Championship Ribs {Award Winning Baby Backs}

   Championship Ribs Recipe

I’m begging you, please don’t boil your ribs.

There are MUCH better ways to get the tenderness you’re looking for in a rack of ribs.  And the method I’m sharing will also allow you to actually infuse flavor into your ribs, which boiling does not.  My cousin Tim and I have spent a lot of time researching and practicing ribs.  I could write pages about all the details, but for now I’ll try to stick to just the basics of what you need to know to make championship ribs.

Set up your grill for indirect heating (or use your smoker) and get out a bunch of fruit wood.

The first step to making a good rib is to peel the membrane off the back.  This is a thin, skin-like covering on the bone side of ribs that prevents flavor from entering.  You can ask your butcher to remove it.  If you’re doing it yourself, use a paper towel and pull from one end to the other.  Once you get it started it actually comes off pretty easy.

Once the membrane is removed, go ahead and dust some rub on that side, then flip them over.  Dust a liberal amount across your ribs.  Do NOT rub it in.  Rubbing it into the meat will clog the pores and you’ll miss out on flavor.  Dust.

Championship Ribs Recipe

Let the ribs set and let that rub soak in/marinate for at least 30 – 60 minutes.

Place the ribs on your grill, far away from heat.  This is where having a smoker really is convenient.  Smokers allow you to get great smoke into your ribs without the fear of scalding them.  You can still make it work on your grill – just be careful.  Keep the temp in the 225 range.  If grilling at high temperature is your only option then check out this recipe for Hot and Fast Baby Back Ribs.

We use a variation of the 3-2-1 method for our ribs.  Smoke-Wrap-Baste.  The variation is all up to you.  How much smoke do you want –  a lot?  Then stick to 3 hours.  Don’t like smoke?  Then 1 hour is plenty.  The answer lies somewhere in the 1 – 3 hour range and it’s up to your taste buds to decide.

Next step is to wrap.  Easy – just individually wrap them in heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Similar to the first step, the timing is all up to you.  I have found wrapping takes at least an hour, usually no more than 2 hours.  It’s all about getting them to the perfect tenderness.  NOT fall off the bone.  If you wanted that, you could have just thrown them in a crockpot.  Anyone can make them fall off.  What makes your guests drool with jealousy and amazement is when they pull clean from the bone when you take a bite.

One of the signs your ribs are close to the perfect tenderness is when the meat travels up the bone about 1/4 – 1/2 inch, as you can see in these pictures.

Championship Ribs Recipe

Last step – glaze.  If you sauce, don’t smear.  Dab.  Take it easy on your ribs.  You don’t want to smear the rub off.

I like to bring a little heat back so I’ll use a spicier sauce here, but again – it’s all your preference.  I use a spicier sauce and then drizzle a bit of dark brown sugar to balance the flavors.  But then again, I really like sugar.  And like the other steps, the amount of time is up to you.  The longer you leave them on this step, the more firm the sauce will become.  If you want them “wet”, like KC style, then don’t leave them on very long.  Or if you want traditional dry Memphis style you can skip this step all together!

Championship Ribs Recipe

For me and my ribs, I’ll take sticky.  Right in between the two styles.  Yum.  We glazed the ribs that took 2nd place in the 2011 Memphis in May World Championship.  But again, it’s all what you prefer.

I just gave you everything you need to make championship quality ribs.

Championship Ribs Recipe

I know, a little complicated, but SO worth it.  There is no better BBQ than a delicious, perfectly cooked, pull from the bone rack of ribs.

Championship Ribs Recipe

Championship Ribs {Award Winning Baby Backs}

Championship, BBQ, Smoked Ribs that pull clean from the bone
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 398 kcal


  • Baby back or St. Louis Style Ribs
  • All Purpose Rub or Your Favorite Rib Rub
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Dark Brown Sugar


  • Set up your grill for indirect heating (or use your smoker) and get out a bunch of fruit wood.
  • Peel the membrane off the back.
  • Dust some rub on that side, then flip them over. Dust a liberal amount across your ribs. Do NOT rub it in. Dust.
  • Let the ribs set and let that rub soak in/marinate for at least 30 - 60 minutes.
  • Place the ribs on your grill/smoker, far away from heat. Keep the temp in the 225 range.
  • Smoke 1 - 3 hours, depending on your taste preference.
  • Wrap. Individually wrap them in heavy duty aluminum foil. 1 - 2 hours.
  • Last step - glaze. 15 - 60 minutes. Or if you want traditional dry Memphis style you can skip this step.
Keyword Championship Baby Back Ribs

27 thoughts on “Championship Ribs {Award Winning Baby Backs}

  1. Hi, I live in Stirling, Scotland.
    I don’t have a smoker so would be using a house hold oven, I’m only doing 1 rib rack so what temp will I put the oven at and for how long ?
    Thanks Craig Tasker.

    1. I keep them in the smoker, or you could use your oven during wrap phase. Whatever is easiest to get them to your preferred tenderness.

  2. Kevin,
    I won a neighbourhood rib competition with your guide.
    It was the easiest recipe to ribs to make and they present beautifully & taste delicious. I too like a little spicy kick at the end!
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Great guide for ribs (notice I said guide not recipe) I learned of the 3-2-1 method and 2-2-1/ 2-2-45 for baby back ribs about 2 yrs ago when I purchased my smoker and I have not looked back since.

    This is the gospel way of making ribs! As a born and raised young man from the great state of Tennessee and beautiful city of Nashville, I know a thing or two about good dry rub ribs and honestly this is it.

    If this is your first time or 101st time follow this guide and you’ll be met with success.

    Thanks for the most straight forward and easy guide on the net (and with pictures….bonus!!!)

    This is now my new place to find good TTPs (tactics techniques and procedures) as we say in the Air Force, for all things BBQ and Smoking…

    Signed a very happy Lt Col (sel)…

    Bonus points for responding to the post people left. Looking forward to seeing more on the site and possibly scoring a cool brisket and meat rubs recipe.

    1. Steven – thanks so much for the great comments, and more importantly, thanks so much for your service to our country! I have several rub recipes on the site, as well as a couple brisket recipes – check em out!

  4. Hi Kevin, Love your recipes. I don’t think I’ve ever read about how much the vent should be opened when smoking. Is there a general rule? Thanks, Becky

    1. There is not, Becky. Vents are set to whatever is necessary to control the temp. I like to keep my bottom vents open and control with the top vent. I find that the easiest.
      Also, check out my post under BBQ Basics for more vent info and a youtube movie.
      Thanks so much for reaching out!

  5. I just bought my first Smoker…Smokin-it electric and I cannot wait to cook your leg-quarters tomorrow and ribs next week. I was a rib boiler previously and they were good but I know your recipe will be far superior.

    Also, I am smoking a beef pot roast tomorrow too and was wondering if you ever tried this and have a recipe and time and temp?


    1. Rob – so sorry for my delay responding! I look forward to hearing how the pot roast and ribs turned out. I do NOT have a pot roast recipe out there yet – but thanks for the inspiration!
      If I had to guess…depending on the size of the roast…I would probably smoke it for 3-4 hours with hickory, then wrap it with some juices in a pan and cook until internal temp is around 200 or so.

  6. Hello! I learned a few things as I read your article. I have a question. I placed a Dry Rub on my St. Louis Ribs 36 hrs ago. Is that too long? I just wanted to prep them in advance……. Thanks for all the great tips!

    1. Johnny – My only fear with that is the salt in the rub being on there so long it pulls moisture from your meat. Let me know how it turns out!

  7. Best ribs ever. used the basic rub – 3-2-1 method flat out amazing. I added an extra step I collected all the drippings from the foil – reduced by half and added a dollop – maybe a little more than a tablespoon of molasses – spooned onto the ribs before serving – not one person used sauce. using the drippings really spikes the flavor.

    Thank you for posting the process. And Doubt I’ll make ribs any other way from here on out

    1. Chris – thanks so much for this great comment and for the add! I love the idea of mixing juice with molasses. I’m wondering if you did that and maybe a bit of sauce, then spread on ribs and put back on smoker to caramelize how that would turn out. I’m intrigued!

    1. I brown sugar sometimes at the very beginning, after the rub is soaked in, and usually sprinkle a little more on at the end when I glaze. I like sugar.

  8. How tight do you wrap your ribs? Do you lose any rub to the foil when you wrap or would that be a indication of wrapping to tight?

    1. I wrap them pretty tight. Yes, a bit of rub falls off, but that’s ok because when you finish them – either with sauce or just more rub, you’ll get that flavor back, so it’s never been an issue.

  9. Great post!! As always! Can I pick your brain for a minute? I have been coming up with ribs that are pretty good but a tad drier than I would like. I am smoking at 225-235 on a WSM, I do the 3.2.1 method on spares and 2.1.1 on baby backs. They are very tasty but as I stated a little drier than I would like. Now, I often do not crutch the full 2 hours for spares or the 1 full hour on baby backs in fear of mush. This may be a stupid question, but, should I foil for the full 2 or 1 hour to produce a more tender rib? Thanks for the help!! Also, any other tips on tender ribs would be awesome!! Thanks!

    1. Hey Mikey – definitely increase your wrap time if necessary to get more tender. That is the secret to perfect tenderness. Depending on the temp of cooker, thickness of ribs – my wrap time lasts anywhere from an hour to TWO hours sometimes. Just keep practicing until you nail that perfect tenderness.
      Another idea for juiciness/tenderness – try throwing some moisture in the foil. Apple Juice, honey, butter – whatever sounds good to you!

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