It was Wilbert Harrison in 1959 who sang “Kansas City, here I come, I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come . . . I’m gonna be standing on the corner 12th Street and Vine, With my Kansas City baby and a bottle of Kansas City wine…” (song is here)

I don’t know about Harrison, but I’m going to Kansas City for CMLS and some barbecue. If you’re going to Kansas City too, I thought you might BBQwant to brush up on your barbecue. So I did a little research on the different types of BBQ, because I know the natives of KC wholeheartedly believe theirs is the best.

So what is the difference between the different styles of barbecues?

Here’s a quick primer on the basics, courtesy of Mathew Kane’s piece from the Huffington Post:

Kansas City

Meat of Choice: Mix of All Meats (KC has influences from all other regions because of geographic location)

Wood of Choice: Mix

Famous Dish: Burnt ends (beef or pork), BBQ Ribs or Chicken

Sauce Style: Sweet Tomato Based Sauce with Molasses


Meat of Choice: Pork

Wood of Choice: Hickory (Oak, Pecan, Apple, Cherry also used)

Famous Dish: Pork Ribs “Wet” (slathered with sauce after smoking) or “Dry” (no sauce, just dry rubbed with seasonings and smoked)

Sauce Style: Tomato & Vinegar Base


Meat of Choice: Beef

Wood of Choice: Oak

Famous Dish: Sliced Beef Brisket, Link Sausage

Focus on dry rubs

Sauce Style: Spicy & Tangy Tomato Based Sauce with Some Sweetness


Meat of Choice: Pork

Wood of Choice: Hickory; Oak also used

Famous Dish: Pulled Pork, Whole Hog

Sauce Style: Vinegar Based in East; Tomato Based in West; Mustard Based also Served in Georgia & South Carolina

According to the Outdoor Cooking Channel, KC style barbecue is America’s most dominant, noting, “Local grocery store more than likely has shelves packed with Kansas City style barbecue sauce. Kansas City style barbecue is so well recognized and so celebrated that the world’s largest barbecuing and grilling organization, The Kansas City Barbecue Society, purposely includes the name of this BBQ Mecca city.”

It goes on to say “Kansas City style barbecue is ruled by the sauce – you’ll experience a sweet and thick sauce that is usually made up with tomato and molasses base… (and that) Kansas City style barbecue also is home to a barbecue “holy grail” – burnt ends. These are the tips from a fully smoked beef brisket that are usually thrown back into the smoker for additional cooking time and to get a nicely charred exterior. Burnt ends have become a staple menu item at almost every Kansas City style barbecue restaurant because of their “cult like” following.

Finally, did you know that the most reliable research says the word “barbecue” comes from the Caribbean word “barbacoa?” But barbacoa wasn’t a method of cooking food, but it was the name of a wooden structure used by Taino Indians to smoke their food. It’s believed that the first barbecue consisted of some sort of fish.  Now that’s one kind of BBQ you are unlikely to find in KC.

So as the song goes, “Well, I might take a plane I might take a train, But if I have to walk, I’m going just the same, I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come.” And pass a few extra napkins to Marilyn, Victor and me, please.


Photo courtesy of Joe’s Kansas City