Kansas City-Style Barbecue Ribs Recipe

Top photo: J. Kenji López-Alt, all others Joshua Bousel

You didn't actually think two weeks of smoking lessons was going to end without a rib recipe, right? Now that you're armed with smoking know-how, it's time to start you off in proper fashion with a few racks of these killer Kansas City-style ribs.

Like Kansas City-style sauce, the rub tips the scale in the sweet direction, but gets enough chili powder and pepper to create a spice that balances it out. Once the rub is applied and these hit the smoker at 225 °F, you grab a beer and wait until they're nice and tender.

In the last half hour, brush on a layer of Kansas City-style sauce. It only caramelizes slightly and produces the thick, sticky layer of sauce that defines the style of these finger-lickin' good ribs.

Recipe Facts



Active: 90 mins
Total: 6 hrs
Serves: 4 servings

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  • For the Rub:
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons celery salt
  • 2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • For the Ribs:
  • 2 racks pork ribs, baby backs or spare ribs
  • 4 to 6 fist size chunks of medium smoking wood, such as oak or hickory
  • 1 recipe Kansas City-style barbecue sauce
  • Type of fire: Indirect
  • Grill heat: Low


  1. Mix together the brown sugar, paprika, white sugar, celery salt, kosher salt, granulated onion, granulated garlic, chili powder, white pepper, and black pepper in a small bowl to make the rub.

  2. Remove the membrane from the back of the rack, and trim the ribs of excess fat. Rub each rack liberally with the rub. Wrap ribs in foil or place in a large container and store in the refrigerator over night (optional).

  3. Remove the ribs from the fridge while preparing the smoker or grill. Fire up smoker or grill to 225°F, adding chunks of smoking wood chunks when at temperature. When the wood is ignited and producing smoke, place the ribs in the smoker or grill, meat side up, and smoke until the ribs have a slight bend when lifted from one end, about 4-5 hours for baby backs or 5-6 hours for spare ribs.

  4. In the last 1/2 hour of cooking, baste the top of each rack with barbecue sauce and continue smoking. Remove from the smoker, slice, and serve.

Special equipment

Smoker or Grill