famous items that are considered to be Kansas City barbecue would be ribs, hot and cold brisket, pork salad and burnt ends.

In what state is Kansas City?

Kansas City, city, Clay, Jackson, and Platte counties, western Missouri, U.S. Located on the Missouri River at the confluence with the Kansas River, the city is contiguous with Kansas City, Kansas, forming part of a large urban complex that also includes Leavenworth, Olathe, Overland Park, Prairie Village, and Shawnee.


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