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Jack Stack Pork Spare Ribs

Courtesy Jack Stack BBQ, Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City has a long history as a stockyard and meatpacking hub, and so it makes sense that barbecue here isn’t limited to just one type or cut of meat. While burnt ends (the ends of a cut of brisket) are commonly seen—as are BBQ pig snouts—pork ribs are especially beloved. They’re cooked until crisp and slathered with a sweet, tomato-based sauce, usually made with molasses, brown sugar or both.


2 racks of pork spare ribs
Jack Stack KC All Purpose Rub or Rib Rub (recipe below)
Kansas City BBQ Sauce (recipe below)


Heat oven to 250˚F.

Place ribs on aluminum foil. Apply generous coating of Rib Rub to all sides. With ribs meat-side down, fold foil to create tight seal. Transfer to sheet pan. Bake in oven until tender and cooked through, about 2 hours.

Remove from oven. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 350˚F. Open foil, and brush sauce on both sides of ribs. Place ribs meat-side up and return to oven, leaving foil open. Bake 10 minutes.

Remove from oven. Brush on another layer of barbecue sauce, and serve. Serves 4.

Kansas City BBQ Sauce Ingredients

5 tablespoons butter
½ medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups tomato sauce or ketchup
½ cup apple juice
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon chipotle powder (optional)
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Kansas City BBQ Sauce Direction

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat 2–3 minutes. Add onion, and sauté until it begins to brown. Add garlic. Sauté 2 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients, except cayenne and salt, and stir well to combine. Simmer gently for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours.

Add cayenne and salt, to taste, just before serving. Sauce can be refrigerated in sealed container for up to 1 month. Makes 2½ cups (enough for 4 racks of ribs, or 10–20 chicken legs).

Pair It

June Rodil, beverage director for McGuire Moorman Hospitality in Austin, which includes Lamberts Barbecue, provides wine recommendations. Daisy Ryan, the assistant beverage director, provides beer and cocktail pairing ideas.

Wine “I want something sweet and savory,” says Rodil. She favors rounded, full-bodied Portuguese reds, which offer plenty of sun-ripened fruit that can stand up to the richness of ribs and sauce without overpowering. “The kiss of sweetness in the fruit is balanced by their savory earthiness that alludes to hot volcanoes, not unlike the [barbecue] fire pits.”

Rodil’s pick Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande from the Douro.

Beer For relatively sweet, tomato-based sauces, skip overly malty beers and look for something light, crisp, hoppy or citrusy. IPAs, sour beers or German Kölsch are all good options.

Ryan’s pick Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

Cocktails Like beer pairings, think bubbly and citrusy to help cut the richness of barbecue. Ryan suggests a classic Paloma (Tequila, grapefruit juice, soda water) or a French 75 (gin, lemon, sparkling wine).

Meet the Merchandising Master: Tim Keegan

While Tim Keegan grew up in a small family business, he’s now pitmaster to one of the best ’cue enterprises in the Midwest, if not the country.

Started by Russ Fiorella in Kansas City in 1957, Jack Stack began as a storefront that offered five or six items. Today, under a third generation of the Fiorella family, Jack Stack is a juggernaut of five Kanas City restaurants, a catering company and a nationwide shipping operation.

“My mom and dad had a barbecue restaurant, starting when I was nine years old,” says Keegan. “I remember our Christmases, the kids would take turns sweeping out, my dad would stay up all night and cook for the restaurant.”

He ran his own spot, Keegan’s BBQ, for several years, before he joined Jack Stack in 1997.

BBQ Tips From the Chef

“You have to start with a top-notch quality product to get quality results,” says Keegan. After that, “make sure you don’t overseason the product. And make sure you’ve got plenty of time on your hands.

“To be a pitmaster, you need to not have a lot of hobbies,” he deadpans. “When you stand in front of the pit, it takes a lot of your day.”

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