This Is What Makes Kansas City Barbecue So Unique

Memphis-style pulled pork, Texan beef brisket, or Carolina barbecue sauce might pop up on any menu serving up smoked meats. But barbecue is barbecue, right? Wrong. As any meat lover will tell you, each regional style has its own flavors, history, and diehard fans. But Kansas City might be known as the BBQ Capital of the World for a reason (via Visit KC).

The father of Kansas City barbecue was Henry Perry, who set up a pushcart in Kansas City's Garment district in the early 1900s where he sold expertly smoked beef, slow cooked ribs — and raccoon — wrapped in newspaper (via American Royal BBQ Hall of Fame). His operation soon moved to the Vine Street Corridor, a Black neighborhood in a racially segregated Kansas City that became a training ground for barbecue greats, according to Barbecue Tradition. One was Perry's successor, Charlie Bryant, who passed the operation to his brother Arthur — credited with adding sweetness to the sauce that made Kansas City style BBQ what it is today (via Kansas City Business Journal).

The secret's in the (barbecue) sauce

Unlike Carolina-style thin, vinegary sauce, and Texan dry-rubs (sauce optional), Kansas City is known for its sweet, thick sauce served right on the meat, according to the Culinary Institute of America's guide. There's no true consensus on what makes a barbecue sauce truly Kansas-flavored, but it's usually a tomato base combined with brown sugar, vinegar, and spices.

Kansas City is also less picky with its meat, serving up beef, pork, chicken or sausage in every form, while Texans stick with beef, and Memphis and the Carolinas favor pork. But whatever the meat of choice is in Kansas City, the ground rules for delicious barbecue stay the same: cooked low and slow with plenty of — one more thing that makes KC 'cue so good.

As the writer Calvin Trillin wrote in a 1972 issue of Playboy (via Full Custom Gospel BBQ), "The best restaurants in the world are, of course, in Kansas City." Whatever menu item sparks barbecue bliss, remember that — and be sure to grab extra napkins.