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Regional BBQ: Kansas City

Posted by Chef Perry Perkins on

Regional BBQ: Kansas City

~Chef Perry Perkins~

Kansas City, a former meat-packing hub and railway center, bringing countless workers up from the South to work the rails, was destined for BBQ.

It all started in KC during the great depression, when a man named Henry Perry started selling barbecued ribs (which were dirt-cheap at the time) grilled in his outdoor pit, and wrapped in newspaper (which he got for free.) People loved it, and Perry went in to influence some of the most famous and influential BBQ chef's in KC history.

Home to the legendary Authur Bryant’s (whose originators learned from Perry), and possibly the most recognizable style of Q in America, BBQ in Kansas City means smoky pork spareribs, with a slightly spicy rub, and slathered in a thick, sweetened, tomato-based sauce, that's applied in layers, and cooked onto the ribs for their last hour in the smoker. Beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, sausage, and sometimes even fish, are fair game for BBQ in this Paris of the Plains, but pork reigns supreme.

In fact, if you have a favorite bottled sauce on the shelves of your local grocery store, it's probably based on a Kansas City style.

Rib cooking times and styles lean heavily towards the 3-2- 1 method, in 225F smoke.

A more recent claim to BBQ fame for Kansas City are the wildly popular "burnt ends." Tips from a fully smoked beef brisket are put back into the smoker for additional cooking time, until they achieve a firm, charred exterior. Originally, these were scraps from the outer edge of the brisket, set aside for the cook's snacking, or as free samples to waiting customers.

Nowadays, with the huge demand, it's often the entire point end of the brisket, which is looser and fattier than the "flat" end, that's cubed and tossed back in the smoker. They are AMAZING!

Burnt ends are nearly always served on a bed of soft white bread, a side of pickle slices, and always with sauce. Coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans are the favored sides.

Kansas City BBQ Sauce

Paul Kirk, BBQ guru, and a native of Kansas City, offers this recipe for America's favorite style of rib sauce:

3 cups ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons pure chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder

2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon granulated onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching.

The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.

Kansas City Burnt Ends

4-5lbs smoked brisket point*
1/2 cup bbq rub
Hickory pellets or chips

Slice the point, against the grain, into 2in-thick steaks, and rub both sides. Place the steaks on a rack.

Return the rack to the box and smoke for 1 hour, or until the meat is almost black on the outside.

Transfer the point to the carving board and let rest for 15 minutes.

Slice into cubes and serve, brushed with sauce, with bread & butter pickle slices and soft white bread.

*A packer brisket has two parts, the flat, and the point. The "flat" runs the whole length of the brisket (slice this against the grain and serve as brisket) while the "point" is a cap that sits on top of one end.

It's that cap, or "point" you want to use for your burnt ends.

~Chef Perry

As a third-generation chef, Perry P. Perkins focuses his love of cooking on barbeque, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine.

Perry runs the non-profit organization, MY KITCHEN Outreach Program, which teaches nutrition, shopping, and hands on cooking classes for at risk youth.

His cookbooks include La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party, and the NEW “La Caja China Grill.”

You can follow the rest of Chef Perry’s cooking adventures at

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