Ask any foodie and they’ll quickly tell you that Kansas City barbeque sauce–lovingly shortened to KC BBQ sauce in our neck of the woods–is by far the most popular kind of barbeque sauce in the country, if not the world.
Chances are that when you think about classic BBQ flavor profiles, you’re imagining the sweet and tangy flavors that come straight from Kansas City!
What makes KC BBQ sauce the quintessential BBQ staple for so many folks? How did this style come to dominate the BBQ world, what sets it apart from other sauces, and how can you start using it in your own kitchen or out on the grill?
Read on to have all of your KC BBQ sauce questions answered!
A Brief History of KC BBQ Sauce
KC BBQ sauce didn’t arrive mysteriously in Kansas City before sweeping the nation. We owe the legacy of KC BBQ sauce to a man named Henry Perry and his brother, Arthur, born near Memphis and relocated to Kansas City.
Slow-cooked meats were a staple in the south when Perry was born in 1875. Familiar with southern styles of food preparation, Perry became accustomed to regional styles from Chicago and Minneapolis, too, as he took work in steamboat kitchens throughout his teens and early twenties. In 1907, Perry left the steamboat kitchens to work in a Kansas City saloon, where he remained for about a year before deciding it was time to get into business on his own.
Perry began selling smoked meats to all sorts of patrons in the Garment District, offering the kind of fare we enjoy to this day alongside early 20th-century staples like possum and raccoon. On the side of all these delicious meats was a sauce that was described as peppery and a little harsh–not quite the KC BBQ sauce we know today, but more of a precursor.
When his brother, Arthur, joined the business upon Henry’s passing in 1940, he would come up with a sauce that many found more palatable, and thus, KC BBQ sauce was born!
Getting Comfy With This Sweet and Tangy Sauce
KC BBQ sauce is something you can incorporate into just about any BBQ-style meal. Slather it on ribs, on smoked chicken, or mix it into your next batch of pulled pork. If you’re not a meat-eater but still love BBQ, you can marinate tofu, tempeh, and other plant-based meat substitutes in KC BBQ sauce to get that sweet and tangy flavor without breaking your veggie habits!
The best way to get comfy with KC BBQ sauce is to dive right in. Let’s talk about some of the best ways that you can learn more about this incredible flavor profile.
Burnt Ends (Mighty Tasty!)
Burnt ends are a BBQ classic in Kansas City and once you try them, you’ll want them on the side of every BBQ meal. What are burnt ends?
Burnt ends are the tips pulled from a beef brisket that has already been fully smoked. Once removed, a pit master will throw them back into the smoker for some extra cook time. This creates a uniquely charred exterior that is so delicious, it’ll blow your mind!
If you haven’t tried burnt ends from a bonafide Kansas City BBQ joint, you haven’t tasted KC BBQ sauce at its finest yet!
The Kansas City Barbeque Society
KC BBQ sauce is such a big deal that a group of folks in Kansas City started their very own organization focused almost solely on competitive KC BBQ sauce cooking. What started as a local organization branched out to become one of the quintessential judging forces of KC BBQ sauce and you’ll find them at competitive events all over the country.
If you want to see some serious pit masters and sauce makers at work, check out an event or two hosted by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.
Learning More About KC BBQ Sauce With BeerSauce Shop
At BeerSauce Shop, we know a thing or two about KC BBQ sauce and make our very own! We love nothing more than making and talking about beer, sauce, rubs, and BBQ sandwiches–and we’ve got a ton to offer. Stay tuned to our events so you can hang out with us and shop, taste, learn, and eat!
Ivy League Sweet & Smokey
Mean mama’s Maple Bacon
Want to Take a Stab at Making KC BBQ Sauce of Your Very Own?
Alright, so what’s the secret to a true KC BBQ sauce? How can you take a stab at making some of your very own?
The most important thing about a good KC BBQ sauce is that it’s sweet, it’s tangy, and it’s thick. Unlike Memphis BBQ sauce, KC BBQ sauce isn’t usually going to pack the kind of heat that’ll knock your socks off. Instead, it’s going to rely on tamer spices that still create a mind-blowing flavor profile.
There are two important components in any KC BBQ sauce: you’ve got either your brown sugar or your molasses (to add the sweetness) and a solid base of tomato sauce (bringing in the tanginess). Then you’ve got all sorts of spices, from your garlic powder to your chile powder to your paprika.
Most of the time, you’re also going to find ketchup in KC BBQ sauce, like you will in this classic rendition of KC BBQ sauce by the BBQ Pit Boys.
Hang Out With Us at BeerSauce Shop and Learn More About Brews and Sauces
We hope that we’ve made your mouth water and your BBQ senses tingle with our introduction to KC BBQ sauce. We also hope that you stop in and see us soon so that we can talk even more about all of the different kinds of sauces, rubs, and brews that make up the wonderful world of BBQ.
To hang out with us, take a look at our current and soon-to-open locations and find the BeerSauce Shop nearest you.