Kansas City Sticky Ribs


Comments 284 comments   

Kansas City ribs are slow-smoked pork ribs slathered in a sauce so thick, sweet, and sticky that you need a case of wet naps to get your hands clean after eating them. Aside from the sauce and the smoky flavor, the other defining characteristic of KC ribs is their unbelievably tender texture-the meat should pull off the bone with very little resistance.

Serves 4 to 6


Buy St. Louis-style racks, which are more manageable than untrimmed pork spareribs. If you can't find them, baby back ribs will work fine; just reduce the cooking time in the oven in step 4 to 1 to 2 hours.

3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) full racks pork spareribs, preferably St. Louis cut (see note above), trimmed of any large pieces of fat and membrane removed
1 recipe Kansas City Barbecue Sauce---(See Below)
2 cups wood chips, soaked, drained, and sealed in a foil packet


1. Combine the paprika, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a bowl. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels, and rub them evenly with the spice mixture. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (If refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling.) Measure out 1 cup of the barbecue sauce for cooking; set aside the remaining sauce for serving.

2a. For a charcoal grill: Open the bottom grill vents halfway. Light a large chimney starter three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes (75 briquettes; 4 1/2 quarts). When the coals are hot, pour them into a steeply banked pile against one side of the grill. Place the wood chip packet on top of the coals. Set the cooking grate in place, cover, and open the lid vents halfway. Heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke -heavily, about 5 minutes.

2b. For a gas grill: Place the wood chip packet directly on the primary burner. Turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 15 minutes. Turn the primary burner to medium-high and turn off the other burner(s). (Adjust the primary burner as needed to maintain the grill temperature around 325 degrees.)

3. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place the ribs, meat side down, on the cool part of the grill, away from the coals and flames; the ribs may overlap slightly. Place a sheet of foil directly on top of the ribs. Cover (positioning the lid vents over the meat if using charcoal) and cook until the ribs are deep red and smoky, about 2 hours, flipping and rotating the racks halfway through. During the final 20 minutes of grilling, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 250 degrees.

4. Remove the ribs from the grill, brush them evenly with the 1 cup sauce reserved for cooking, and wrap tightly with foil. Lay the foil-wrapped ribs on a rimmed baking sheet and continue to cook in the oven until tender and a fork inserted into the ribs meets no resistance, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

5. Remove the ribs from the oven and let rest, still wrapped, for 30 minutes. Unwrap the ribs and brush them thickly with 1 cup of the sauce set aside for serving. Slice the ribs between the bones and serve with the remaining sauce.

Kansas City BBQ Sauce

Yield: 4 Servings Size


2 teaspoons oil (neutral flavored)
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable stock (low sodium preferred)
1 cup root beer
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, divided


In medium dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat till shimmery (but not smoking). Add onion and garlic and cook till soft, about 5 minutes.

Add stock, root beer, vinegar, corn syrup, molasses, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, and 1/4 teaspoons liquid smoke. Stir with a whisk till well combined.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer till mixture has thickened and reduced to about 4 cups, about an hour. Remove from heat and stir in remaining liquid smoke.

Sauce will keep about a week in the refrigerator, or up to four months if frozen.

Submitted by Bri from New Jersey



Go back to the Main Page of the Archives.