What Makes Kansas City BBQ Different?

While many people might think all BBQ is the same, those of us from Kansas City know that our BBQ is special. From the type of meat, to the sauce, to the way it’s cooked, Kansas City BBQ is unique. In this blog post, we’ll explore what makes Kansas City BBQ different from the rest.

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The History of KC BBQ

The first KC BBQ restaurant

KC BBQ is world-renowned, and for good reason. The first KC BBQ restaurant wasOpening Gates Bar-B-Q, which was opened in 1921 by Henry Perry. Perry’s ribs became so popular that he eventually began selling them out of a pushcart. In doing so, he laid the foundation for what would become one of Kansas City’s most iconic foods.

The rise of KC BBQ

The first recorded instance of barbecuing in Kansas City was in 1907 at a family gathering. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s that KC BBQ began to gain popularity. In the following decade, several BBQ restaurants opened up, each with their own secret sauce recipe. It was around this time that the phrase ” Kansas City-style BBQ” was first used.

In the 1950s and 1960s, KC BBQ really began to take off, thanks in part to famous visitors like President Harry Truman and Neal McCarthy, who helped spread the word about this delicious style of barbecue. Numerous cookbooks were published during this time period, further increasing the popularity of Kansas City BBQ.

Today, there are over 100 barbecue restaurants in Kansas City, each with its own unique take on this classic dish. Whether you prefer your meat dry-rubbed or drenched in sauce, you’re sure to find a KC BBQ restaurant that suits your taste!

The Ingredients of KC BBQ

The meats

The meats of Kansas City barbecue are primarily beef and pork. Mutton is also seen on some menus, but it is not as common as it once was. Beef brisket, pork shoulder, and pork ribs are smoked with a combination of oak and hickory wood. Chicken is also smoked, but it is often barbecued with a sauce rather than dry-rubbed and smoked like the beef and pork.

The sauces

While the meats are dry-rubbed with spices, it’s the sauce that makes Kansas City-style barbecue distinctive. The first thing you’ll notice is that the sauces here are quite thick and sticky, unlike their vinegar-based counterparts in other regions. That’s because KC BBQ sauces contain a high ratio of sugar to other ingredients. This gives them a deep, glossy sheen and a sweet flavor that perfectly offsets the smokiness of the meat.

Another key ingredient in Kansas City barbecue sauce is molasses. This gives the sauce its characteristic dark color and lends a subtle sweetness to offset the heat from chili peppers and other spices. Other common ingredients include ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, onion, garlic, and sometimes even fruit juices or soda pop for sweetness.

The sides

Sides are an important part of the BBQ experience, and there are a few that are unique to Kansas City. First, there’s the biscuit. These are not your average biscuits, they’re made with a sweeter dough and topped with a molasses-based barbecue sauce. They’re often served as an appetizer or alongside the main course.Another side you’ll find in Kansas City is the burnt ends baked bean. As the name suggests, these beans are made with burnt ends, which are the crispy bits of meat that come from smoking a brisket. They’re baked in a sweet and smoky sauce, and they make an excellent side dish for any barbecue meal.

Finally, no Kansas City-style barbecue would be complete without fries. But not just any fries – these fries are covered in a tangy vinegar-based sauce that is both sweet and spicy. It’s the perfect way to add some extra flavor to your meal.

The Cooking Methods of KC BBQ

There are four main methods of cooking Kansas City BBQ: slow smoking, grilling, barbecuing, and roasting. KC BBQ is unique because it is cooked low and slow over a long period of time. This allows the meat to absorb all of the flavor and become very tender.

Slow smoking

KC BBQ is cooked low and slow over indirect heat. The type of wood used for smoking also varies, with hickory being the most popular, followed by oak. Missouri white oak is particularly prized for smoking because it burns slow and produces a lot of smoke. Other woods that are sometimes used include pecan, apple, plum, cherry and maple.

Kansas City is known for its “burnt ends”, which are the crispy tips of the brisket that have been smoked for hours until they’re nice and tender. They’re usually served as an appetizer or side dish, but can also be added to sandwiches or used as a topping for salads.


Grilling is the primary cooking method used in Kansas City barbecue. KC pitmasters use a variety of grills, from gas to charcoal to wood fired, but the most common is a offset smoker. Offset smokers have a firebox attached to one side where the wood is burned, and the smoke and heat travel across to the other chamber where the meat is cooked. This indirect heat is what gives KC-style barbecue its characteristic smoky flavor.

KC pitmasters also use a variety of woods for smoking, but the most common are hickory and oak. The type of wood you use will impact the flavor of your barbecue, so experiment to see what you like best. Hickory imparts a strong, robust flavor that can be overwhelming if used alone, so it’s often mixed with other woods like oak or pecan. Oak produces a more subtle smoke flavor that pairs well with stronger meats like beef brisket.

Barbecue purists might turn their noses up at gas grills, but they can actually be great for cooking KC-style barbecue if you know how to use them correctly. The key is to set up a two-zone fire by turning half the burners on high and leaving the other half off. This will create both a hot direct cooking zone for searing meat and a cooler indirect zone for slow smoking. Just be sure to leave the lid open while cooking so that smoke can circulate around the meat.

The Popularity of KC BBQ

KC BBQ restaurants

Kansas City is home to some of the best barbecue in the country, and its popularity is only growing. So, what makes Kansas City barbecue so special?

There are a few things that set Kansas City barbecue apart from the rest. First, the city has a long history of barbecuing. It is said that the first Kansas City barbecue restaurant opened in the early 1900s, and since then, the city has become known for its delicious barbecue.

In addition to its history, Kansas City barbecue is also distinguished by its unique style. KC BBQ is typically cooked over a slow-burning fire, which gives it a distinct flavor. The meat is also usually smoked with hickory wood, which adds another layer of flavor.

Finally, Kansas City barbecue is known for its sauces. While other regions of the country tend to use vinegar-based sauces, KC BBQ restaurants typically serve sweet and thick tomato-based sauces. This combination of flavors makes Kansas City barbecue some of the best in the country.

KC BBQ festivals

Kansas City is known for many things, including its vibrant jazz scene and its delicious barbecue. In fact, the city is so well-known for its BBQ that there are several festivals dedicated to this culinary delight.

One of the most popular KC BBQ festivals is the American Royal World Series of Barbecue. This annual event attracts over 500 teams from across the globe who compete in various categories, such as pork ribs and brisket. Over 20,000 spectators come to taste the different meats and vote for their favorites.

Another popular festival is the Kansas City Barbeque Society State Championship, which is held every September. This event features over 100 teams from around Missouri competing in categories like chicken, pork, and beef. There is also a kids’ Q competition and a Backyard barbecue contest.

If you’re looking for a more laid-back affair, then you might enjoy the Slow Food Kansas City Barbecue Experience. This event focuses on local, sustainable, and humanely raised meats. Attendees can enjoy live music while sampling BBQ from different vendors.

No matter what type of atmosphere you’re looking for, there’s sure to be a KC BBQ festival that’s perfect for you!

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