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Kansas City Ribs

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Kansas City Ribs, with their smoky, tomato-based, slightly spicy sauce are a perfect barbecue recipe. Make the sauce alone, or follow this recipe to learn how to convert your charcoal grill into a smoker to cook the ribs low and slow.

Kansas City Ribs, with their smoky, tomato-based, slightly spicy sauce are a perfect barbecue recipe. Make the sauce alone, or follow this recipe to learn how to convert your charcoal grill into a smoker to cook the ribs low and slow. #bbqrecipe #howtomake #foodideas #summerfood #bbqribs #barbecue

When we completed our latest cross-country drive the summer of last year, we decided to plan our stops based on major barbecue cities in the United States. We stopped in Kansas City and picked up ah-mazing barbecue from Joe’s Kansas City at their original gas station location. Stopped by Sugarfire in Oklahoma City, and 2 other tasty stops in Memphis and South Carolina. All were really highly rated.

At each, we tried ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. There were five of us traveling, so plenty of people to share and sample each restaurant’s menu. This summer, I’m going to re-create that trip for you somewhat and share our favorites from most of the stops. Today, we start with Kansas City ribs in the style of Joe’s Kansas City. All cooking, testing, and sauce making has been completed by the Godfather (L), the resident grill master.

how to smoke ribs on a charcoal grill

We arrived in Oklahoma City around 7:30 at night, after nearly 12 hours of driving. It was a weekday, and we were trying so hard to make it to Joe’s before they closed so we could try their barbecue, which came so highly recommended by a few people we knew back in California.

I think my in-laws thought we were insane for being so insistent. We called and ordered take out to take to the hotel so we could check in, and the smell of the food was just intoxicating! L and I also picked up a bottle of the Joe’s barbecue sauce for later.

When we finally settled into our room and unpacked the food, my mother-in-law said she was just going to eat a single rib as she wasn’t very hungry. My father-in-law said about the same. We (in laws, L and I, bits for A and Dolce) demolished the whole rack! And the brisket, and the Z-Man sandwich, and everything else we ordered. But those ribs set standard for the rest of the trip, and they were never topped!

No one in the family is really a huge rib eater to begin with. The fact that these ribs had us ordering ribs from every other stop to see if they measured up is a huge deal. Kansas City ribs are amazing!

As with many things in the world of barbecue-land though, they do take a little planning, but it’s so so worthwhile. I’m really happy my mom requested these on her upcoming trip so I can eat this again soon.

kansas city bbq sauce recipe

You start by making a dry rub for the ribs and letting them absorb all the fabulous flavors overnight. Then the next day you set up your smoker, or in our case, a charcoal grill doubling as a smoker. Cook the ribs low and slow. Make your own barbecue sauce, baste periodically, and you’ll have the best rack you’ve ever seen by the end of the day. 😉

Seriously though, I can’t even say enough good things about these ribs. The homemade sauce caramelizes perfectly during smoking. The meat has an incredible flavor. If you follow the Godfather’s instructions, you’ll even have a little extra sauce for later! And you’ll just ask yourself “Where have Kansas City ribs been all my life?”, but the answer won’t matter, because they’re here now.

This sauce is really good, like a pretty spot on copycat of the bottle we purchased, only homemade of course. The usual spice suspects are included: sugar, chili powder, pepper, cumin, etc, plus one international blend that you may not expect. This barbecue sauce uses garam masala! Garam masala is an Indian spice blend used in a myriad of dishes in both India and Southeast Asia. The blend varies, but it’s usually comprised of warming spices like peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, or ginger. It is used to bring balance to dishes. In this case, it makes Kansas City style barbecue sauce go from good to extraordinary!

If you’ve never tried garam masala before, you can find it in the spice aisle. It’s totally worth picking up a bottle. You may find it becomes one of your go-to spices for all sorts of dishes because of its unique flavor. I use it a lot with chicken, vegetables, and add a pinch to many of my fall soups. For example, this pumpkin butternut squash soup. Omit saffron, add garam masala and maybe a pinch of mild curry).

how to make bbq ribs

If you have any questions about smoking, preparation, or grilling, comment below. I’ll get them answered ASAP by the expert.

Kansas City Ribs

Kansas City Ribs

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 12 hours
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 18 hours

Kansas City Ribs, with their smoky, tomato-based, slightly spicy sauce are a perfect barbecue recipe. Make the sauce alone, or follow this recipe to learn how to convert your charcoal grill into a smoker to cook the ribs low and slow.


  • Two racks of pork ribs


  • Grill (charcoal preferred)
  • Small aluminum tray
  • Mesquite wood chips
  • Water

Kansas City Inspired Rub

  • 2T sugar
  • 1T packed dark brown sugar
  • 3t garlic powder
  • 1 1/2t ground New Mexico chili powder
  • 1 1/2t paprika
  • 1 1/2t ground cumin
  • 1t salt
  • 1t ground black pepper
  • 1t garam masala

Kansas City-inspired Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2T salted butter
  • 2T yellow mustard
  • 1 1/2T ground New Mexico chili powder
  • 1T fresh lime juice
  • 1t ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t garam masala


  1. First, combine all rub ingredients in a bowl and whisk to ensure uniform consistency.
  2. Then, prepare the ribs for the rub by removing the thin membrane with a knife on the bones-side of each rack. Apply the rub the ribs and leave them to sit overnight bones-side down in the refrigerator.
  3. To prepare the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan, and place the finely chopped onion and garlic at medium heat until they start to caramelize. Then place all remaining sauce ingredients and cook while stirring frequently until it reaches a initial boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and let sit for 45 minutes. If you have a pan safe for the grill, transfer the sauce over and maintain at the side of the grill for further simmering and smoked flavor.
  4. While the sauce simmers, prepare the grill for the ribs. Remove the ribs from the refrigerator and let it approach room temperature. Fill the small aluminum tray with the mesquite wood chips and fill with water. Ensure to leave the center of the grill open for it is direct heat source. Ensure that the grates are kept the furthest distance away from the coals, and maintain the grill temperature between 200-250 degrees F (225 F is ideal). Place the small aluminum tray one side of the grill.
  5. On the other side of the grill, place the ribs bones-side down either side-by-side or stacked if space is limited. Ensure that the ribs do not sit directly above the coals. Close the grill and keep the vents open no more than halfway.
  6. After 45 minutes, brush the barbecue sauce on top of the ribs and flip the racks to ensure even receipt of heat. Ensure that side furthest from the heat is now the closest. Apply additional charcoal to the burning coals and water to the small aluminum tray as needed to maintain temperature and smoke as needed.
  7. Repeat the last step every 45 minutes for at least five hours or when the bones fall apart from the meat. Remove the ribs from the grill and serve.

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  • Reply
    Hillary Reeves
    May 26, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    I’ve never had the guts to attempt ribs!! I just feel like so much could go wrong; you’re empowering me, lady!!

  • Reply
    Brian Jones
    May 21, 2016 at 3:59 am

    What an awesome recipe, I love to use the dry rub approach the night before cooking it adds so much more than a wet marinade… Gotta give these a try!

  • Reply
    May 20, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    I looooooooooooooooove ribs! I’ve always been afraid of making them, thinking I’d somehow screw them up. Definitely going to give these a try, though. That rub looks amazing!

  • Reply
    Byron Thomas
    May 18, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Oh, come on, Mary! Now, you’re just showing off! 😉 Looking real tasty, those there ribs do! Yum, yum!

    • Reply
      Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      May 20, 2016 at 7:40 am

      I believe in this case the resident show-off is my darling husband haha. He’s rather proud of this recipe. 😉

  • Reply
    June 24, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    That would seriously be a dream vacation for us! Your ribs look amazing, and yes, I’m a big fan of Yummly! Yummed! 🙂

    • Reply
      June 24, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Hooray for a fellow barbecue aficionado! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Reply
    Meaghan | Cook. Craft. Love.
    June 22, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Oh. My. I can’t even. These look like perfection! Making the roommates try this recipe with me soon!

  • Reply
    June 19, 2015 at 9:53 am

    These look amazing and are literally making my mouth water! Yum! I am pinning this recipe for sure.

  • Reply
    Kathy Reinhart
    June 18, 2015 at 3:04 am

    Question- What id all I have is a gas grill? What modifications can I make?

    • Reply
      June 18, 2015 at 8:00 am

      L says all you need to do is look for wood chips that say “Good for gas or electric grills”, they say so right on the bag. Then, soak your chips overnight the night before you plan to make the ribs, and place the wood chip tray near the heat source on your grill. This will help mimic the charcoal effect. 🙂

      The nice thing about gas is that you’ll have no trouble keeping the temperature steady.

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