Whereas some regions pride themselves on one signature meat, Kansas City does it all: brisket, burnt ends, pulled pork, and ribs are all cooked with the type of serious determination that only comes from having the barbecue world's largest governing body (the Kansas City Barbeque Society) looking over your (pork) shoulder.
Our Kansas City expert needs no introduction in barbecue circles. Ardie Davis literally wrote the book on barbecue judging by laying out the first curriculum for the Kansas City Barbecue Society, and has penned six books on barbecue, including the forthcoming Barbecue Lover's Kansas City Style, due out in September. Here's his take on his region's best smoked meats.
Best burnt ends: Q39
"What Kansas Citians call 'burnt ends' has evolved from beef brisket trimmings of fat, meat, and bark to lean, juicy pieces of brisket from the point end, sentenced to 17 or more hours pit time, and then cubed, glazed or sauced; served as appetizer, entrée, or sandwich. Chef Rob Magee’s Culinary Institute of America training, tempered with his impressive championship competition barbecue record, shines through in all he touches. What Rob does with Kansas City’s favorite barbecue candy is simply classic: tender and juicy with bark, a kiss of smoke, and sauce."
Runner up: LC's BBQ (Kansas City)
"Bovine breast meat is a duo of tough muscle and fat. When smoked to perfection, the flat portion yields tender, juicy slices of carnivorous splendor. SLAP’S Central Texas stick-burner style of brisket is juicy and thick-sliced with a slightly sweet Kansas City accent."
Runner up: Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Kansas City)
"Kansas City loves barbecue pork ribs. Although spareribs from the lower portion of porcine rib cages are most commonly served, baby back/loin ribs from the upper portion of the rib cage are also popular. Competition barbecue has influenced a change from traditional Kansas City-style untrimmed, unskinned whole spareribs to neatly trimmed St. Louis-style rectangular slabs sans breast bone, brisket flap, and bone-side membrane.
"Championship pitmaster Todd Johns transferred his winning ways with baby backs to his enormously popular Plowboys restaurants in Blue Springs and Downtown Kansas City. Your first bite will explain why Plowboys' competition barbecue team is no stranger to the winner’s circle."
Runner up: Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue (Kansas City)
"Kansas City loves the upper portion of pork shoulder known as Boston butt, smoked for hours until pull-apart tender. Johnny White applied what he learned from Kansas City barbecue legend Anthony Rieke and tweaked it with his own signature flavor profile: lightly seasoned with award-winning rub and a hickory-smoked mix of tender juicy pork meat mixed with bark and a splash of tomato base sauce."
Runner up: Brobeck's Barbeque (Overland Park)