Kansas City’s barbecue sauce is tomato-based, thick, sweet and smoky. These Kansas City-style spareribs are a perfect example of that style of barbecue.
Kansas City-style Spareribs
Kansas City barbecue has as much of its own unique personality as one would find in the other barbecue meccas of the country. The tomato-based sauce is thick, sweet and smoky. If you’ve ever tried the commercially available KC Masterpiece brand barbecue sauce, then you know the flavors of Kansas City-style barbecue.
After reading Steven Raichlen’s book, Planet Barbecue!, I was intrigued by his Kansas City-Style Spareribs. He states, “This recipe should be a part of every grill master’s repertory: pork spareribs crusted with a spice rub, sprayed with apple juice and bourbon, and slathered with a brown sugar and bourbon sauce.” He also states that this new and improved recipe will, “knock it out of the park every time.” Since I wasn’t all that satisfied with my current Kansas City-style rib recipe, I was game. Holy shmolly! It’s a keeper!
- 2 racks spareribs (each 3-4 pounds)
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 3 tablespoons coarse salt (sea or kosher)
- 2 tablespoons lemon pepper
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- ¾ cup apple cider
- ¼ cup bourbon
- Bourbon-Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
- A spray bottle and a funnel
- 4-1/2 to 5 cups of hickory or other hardwood smoking chips, soaked in water for an hour and drained
- A rib rack (optional)
- Prepare your ribs. Remove the membrane from the inner portion of the ribs. This membrane will inhibit the flavors of the meat rub and the smoke from penetrating the meat. Trim off any excess fat. See the sidebar if you need to review how that is done.
- Place the sugar, paprika, salt, lemon pepper and the granulated garlic in a mixing bowl. Blend well.
- Generously sprinkle the rub on both sides of the ribs, rubbing the seasoning onto the meat. If time allows, it’s best to let the ribs cure in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
- Using a funnel, pour the cider and bourbon into a spray bottle. Shake the bottle to mix.
- Set up the grill for indirect grilling. Place a drip pan in the center and preheat the grill to medium (325-degrees F). When ready to cook, if you are using a charcoal grill, toss 1-1/2 cups of the wood chips on the coals. If you are using a gas grill, add the wood chips to a smoker box or wrap them in a heavy-duty aluminum pouch with holes punched in with a fork. Place pouch under the grill grate on top of the grill diverter plate.
- Place the ribs bone side down, in the center of the grill. (if your grill has limited space, use a rib rack to stand the rib racks upright).
- Cook the ribs until well browned and cooked through yet tender enough to pull apart with your fingers (about 1-1/2 to 2 hours).
- Start spraying the ribs with the apple cider and bourbon mixture after 30 minutes and spray them again every 30 minutes until they are done. After 1 hour, if using a charcoal grill, replenish the charcoal and add another 1-1/2 cups of the smoking chips.
- When the ribs are done, they will have shrunk back from the bones by about ½ inch and will be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. The exterior will be dark, almost black, but not burned.
- Transfer the racks of ribs to a platter or cutting board and cut the racks in half or into 2 or 3 bone portions. Serve the ribs with the Bourbon-Brown sugar Barbecue Sauce on the side.