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How to Make a Kansas City Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce

By:  T Edwards

Kansas City Style Barbeque Sauce is known for it's sweetness. It is usually ketchup based, relatively thin, and applied to a variety of meats very generously. It has a characteristically sticky, tomato based (ketchupy) flavor. It is much sweeter than a sauce native to the south. If you like a good, thick, sweet sauce on your ribs, pulled pork, or brisket then a Kansas City version is a sure thing.

Kansas City Style Barbeque Rib Rub

What makes Kansas City Style Barbeque unique is the sweet flavor. A principle ingredient therefore must be sugar. This regional style is definitely enhanced by the sauce which is much sweeter than the hot and spicy sauce of the Southwest or the vinegar based sauces of the Northeast. Regardless of what regional variety of ribs I'm cooking, I will always start off with a good rub. Rubbing the seasonings into the meat and letting them sit overnight definitely enhances the flavor. Here is a sweet, KC style rib rub but remember, taste it as you go and don't be afraid to experiment. That's half the fun of barbequing!

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of garlic powder

Rinse the ribs and trim away the excess fat. You can also trim the membrane (a thin layer of skin on the bone side of the slab) off at this time. Rub the ribs down on both sides and wrap them tight in plastic wrap. Put them in the fridge overnight to really let those seasonings set. Overnight seasoning is not absolutely mandatory, but it helps the flavor immensely in my opinion.

*On a side note, my grandfather seasons his ribs before he freezes them if he's not going to cook them right away!

The main ingredient of the sweet rub is brown sugar. You have to cook it "slow and low" because the sugar will blacken and burn very quickly if your fire is too hot. Mist the ribs with a half apple (or pineapple) juice half water mixture throughout the cooking time to help prevent the sugar from burning and keep them good and moist. Mist the ribs at least once an hour while cooking them.

Kansas City Style Barbeque Sauce

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup beer
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 clove of minced garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt

Brown the garlic in the olive oil and then mix in the remainder of the ingredients. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. This will make a sweet, ketchup based sauce so you may want to add the ingredients in smaller increments so you can adjust them to taste.

On cooking day, preheat your grill to 180 - 200 degrees. Place the ribs on the grill meat side up and let 'em smoke. Remember to keep an eye on your temperature because the sugar will burn quickly if your fire gets too hot. The ribs are going to smoke for 5-6 hours or to an internal meat temperature of 145 degrees. Mist them with your water/juice mixture once every hour or so. Mop the ribs with your Kansas City Sauce over the last hour before they're done. You'll know when they're getting done because the meat will shrink and pull away from the bone.

The key to good Kansas City Style ribs is the sweetness and the sauce. For true KC style bbq, mop that good sauce over the ribs thick and heavy and bring plenty of napkins!