BBQ signTomato based, stirred with sugar, and finished off with a generous dose of paprika, Kansas City barbecue sauce stands apart from its Texas and North Carolina cousins.

LC's barbecue pit

Smokin’ ribs at LC’s Bar-B-Q

A few weeks ago I had a chance to sample some of Kansas City’s most legendary barbecue hotspots, Gates Bar B.Q. and Arthur Bryant’s BBQ along with a couple off-the-beaten gems LC’s Bar-B-Q and Woodyard BBQ.


But what sets Kansas City barbecue apart?

Pit Smoke

First, it’s gotta be pit smoked. The smoke tends to be mild woods like hickory and pecan instead of the bolder mesquite. The gently smoked meats stay moist in the pit and are basted with sauce.

Arthur Bryant barbecue sauce

Arthur Bryant is a love it or hate it kind of sauce

Sweet Sauce

Every barbecue establishment in Kansas City has their own special sauce. When I asked around at Arthur Bryant about offering a few hints on the spices the answer I got–”Even the cooks don’t know what’s in the sauce.” The spices are mixed offsite and unmarked to keep the mixture of decidedly strong paprika and pepper a secret. Yeah, they’re top secret. But what’s similar in all Kansas City sauces is that they’re sweet without even a hint of spice.

Kansas City ribs and beans


Kansas City makes dang good brisket and pulled pork but their sweet spot is the ribs and burnt ends. (Burnt ends is a conversation for another post.)

Eating a Kansas City rib

Time to eat some ribs


There’s also the undefinable something in Kansas City barbecue. I suspect it’s from a long, strong tradition of making amazing smoked meats. I found that the folks making the barbecue–the so-called “pit masters”–weren’t big talkers. They were all business when it came to barbecue.




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