Kansas City Barbecue Rib Rub Recipe


Ribs cooked in the Kansas City style are usually characterized by a thick and remarkably sticky sauce applied during the final half-hour of cooking.

The dry rub we highlight today is quite sweet, as is the Kansas City-style BBQ sauce to accompany this rub. The base of brown sugar is neatly balanced with some pepper and chili powder to prevent the rub from being excessively sweet.

Although Kansas City rub contains cayenne pepper and chili powder, you don’t get the same aggressive heat and spiciness you find in Texas rubs. This delicious rub incorporates a variety of spices without any given one dominating the overall flavor.

The ginger and allspice found in KC dry rub borrows from the Caribbean, while the mustard powder gives a nod to Memphis barbecue flavors. How, then, do Kansas City rubs and Memphis rubs differ?

I. How Do Kansas City and Memphis Rib Rubs Differ?

Both of these American cities are famous the world over for their BBQ ribs and rubs. Each, though, takes a very different approach to grilling out.

Kansas City ribs are complemented by sweet rubs packed with an array of spices. Often, these ribs are also slathered with a sweet KC rib sauce.

Memphis rib rubs, by contrast, have a rub contains much less brown sugar. Memphis ribs are traditionally prepared dry rather than smeared with sauce. Rather than using garlic and chili powder, the rub is spiced up with some more cayenne.

II. How to Apply a Kansas City Rib Rub

Before we showcase a simple recipe for Kansas City barbecue ribs, a few words on how to apply this rub the right way.

First, make sure all the ribs are dry to the touch. Pat them dry with some paper towels if they are still at all moist.

When you apply you rub, do so generously but evenly. An accurate rule of thumb is to use only the amount of rub that easily sticks to the meat. When you notice the spices start falling off the rubs, you’ve used enough.

While we outline multiple cooking methods below, grilling may cause the dry rub to burn.

So… how do you get started with some traditional Kansas-style rub for your ribs?

III. How to Cook Lip-Smacking Kansas City Barbecue Rib Rub


Firstly, you’ll need the following core ingredients:

What You Need

  • Spare ribs or baby back pork ribs (2 racks)
  • Wood chips if smoking (oak or hickory)
  • Kansas City BBQ Sauce
  • Liquid Smoke (1/2 tsp)

Next, you should rustle up all of the following to make your Kansas City dry rub.

What You Need for Kansas City Dry Rub

  • Brown sugar (1/2 cup)
  • Paprika (1/4 cup)
  • Black pepper (1 tbsp)
  • Kosher salt (1 tbsp)
  • Garlic powder (1 tbsp)
  • Onion powder (1 tbsp)
  • Chili seasoning (1 tbsp)
  • Cayenne powder (1 tbsp)

What To Do

Making your rub couldn’t be easier. Here’s all you need to do:

  1. Whisk together the spices for the Kansas City-style dry rub. Set these aside once mixed.
  2. Take away the membrane from the back of your rack of ribs. Trim any surplus fat from the ribs.
  3. Apply the rub liberally to both sides of the rack. Use some foil to wrap the ribs then refrigerate overnight. If you can’t wait that long, ensure you leave the ribs cooling for at least two hours. Alternatively, put the ribs inside a large container.
  4. Remove the cooled ribs from the refrigerator and allow them to come back to room temperature.
  5. Soak your wood chips then start up the grill or smoker.

IV. 4 Easy Ways to Cook Kansas City BBQ Ribs

We appreciate that everyone uses different cooking methods in the home kitchen, so try one of the following methods of getting great ribs at home the easy way:

  1. On the grill
  2. In the smoker
  3. In the oven
  4. In an instant pot

1) On the grill

  1. To cook your ribs low and slow, first set up your grill then preheat it to 225F.
  2. Add some wood chips to taste.
  3. Place the ribs in the center of the grate, bone side down. Cover the grill.
  4. Cook baby back ribs for between 4 and 5 hours. With spare ribs, cooking time should fall somewhere between 5 and 6 hours.
  5. During the last hour of grilling, use some of the reserved BBQ sauce and baste each rack every 15 minutes. Close the lid. The ribs should now be tender enough to pull apart easily with your hands.
  6. Remove the ribs from the grill. Allow them to rest for a few minutes. Cut the ribs.

If you are looking to grill ribs in less time, use a medium heat (325F to 350F) and reduce cooking times. Using this method, spare ribs require 2 ½ to 3 hours of cooking time, while baby back ribs only need 1 ½ to 2 hours on the grill.

2) In the smoker

  1. Set up your smoker and light it. Preheat to 225F and add wood chips per instructions.
  2. Pop the ribs into the smoker, bone side down. Smoke until they are cooked all the way through. For baby backs, this should take 4 to 5 hours, while spare ribs need more time – anywhere from 5 to 6 hours in the smoker.
  3. During the last 2 hours of smoking, use some of the reserved BBQ sauce and baste the top of the racks every 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the smoker, allow the ribs to rest for a few minutes, then cut and serve.

3) In the oven

  1. Preheat your oven to 325F.
  2. Place your ribs onto a wire rack, bone side down. Pop the rack onto a baking tray lined with some aluminum foil.
  3. Bake the ribs for 2 ½ to 3 hours (spare ribs) or 1 ½ to 2 hours (baby back ribs).
  4. Midway through cooking, cover the ribs with some aluminum foil. This will minimize drying, keeping all the moisture locked inside.
  5. During the last half-hour of baling, use the BBQ sauce to baste the top of the racks of ribs. Recover the ribs with foil and finish cooking.
  6. The ribs are ready to serve when their internal temperature hits 145F – use a decent thermometer to remove guesswork from the equation.
  7. Allow the ribs to rest for 10 minutes, then cut and serve.

4) In an instant pot

  1. Add the trivet to the bottom of your instant pot. Add some water (1 cup), or some apple juice or pineapple juice (optional).
  2. Position the ribs upright on the trivet. Ensure they are not overlapping.
  3. Close the vent and the kid.
  4. Using the manual pressure setting, cook the ribs for 24 minutes. Extend the cooking time to between 25 and 28 minutes if your ribs are especially meaty.
  5. Let the instant pot naturally release.
  6. Brush the ribs with your rub, then either grill or broil them lightly until they are slightly charred and sticky. Serve and enjoy!

V. Dry Rub Rib FAQs

1) When should you add Kansas City-style rub to the ribs?

The coe ingredients of a good rub are salt and sugar. If you add rubs containing salt to ribs, this starts to cure the meat, bringing out an excessively hammy flavor if applied too far in advance of cooking. You should apply your KC dry rub 10 to 30 minutes before cooking. Avoid applying the rub more than an hour ahead of time.

2) How can I store leftover KC rub?

You can use a plastic or glass storage container to safely stash any leftover rub. Make sure the lid fits tightly and the container is airtight.

3) How long does a dry rub last?

Aim to use a rub within a couple of months of making it. Rubs can last longer, but the flavors will become less intense over time.

4) Can I use dry rubs for ingredients other than meats?

Yes. Try adding some rubs to homemade vinaigrette, or sprinkle some over your eggs in the morning. It also works well on avocado toast. Imagination is your only limitation with this multipurpose seasoning.

VI. Conclusion

For anyone who arrived here today at Madiba unclear about how to get the most from a Kansas City-style rub, this handy recipe should let you see if the flavors appeal to your palate.

Don’t be put off by the heavy brown sugar content, either. All those other spices serve to balance this rub wonderfully, giving you another way to enhance cooking ribs at home.

Bookmark our blog as you head off and be sure to pop back soon as we update our content daily. See you soon!

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