We hesitated to put "Competition Style" in front of anything because we know how meticulous and passionate true BBQ cooks can be about their competition meats. However, after grilling up these beautiful racks of spare ribs using some tricks of the trade we knew we had to share the recipe and our cooking method with Traeger Nation.
When cooking for friends, we often prefer our ribs to have a bit of a spicy bite, a little kiss of sweetness, and we love for them to be fall off the bone tender. When cooking for competitions, the judges are looking for a different set of criteria; they want ribs that you can bite through easily, but don't pull away from the bone, sauce that is sticky sweet, and layers of flavor that complement the taste of the rib meat instead of overpower it.
Our method for producing "competition style ribs" is similar to our 3-2-1 baby back method, but spare ribs require a little extra cook time and a bonus application of a super sweet "glaze" before presentation. We pick spare ribs over baby backs for competitions because they have a lot more meat on them and a better marbling of fat. If a judge looks in your competition box and sees spare ribs, they know they'll be eating well! We use a St. Louis cut of spare ribs, but you can use whole spare ribs and trim te "rib tips" off of the top on your own if you prefer.
"Competition Style" Spare Ribs
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: Approx 5 hours
Serves: 4-6 people
Recommended Pellets: 50/50 mix of Hickory/Apple or Hickory/Cherry
2 racks St. Louis Style pork ribs
Traeger Pork & Poultry Shake
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey (preferably clover honey)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Traeger BBQ Sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce)
1/2 cup Traeger Apricot BBQ Sauce
Start the Traeger Grill on Smoke for 4-5 minutes with the lid open to establish the fire. While you grill is starting, begin trimming your ribs.
First, trim the end bones off of each rack. These bones are typically small, half bones that don't typically cook very evenly. trimming them off contributes to more even cooking and a better presentation. After the ends are removed, trim any excess fat down to approximately 1/4 inch in thickness.
**TIP: Use a really really sharp knife. It will make the preparation process go so much faster!
Next, remove the membrane from the back side of the ribs. This membrane is a little like silverskin and it won't break down when you cook it. You really want to bite through your ribs, so don't forget this step. We usually slide a butterknife in between the membrane and the bone to separate the two, then grab the end with a paper towel. Get a good grip and gently pull the membrane away from the back of the ribs.
Season liberally on both sides with Traeger Pork & Poultry rub and place on the grill (still on the Smoke setting) meat side up. Smoke for 2 hours.
Lay down a large strip of heavy duty aluminum foil an sprinkle with 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon honey, and 2 tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces. Turn the temperature on the grill up to 225 degrees.
Lay the ribs meat side down in the brown sugar mixture and sprinkle the bone side of the ribs with the brown sugar, honey and butter. Repeat with the second set of ribs.
Tightly crimp the foil and return to the grill, meat side down for 2 hours.
At this point, you'll need to test your ribs for tenderness. Carefully open the foil and insert a toothpick into the meat between the two center-most ribs. You'll want to sense a bit of resistance, but the toothpick should go in fairly smooth. If your ribs are already soft like butter, you'll cut down on the cook time in the next step. If they still seem a little tough, you will cook them a little longer in the next step.
Collect the juices from the foil and set aside. These sweet pork juices are wonderfully flavorful and will help make our amazing glaze.
Remove the ribs from the foil and place back on the grill grate. Combine the Traeger BBQ Sauce and Apricot Sauce in a small bowl and brush liberally on all sides of the ribs.
This is where the cooking process becomes a little more "sense and feel" than actual cooking times and temperatures. If your ribs were already very tender after the foiling period, you might only need 20 minutes to set the sauce. If your ribs were rather tough, you might need to cook them for an hour or more. Each rack of ribs has a different marbling and amount of fat, so they will all cook a little differently. Our average cook time for these ribs is an hour after they are sauced and returned to the grill.
After your ribs have finished cooking, remove them from the grill and let them rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
Grab the pork juice that you set aside from the foiling step. By now, the fat will have separated from the other juices. Spoon the fat off of the top and discard. Using a basting brush, generously coat the cut ribs with the sticky sweet glaze. This will give them an amazing shiny finish.
Arrange on a bed of beautiful greens in a styrofoam box and you'll be set to win. Or simply serve them next to some baked beans and cole slaw for an amazing meal. Enjoy!
Competition Style Spare Ribs.docx (15.53 kb)