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How to Make Competition Pork Ribs

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How to Make Competition Pork Ribs

Early on, we’re taught that “fall-off-the-bone” ribs are the most delicious and excellent kind of BBQ ribs. If your baby back ribs come off the BBQ, slip right off the bone, and melt in your mouth, you must be a Pit Boss. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily the case on the competition BBQ circuit.

Tips & Tricks for Creating Competition Ribs

First and foremost, competition BBQ judges select who has the best BBQ ribs by appearance, taste, and tenderness. These three factors are the Holy Grail to the best competition BBQ. We picked our Traeger Pro, Chad Ward’s brain on how to create BBQ ribs that will finish at the top of the pack; here are his recommendations for winning BBQ competitions.


Competition BBQ judges look for a deep mahogany finish on ribs. This thin dark gloss of caramelized BBQ sauce and smoke that coats ribs is what makes the judges want to devour them. This is often achieved by regular mopping, spritzing, or saucing the ribs throughout the smoke session. Another factor in the presentation is that the ribs are evenly cut with no jagged edges on any singular rib, every rib needs to look consistent and uniformity is key. Clean-cut ribs come from sharpening your knives before the event and using the proper type of knife.


Competition barbecue judges may vary in age from 18 to 80 years old and each judge has a very different palate. Create a flavor profile for your ribs that provide the best overall BBQ flavor. Many first time competitors want to blow the judging taste buds away with their custom apple, chipotle, or Kimchi BBQ sauce, but smoky sweet BBQ ribs with just a touch of heat or bite in the aftertaste seems to be the flavor profile that has been producing BBQ rib champions on the circuit these days. So, beginners beware--Proceed with caution on your rub and sauce and know your audience.


Myth: If rib meat falls off the bone it is tender meat. This is incorrect!

The perfect tenderness for competition BBQ ribs is determined in just one bite. Judges hold each end of the bone and bite in the center of the rib if the rib meat freely releases from the bone only in the area where the bite is taken then they’re perfect. Judges should never have to pull or tug at the meat with their teeth. Tender ribs often come from hours of low and slow smoking in conjunction with a flavorful rib foil bath.


To learn how long to smoke ribs, check out our guide to trimming and grilling BBQ ribs.

Competition Style Spare Ribs

by Traeger Kitchen

Prep Time

30 Min

Cook Time

4 Hr
30 Min





Take a page from the pros and try to one-up your last backyard rib fest. Every time you fire up the Traeger it's an enjoyable challenge to try and win the blue ribbon from friends and family.

2 RackSt. Louis-style ribs
To TasteTraeger Pork & Poultry Rub
1 Cupdark brown sugar
1/4 Cuphoney, preferably clover
8 Tablespoon(1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 CupTraeger BBQ sauce
1/2 CupTraeger Apricot BBQ Sauce
  • 1

    When ready to cook, set the Traeger temperature to 180°F and preheat with the lid closed for 15 minutes.

  • 2

    Trim the end bones off of each rack of ribs, then trim any excess fat down to 1/4 inch thick. Remove the membrane from the back side of the ribs. Season the ribs generously on both sides with Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub.

  • 3

    Place the racks directly on the grill grates, meat-side up. Close the lid and smoke for 2 hours.

  • 4

    Remove the ribs from the grill. Increase the temperature to 225°F and preheat with the lid closed for 5-10 minutes.

  • 5

    Set two large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a flat surface. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon honey, and 2 tablespoons butter to each sheet of foil. Place the ribs, meat-side down, on top of the brown sugar mixture. Sprinkle the bone side of each rack with another 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon honey, and 2 tablespoons butter. Tightly wrap the foil around the ribs.

  • 6

    Return the wrapped ribs to the grill, meat-side down. Close the lid and cook for 2 hours. Carefully open one of the foil packets and insert a toothpick into the meat between the two centermost ribs. Note whether the ribs are tender (the toothpick meets a bit of resistance, but goes in fairly smoothly) or still a bit tough.

  • 7

    Remove the ribs from the grill and carefully unwrap, pouring any accumulated juices from the foil packets into a heatproof bowl.

  • 8

    In a small bowl, stir together the Traeger BBQ Sauce and Traeger Apricot BBQ Sauce.

  • 9

    Return the ribs to the grill. Brush the BBQ sauce mixture liberally on both sides of the ribs. Close the lid and cook until the sauce is set and the ribs are tender, 20-60 minutes depending on whether the ribs were already tender after the foil cooking step. Remove the ribs from the grill and let rest for 15 minutes.

  • 10

    Skim the fat off the surface of the liquid collected from the foil packets and discard.

  • 11

    Slice the racks between the bones into individual ribs. Using a basting brush, generously coat the cut ribs with the sticky sweet glaze for a shiny finish. Enjoy!