Competition Style Ribs On the Gateway Drum Smoker

Competition Style Ribs On the Gateway Drum Smoker

Regular ribs are awesome, but every now and then, it’s time to ramp things up with my Competition Style Ribs. This recipe cooks on a drum smoker in less than 4 hours, but the meat is as tender as if cooked low and slow. If you’ve ever wondered what methods win the gold at BBQ competitions, I’ve got you covered. I’m sharing all my best tips for creating succulent, rich ribs with great texture. 

Competition Ribs cut no corners, so the meat is dusted with multiple seasonings and wrapped in a decadent butter bath. The cherry on top is a homemade glaze with the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. This recipe will impress friends or eagle-eyed judges!

Competition Style Ribs | Heath Riles BBQ

When smoking ribs hot and fast, you’ll want to add a few tricks to your arsenal. Injecting the ribs with liquid is always a surefire way to add moisture, but a butter bath will really bring home the gold. Butter baths allow the liquid to steam into the Competition Style Ribs Recipe, making each bite as juicy as the last. 

Another slick trick is saucing the ribs, which adds another layer of liquid. When you cook ribs right, hot and fast is just as juicy as low and slow, if not more! 

The Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make a rack (or two!) of mouthwatering Competition Smoked Ribs. 

  • Prairie Fresh Prime Baby Back Ribs. It’s no secret that I love Prairie Fresh. They’re my pork of choice, whether cooking on the circuit or the back patio! If you want high-quality meat that doesn’t require a lot of trimming, go with Prairie Fresh. 
  • Mustard. I’ll admit I’m a little superstitious about my binders. My go-to binder is mustard because it gives the meat a hint of twang. For best results, go with a smooth mustard like French’s. 
  • Heath Riles BBQ Garlic Jalapeño Rub. This AP rub features a mix of garlic, jalapeńos, salt, and pepper. It’s delicious as a base coat for ribs, but you can also use it on veggies, popcorn, chicken, or steak. People from all over the world are trading in their salt and pepper shakers for this zesty alternative. 
  • Heath Riles BBQ Competition BBQ Rub. This rub helped me clinch a near-perfect score at the 2022 Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest. It features the perfect combination of sweet and savory, making ribs, roasts, chicken, and more shine!
  • Heath Riles BBQ Butter Bath & Wrap. This butter bath doubles as a wrap, giving the meat so much moisture. With notes of butter and a proprietary blend of spices, your ribs, hams, and roasts will be unbeatable. 
  • Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce. Good things take time, including this delicious sauce. If you like ketchup-based sauces with a unique infusion of spices, try this one. I use it on ribs, baked beans, and BBQ chicken. 
  • Heath Riles BBQ Competition BBQ Sauce. I created this BBQ sauce with my buddies from Checkered Pig BBQ. It’s great on its own, but it shines when paired with Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce.
  • Heath Riles BBQ Apple Habanero BBQ Glaze. Nothing beats sweet heat's beautiful flavor, and this BBQ glaze perfectly embodies those notes. Add a dash to your ribs or ham to infuse the meat with fruit notes. 

The Smoker Setup

Here’s the main equipment I used for this recipe. More of my grilling favorites are in the Equipment and Tools section. 

  • Drum smoker. I cooked these ribs in my Gateway Drum Smoker. This fun setup smokes food in record time. Many pitmasters prefer drum smokers because they’re more straightforward than other grills. If you’re looking for a minimalistic approach to grilling, you’ll adore the Gateway Drum.
  • Charcoal. I stoked the drum smoker with Royal Oak Lump Charcoal and Royal Oak Tumbleweeds. I love this brand because its product is high-quality with no fillers. If you’re trying to reduce chemicals, you need this charcoal. I use it for almost every cook with excellent results. You can also add a few pieces of hickory wood.

The Process for Making Competition Style Ribs

The video and recipe card give a detailed demonstration of this cook. For now, here’s how to cook ribs, competition-style!

  • Fire up the pit. I stoked the Gateway Drum Smoker with Royal Oak Lump Charcoal and some Royal Oak Tumbleweeds. Then, I fired it up to 300℉.
  • Trimmed the ribs. I trimmed the Competition Style Ribs, removing any stray pieces of bone, hard meat flaps, discoloration, excess fat, and the membrane. 
  • Add seasoning. Using a gloved hand, I applied a layer of mustard to the ribs and dusted them with Heath Riles BBQ Garlic Jalapeńo Rub and Heath Riles BBQ Competition BBQ Rub. I flipped the ribs over and repeated the process on the other side. 
  • Start cooking. I laid the ribs directly on the Gateway Drum Smoker's grates and let them cook for 40 minutes, twisting the grill’s grates at the 20-minute mark. Then, I flipped the Competition Style Ribs over and let them cook for 40 more minutes, spinning them at the halfway mark. This step allows each rib to get that perfect kiss of smoke with just a hint of char. 
  • Add wrap. To make the wrap, I combined ½ cup Heath Riles BBQ Butter Bath & Wrap with 16 ounces of water until smooth. Keep in mind that this amount covers two slabs of ribs, so adjust the quantity if you’re smoking more or less meat. Next, I double-lined a large baking pan with tin foil and laid the Competition Style Ribs on top. I poured the butter bath over the top and tightly wrapped the ribs. 
  • Smoke the meat. I laid the wrapped ribs on the Gateway Drum Smoker and let them cook for 40 minutes, spinning them at the halfway mark. 
  • Make the glaze. To create a delicious rib glaze, I combined equal parts Heath Riles BBQ Competition BBQ Sauce, Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce, and Heath Riles BBQ Apple Habanero BBQ Glaze in a small aluminum pan. I took the ribs off the grill and let them rest for 20 minutes while the glaze warmed over the fire. 
  • Sauce the ribs. Once the ribs rested, I unwrapped and sauced them, ensuring every bit was covered with glaze. Then, I dusted the Competition Style Ribs with Heath Riles BBQ Competition BBQ Sauce. I set the meat on the Gateway Drum Smoker to tack up for 15 minutes, then pulled them off the pit. The only thing left was to dig in! 

The Results

The Competition Style Ribs came off the pit with a brilliant red-gold color. The combination of rubs, sauces, and glaze gave the meat a one-of-a-kind flavor. Each bite was packed with sweet and savory notes, with just a hint of heat on the back end. 

Storing Leftovers

You can store leftover Competition Style Ribs in the fridge for 4 days or freeze them for up to 4 months. 

Equipment and Tools

Aluminum foil, Gateway Drum Smoker, Royal Oak Lump Charcoal, Royal Oak Tumbleweeds, ThermoWorks Hi-Temp Silicone Brush, ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE, Heath Riles BBQ Heat Resistant Gloves, Heath Riles BBQ Butcher Paper, disposable cutting board.
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