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Need some rib help for BBQ competition (updated with results)


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Okay ES, I need some help. Have a co-worker who asked me to enter a BBQ competition with him and his brother. Three categories, chicken, briskit and ribs. Him and his brother are doing the chicken and briskit and he asked if I could do the ribs. Now I'm really good at smoking pork butts and brisket but I've never really been too sucessful with ribs. I mean they come out alright but not competition quality. So I'm asking the "pros" here at ES for some help.

Beef Ribs, can't be falling off the bone. They want the meat still attached to the bone and when you bite for it to take off just where you bit leaving an impression where the bite was taken. Flavor, texture and appearance are all key. I'll be using my grillmate smoker with the fire box off to the side and pecan is my wood of choice. I typically use a basic brown sugar rub with other seasonings to boot.

What I need the most guidance on is how to cook the damn things. For me they usually come out tough, even if I grill them slow. So help a brother out so I can win me a portion of $5K.

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IMO. For comp I'd go pork spare ribs cut down to St. Louis style and would use a 3-1-1 method (3 hours out of foil, 1 hour in foil and 1 hour out of foil) I wouldn't use a brown sugar base because it will tend to burn, and if your going to use sugar base don't use too much. You could also go 3-1-1 and only baste on the last hour.

I'd cook at 225 the whole cook. During the foil phase put a few teaspoons of apple juice in the foil or sprits the ribs with it. If you don't want to use apple I'd suggest pineapple.

Also, when you cook the ribs pull the membrane if your butcher didn't already do it.

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Beef ribs? Good god why?

Anyway, here's what you do.

Rub yellow mustard (a little goes a long way) into the meat, then a dry rub with no sugar, and let them sit overnight.

Smoke 'em at 250 with wood chips of your choice, and a drip pan with mostly water, and like 1/3 cup of apple vinegar. Cook them indirect for 3 hours, turning infrequently unless you have hot spots.

Take them off, double wrap them in heavy duty aluminum foil and throw something in the foil with them, like a tablespoon of butter for every 6 ribs, syrup, honey...whatever sounds good to you. I think the butter comes out well, personally.

Throw the wrapped ribs back on the smoker for another hour at 250. You want the meat side down so the meat absorbs the juice and add-on that you put in there.

Pull off the ribs and unwrap them (be careful, there will be very hot juice in there). Then cook at 250 on direct heat for an hour.

Consider mopping with sauce the last 15 minutes or so of the cook.

That should do it. They'll be delicious. Just keep your temp steady, and resist the urge to open the lid and look at them. Looking doesn't make them cook better.

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My first thought too! :ols: I dig on the swine.


OP, does the competition expressly require that they be beef ribs? Because if not, you have to go pork or you won't have a chance. Baby backs. They'll be more tender than spares. Spares are good for cooking at home. You get good value for them, and they taste darn good. But for a competition, definitely baby backs

And like another poster said, make sure you remove the membrane first. The internets will show you how.

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Yes, unfortunately it's beef ribs. Don't know the reason, it just is.

Good advice on the brown sugar, never considered the burning aspect. I use it as the base for my rub when doing a pork butt, however it's never cooked over direct heat.

So I plan on smoking them using indirect heat for the majority of the cooking/smoking. Should I sear them first before I move them to the indirect heat? What about the rib racks, anyone have luck with them?

BTW, I searched and couldn't find a "rib specific" advice just a bunch of different BBQ stuff. I was hoping someone on here had some experience in the competition scene.

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I've heard good things about brining beef ribs.

I would imagine that would help. Don't know what the rules will permit though, OP needs to hook us up some with the details on the rules. Anything you can do to encourage the breaking down of the connective tissue is going to make them more tender. Garlic salt, kosher salt, brining, boiling, etc...

As someone stated above, you definately want to do some trimming of the membrane (ie silverskin), but don't trim all the fat off, that's obviously going to be what keeps the meat moist while cooking. Adding liquid into the foil pack is always good. Apple juice will add flavor, can also use a very small amount of apple cider vinegar in that mix (but I wouldn't use much tablespoon or two), i've also used soda (coke), but dr. pepper might be good also. The acid in all of these is again going to assist in the breaking down the meat tissue.

Honestly, i'm not real good on ribs, only made them a few times, but I believe you want to cook them reverse style from other meats. Instead of searing, and then going low and slow, cook low and slow and until you get to your desired temp, then just prior to presentation time, put some heat to them while mopping frequently to add the surface texture & additional flavor.

Regardless, good luck with everything. Making me hungry just thinking about it


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So I plan on smoking them using indirect heat for the majority of the cooking/smoking. Should I sear them first before I move them to the indirect heat? What about the rib racks, anyone have luck with them?

BTW, I searched and couldn't find a "rib specific" advice just a bunch of different BBQ stuff. I was hoping someone on here had some experience in the competition scene.

No need to sear them first. Low and slow. Rib racks are more for volume than anything else. Lets you fit more ribs on the grill surface.

One important thing I forgot to mention...probably one of the most important predictors of the end result is the quality of the meat that you start with. Get the ribs from a butcher or farmer's market, not your local grocery store.

I've never done any competitions. Check the drbbq.com website. Also nakedwhiz.com (it is safe for work, despite the name lol) or eggheadforum.com may be able to help on that front. I would definitely do a couple test runs before the competition.

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When is the competition ?

I will get you a good recipe and then you can add your own twist.

But as others have stated...pork ribs are so much better. It's the fat on beef ribs that makes them less desirable.

The competition is the 27th of this month. I'll get the rules from the guy today so I can get more specific info. I'm going to do a couple racks this weekend for superbowl for practice.

I saw these really cool rib racks in Academy sports I'm thinking about trying out. The concept of having the meat "erect" (lol) seems like it will allow the warm, moist smoke to envelop it which should ensure the smoke penetrates the meat. I really love food. :D

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I don't know, you may not like this idea but I use it and it's always a winner. I use a Green Chile BBQ sauce. It's different, most people who don't live in New Mexico or Southern Colorado haven't ever tried it. Green Chile is pretty key and if you can get hold of some Hatch Green Chile, it definately makes a difference.

2 Medium Onions

4 Fresh Garlic Cloves minced well

2 TBs Dry Mustard

2 TBs Brown Sugar

Can of Tomato Paste

1/4 TBs Cayenne Pepper

1/ 1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup oil

Fresh Diced Tomatos

6 to 8 diced whole Green Chilies diced

Salt and pepper as you like

Add paste if you need it thickened. You can mess with this to taste. Adjust ingrediants depending on how much BBQ Sauce you need.

It's pretty good I think.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Little rib update for ya'll.

I've done several racks over the last couple of weeks and I have the cooking time and temp down pretty good now. I use a pitmaster smoker (the horizontal round type with the fire box off to the left side) charcoal, pecan and apple wood. For the first two hours I keep putting the smoke to it and the temp between 225 and 250.

I lay out foil and cover the bottom of it with some thick slices of onion, apple juice and redwine vinegar. When the two hours are up I pull the ribs off and wrap them in the foil for another hour and fifteen minutes, unwrap them and put them back on the grill over direct heat. Key is having the coals burned down enough so the direct heat isn't too hot or too close to the racks. At this time I start basting them with a mixture of maple syrup and horseradish, sounds weird I know but it gives it a nice sweet/hot taste that's pretty damned good.

After about twenty five minutes I start basting them with my homemade BBQ sauce and cook them until there is a nice glaze but not dripping off. The combination of maple syrup glaze and BBQ give them a great "stickiness" that I just love.

BTW, I use a basic rub with white sugar instead of brown so it doesn't burn as easy. Then I add your typical spices, chili powder, cumin, paprika, ground mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, dried basil, salt, pepper and some slap your momma seasoning. Thinking about adding some cinnamon, I've had some rubs with it in it and I thought it had a really good taste. I also spray the ribs the entire time they're cooking with a redwine vinegar and apple juice mixture.

So far so good. If anyone has any suggestions on ways I can take it up another level please feel free to share. I also found out recently that the winner not only gets $5K but they also win an entry into the Great American BBQ Competition. We'll see how it all plays out!

I'm pretty happy with the results but I'm looking for something to either add to the rub or the BBQ sauce that's different from what everyone else is using. ABQCowboy, if I could find some green chili's like the ones you mentioned I'd give it a try but haven't been able to find any yet. Thanks to everyone that replied, I'll update Sunday with some pictures and hopefully good news about a nice fat check!

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So there were 37 teams entered in the Professional division and talk about intimidation! Holy crap, teams were lined up with multi thousand dollar smokers and tables packed with three foot high trophies. Me and my two team mates were out there with our backyard smokers and the wetness behind our ears was apparent to everyone.

So I adjusted my recipe slightly as far as cooking time. I did some research online and found that the judges want absolutely no fat left in the rib at all. The only way to render that fat is close to keep it on the grill for right around six hours depending on the size of the rack and the grill being used. To add to my anxiety I couldn't find any St Louis cut ribs anywhere. So I bought three racks of spares, found a how to video on youtube and butchered them myself. Rubbed them and vaccum sealed them to force the seasoning into the meat and settled in to help my buddy with his brisket.

Waiting to start my ribs was killing me! Turn in was 1300 so I had to start them around 0645. Once they were on my anxiety eased a little bit. All in all things went well with the cooking, I was more than happy with the results but had no idea what the judges would think.

At the awards ceremony my buddy who did the chicken was floored when he found out he finished 7th. We all couldn't believe it. My advice on doing a "drunken" chicken, split, sauced and grilled at the end payed off. I was up next. I couldn't believe it when they anounced our number for 5th place in the rib category! 5th place in my first ever competition! I couldn't freaking believe it. Our third team member didn't place in the top ten with his brisket so that eliminated us from contention for top ten over all. There must have been some outstanding brisket because his melted in your mouth. Oh well, we'll get them next time.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to give me some advice! It was definitely a good time and I think I'm hooked. We're looking at entering another competition in April, going to continue practicing between now and then.

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