Kansas City barbecue is characterized by its use of a wide variety of meat – pork, beef, chicken, turkey, mutton - (and sometimes even fish) and an equally wide variety of methods of preparation. Slow-smoking – traditional barbecue – is the most common method, but dishes cooked by other means, such as grilled chicken, also can be found on the menus of local barbecue restaurants. Just about any type of barbecued meat served in the country's other barbecue capitals, from Carolina pulled pork to Texas brisket, is served here, though burnt ends – the crusty tips of a brisket of beef or pork – are distinctive to the city.
Barbecue sauce is an integral part of Kansas City barbecue. The sauces found in the region are tomato-based, with sweet, spicy and tangy flavor profiles. Most local restaurants offer several sauce varieties but the staple sauce tends to be both spicy and sweet. Ribs are mostly pork, but also come in beef varieties and can come in a number of different cuts. Burnt ends, the flavorful pieces of meat cut from the ends of a smoked beef or pork brisket, are a popular dish in many Kansas City-area barbecue restaurants. Kansas City barbecue is also known for its many side dishes, including a unique style of baked beans, French fries, cole slaw, and other soul food staples.