The Meatwave

Kansas City-Style Ribs

Kansas City-Style Ribs View Recipe

Life in a sea of ribs. That's how I've been living recently as I try to come up with my final competition recipe before the first comp in the end of March. While I'll still probably live and die by Mike Mill's ribs for my personal taste, those may not score well with the current trend of sweet toothed judges. So there have been many stops along the way to find the right amount of sweet, while staying true to myself with a balance of spices and heat as well. These Kansas City-style baby backs were instrumental in finding my way to a well rounded, yet sweet, rib.

Kansas City Ribs

While the Kansas City sauce helped me make inroads on my own, it's the rub I devised for these ribs that was most influential. I'm used to rubs that give equal weighting to sugar, salt, and spice, but this rub hits hard with the sweet. Brown sugar forms the base, which lends a deep molasses taste to the final ribs, with the other spices paying compliments to its sugary overlord. Even so, the rub does find a nice combination of spice while still letting the sweetness be the dominante trait.

Kansas City Ribs

I've also been playing around with the amount of rub on the ribs as well. In the past, I've gone strong and heavy, not letting any speck of meat go uncovered with rub. For these racks, I scaled back a tad. One reason was the thought of making my ribs too sugary was off-putting, the second was to try to find a nice play between the flavor of the meat and rub, with the smoky pork doing more heavy lifting than normal.

Kansas City Ribs

Rubbed and rested, they were ready for the pit. Nothing special done here, just five hours at 225 over a mixture of oak and apple wood.

Kansas City Ribs

Finally, the ribs ended with a baste of KC-style sauce. This thick and sweet sauce coated the ribs heavily, but after cooking down for half an hour in the smoker, it created a nice shiny coat that was a perfect thickness to make a saucy, but not overly messy rib.

Kansas City Ribs

All-in-all, these were decent ribs. They were sweet, sticky, with a nice spice and great smoky flavor—when the average person says they want ribs, this is exactly what they're thinking of. For me though, they don't represent ribs to the full potential—those that deliver a creativity of flavor that makes a rib unique and special. This is what I'm trying to achieve for competition, but at least these Kansas City ribs were big in helping me find my way.

Print Recipe

Kansas City-Style Ribs

  • Yield 4 servings
  • Prep 15 Minutes
  • Cook 5 Hours
  • Total 5 Hours 15 Minutes


  • For the rub
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons celery salt
  • 2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 racks pork ribs, baby backs or spare ribs
  • 4 to 6 fist size chunks of medium smoking wood, such as oak or hickory
  • Kansas City-style barbecue sauce


  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Remove the ribs from the fridge while preparing the smoker or grill. Fire up smoker or grill to 225 degrees, 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.
  4. 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.

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  1. James Everything sounds good. Now get out there and see what the judges have to say.
    Is Grillin On The Bay your first comp?

  2. Josh @James Yup, GOTB will be my first. You going to be there?

  3. James I'm trying to talk myself into doing it again this year. Here are my excuses not to enter: it is the same day as my birthday, I have to work tonight and I froze my ass off last year. It was 27 degrees last year, which makes me not want to compete again in March.
    If I don't compete this year, I will definitely be there as a spectator. This is my 3rd season of competing so I know most of the teams pretty well.
    I know that I am definitely doing Willie-Pallooza in April!

  4. James I have to work *that night.

  5. Josh @James I was there last year, glad I wasn't cooking so I could go inside and warm up. With the warm weather this year, hopefully that won't be an issue.

    I hadn't heard of Willie-Pallooza before...sounds tempting. I also have apps in for BBQ Brethren and Hudson Valley in August. Any other in the area I may not know about?

  6. Chris That's the part the keeps me from wanting to compete - purposely cooking different than what I would want to eat.

    It looks like you are really making progress in your testing.

  7. Generique Sounds good. Thanks for everything.

  8. Josh @Chris Yeah, it's a hard thing to overcome. One side of me thinks I'll go in there with my favorite spicy ribs that are so good they'll change the tide, but I also know that's not going to happen. I'm working on striking a balance between my personal taste and cooking for the judges. I had something pretty good now that's not overly sweet with a nice spice at the end...we'll see how they fare.

  9. Mark I wouldn't say that spicy ribs are looked down upon any more than ribs that are finished with an overly sweet sauce. Ribs aren't hot wings and they're not (always) a dessert either. There can be too much spice just like there can be too much smoke or sweetness or saltiness or umami - if you believe it exists. Maybe things are different with NEBS but that's what I've seen as a KCBS CBJ anyway.

    I'd imagine you've already done this but make darn sure to read over the rules for your competition. I've seen entries disqualified for something as minor as a stray piece of rice that ended up in the turn-in box. It's a shame when that stuff happens.

    Good luck on your first competition!

  10. thyromine Thanks for the recipes. I add turmeric to meat pretty much 100% of the time I cook it. Hard to live meatless ).

  11. provillus Because my husband has diabetes, I omitted the brown sugar and maple syrup. The result was a nice savory taste. I loved the %u201Cpull-away%u201D texture; it was just right. I'm putting this in my favorites binder.

  12. acheter kamagra I do love meat and can not imagine your dinner without a piece of meat)))

  13. vigrx plus I reckon ribs need to be cooked a lot longer than this. I would give them four or five hours on a lower heat. vigrx plus review.

  14. curemed Ribs... One of my most favorite dishes. The photo look very appetizing ;)