Kansas City BBQ is the ultimate budget meal, but why is it so cheap?

BBQ platterAmericans, we have something of the caveman in us. We, like our furry forebears, regularly gather the family around an open fire, where we roast meat for ritual consumption. From flaming pit to flaming pit, fierce rivalries have developed between clans over the right way to prepare and devour the kill.

Yes, when it comes to cheap meals that satisfy our bellies, there's nothing quite as fundamental, or as all-American, as barbecue. Despite its long preparation time and complicated and guarded seasoning methods, BBQ is also one of the most reliable budget meals available.Our cavemen ancestors might have praised the gods for their sacrifice, and in Kansas City, BBQ is still close to a religion. The Kansas City Barbecue Society has some 10,000 members worldwide and endorses some 300 cooking events across the United States. Although saying so might incite fury from places such as Memphis or San Antonio, it could be argued that the capital of American barbecue is in Kansas City, Mo.

WalletPop's Jason Cochran wanted to know how that could be. More than that, he wanted his fill of some of America's best-tasting meat. So he went to Kansas City, where he braved the block-long lines at several of the city's most celebrated barbecue joints -- Oklahoma Joe's, Arthur Bryant's, Gates Bar-B-Q, and L.C.'s. In his quest to document the ritual preparation and group worship of this most American of family meals, he explored forbidden kitchen secrets. He shot improbably large cauldrons of sauce, and back at the dinner table, he attacked towering piles of dripping beef by the pound.

Tag along, and bring your appetite. Bring two, if you can.

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