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The Smoking Musket Tailgate Menu Week 11: Beef, it’s what’s for tailgating

We kind of play around with KC-style barbecue, but take a faster approach.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of Kansas, I’m not so sure a distinct cuisine comes to mind, unless you go into Missouri, where you find Kansas City-style barbecue. This regional style uses a variety of meats and woods to cook, but sometimes, smoking meat isn’t the greatest for a tailgate. For a football game, though, you’re likely feeding a lot of people, so some side dishes will be key to this feast. Here is the week 11 tailgate menu:

Grilled Short Ribs

A proud Kansan will tell you that they have one of the biggest cattle populations in the country—maybe even the world. Luckily, cattle provide so many different cuts of meat that we can use that are also stress-free to prepare and cook on the grill. For this Saturday, we’re going to use the portion of the cow that, according to lore, originated the barbecue style of the region: beef ribs. Now, KC-style barbecue is known for using all kinds of meats, but the story goes that a man from western Tennessee brought his rib smoking style “out west.” Now, we aren’t smoking these ribs, but information is always good.

Grilled short ribs are still prepared in the same manner as how you’d smoke ribs, but this is a tailgate-friendly method of cooking (it will still take more than an hour, though). Mix up your rub and have fun with your meat, making sure there is a heavy layer of spice rub. Now, you can use the rub included in this recipe, or you can use this one that gives the meat a bit more flavor. If you’ve read these articles before, you know I believe the rub and meat should sit at least overnight (not too much longer).

When you get to the tailgate, set up your grill for indirect heat and preheat to medium heat. Though this is an aluminum foil brand recipe, they’re correct saying that this will be the best way to cook these. Make your foil packs big enough to allow for the steam and heat to circulate, then put them on the grill for about 90 minutes.

Once they’ve reached about 200 degrees, carefully open the packs and cover the tops of the ribs with BBQ sauce. Then, close the packs and turn the grill to direct heat to finish cooking for about five minutes. Let them cool for about five minutes and then serve them with the sauce on the side. Well-cooked meat doesn’t require too much sauce.


Kansas City BBQ Sauce

The most popular style of BBQ sauce comes from Kansas City. KC-style barbecue rose to fame because of the variety of meats that come through the area—beef, pork, poultry and more. The unifying feature of these meats, though, is the thick, tomato-based sauce that is added after cooking, but sometimes in final minutes of cooking as well. To complement the ribs, we’re going to make our own Kansas City-style BBQ sauce.

More so than my Carolina-style sauce, this takes some love and time to make, but it has a wider flavor profile and adds a lot of moisture to the meat. The main ingredients you’ll need are apple cider vinegar, molasses, ketchup (or tomato sauce), mustard and spices. The spices you use are kind of up to you, depending on the heat you want to pack in here.

Start by melting butter, then softening onion and garlic. Then, add the ketchup, mustard, vinegar, molasses, sugar, and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it thicken. After cooked, blend the sauce together until smooth, then let it cool and transfer to a jar or bottle. Use this sauce to finalize the cook on the ribs and then serve alongside it.

Pro tip: some recipes don’t use the actual onion or garlic, just onion and garlic powder. This is fine, but I prefer the extra love it takes to cook the onions and garlic and they add a sweeter taste to the sauce.


Crock Pot Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Sauce

As I said, the side dishes are key to this feast, as the ribs will take a while to cook. Because the grill will be occupied for that long, these pillows of deliciousness can be cooked in a slow cooker and then heated up in a pan on the grill.

The first step to this is to cook the rice and boil the cabbage. Then, make the meat filling like you would meatloaf or meatballs. If you have kids, this would be a fun activity for them to do as it gets them working with their hands and it lets them get a little messy. Grab a handful of the ground beef filling and plop it on the cabbage leaf. Roll it tight like a mini burrito and put them seam side down in the slow cooker.

Once you’ve rolled all the cabbage leaves, or while your little helper is rolling them, make the tomato sauce. Mix a can of crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with lemon juice, brown sugar and (pro tip) a tad bit of prepared Dijon mustard. Pour the mix over the rolls in the slow cooker, put the lid on it and cook on low for about six hours. You can reheat these in the crock pot at the tailgate or put them in a baking pan on the grill for about five minutes to heat them up. These best served in a bowl so you make sure you get all the filling.

Pro tip: if you have vegetarian folks at your tailgate, you can fill these with mashed potatoes.


Pumpkin Hummus

Hummus is one of the best party dips for a few reasons, but most importantly, it’s because it’s simple to make and easy to customize. This week, we are taking the flavors of fall and combining it with hummus.

A basic hummus recipe goes like this:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp good olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini

What we are adding here is a can of pumpkin puree, some ground cumin, and a little paprika. Take all of the ingredients and pulse them in a food processor until smooth. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips or even torn bread.


The goal of this tailgate is to leave people feeling like they ate a full dinner. With a 3:30 p.m. kickoff, we can afford to cook food for a longer time, but you need other food to keep your guests happy. Happy tailgating, y’all!