If there’s one thing I love every now and then, it’s a really good spare rib. A good bark, great flavor, juicy, tender and a NOT fall off the bone rib! See, ribs should have a sweet spot where they have a beautiful “bite” but don’t slide off the bone and slap you on the chin! These Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs deliver on all points.
Not that I’ve ever actually entered my Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs in an actual competition, but I used to think about it in my younger days, way before I knew what all went into that! Talk about an art form! Well, you won’t need a big rig to make these ribs. Just rig up your barbecue, oven roast or, and I’m going there, use your Instant Pot.
About Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs:
My Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs are served “dry” meaning they aren’t sauced before they come to the table. Which isn’t to say that you can’t sauce them and let them caramelize on your grill or under the broiler for delicious, sticky caramelized sauce cooked right into your ribs. It’s personal preference, and since they’re my ribs and it’s my blog, I’m serving them dry. See how bossy I can get!
Serving the ribs dry shows off my special, secret rib rub and you get to choose whatever sauce you want at the table. I have a couple rib rubs on my site already but this one I fiddled with over the years to get what I think is a “classic” taste. There’s not one particular “style” to my rib rub, just a touch of sweet, a back note of heat and maybe a bit of sass.
When making rubs, I never use products that already have salt in them. I like to control the salt, don’t want to pay a premium for it & I want to know what kind of salt is in the product. There’s a rule of thumb on using kosher as opposed to table salt. Anytime a rub or marinade is going to be on a meat for more than 2 to 3 hours, you don’t want to use table salt because of the iodine. Morton’s has a salt conversion table that comes in handy, although it does not cover every brand of kosher salt.
Making Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs:
It’s a lot to cover in one post, making Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs on a grill, in the oven or in the Instant Pot. If you have hours, smoking is your best bet. If you don’t have an Instant Pot and can’t smoke, use the oven. If you do have an IP, try it. The ribs are tender in no time and when seasoned just right, they’re great.
With any ribs, time is your friend, when cooking and seasoning. If you can, rub them the night before and let them sit overnight. Some of those proteins are drawn out of the meat and mingle with that rub and are going to get you the marvelous taste you want. If you can’t hang with overnight, go as long as you can.
If you’re smoking Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs, I’ve set up a PDF on how to Set up your Grill. Allow four to six hours of actual cooking at 225 degrees. If you’re wanting more info, check out Amazing Ribs. I love those guys! If you’re oven cooking ribs, you’ll go up to 300 degrees for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. In the Instant Pot, you’ll set for 25 minutes with a 20-minute release. When oven or IP cooking, the ribs need to go under the broiler for about five minutes.
Ribs are done when they can be bent and are close to breaking, with a definite crack to the meat. They should be just holding together, and as mentioned before, not quite falling off the bone.
Preparing the Rack for Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs:
Let’s talk about the rack of ribs you’ll get at the store. Unless you can buy a St. Louis Style rack of ribs, your rack is going to be embedded in a big, flat hunk of meat and needs to be trimmed. Turn the ribs so the curved side is up and it’s running horizontally the long way, horizontally. “Feel” with your knife, for the spot you can cut through, just above the top of the ribs and remove that big hunk of meat. Your knife should slice through between the end of the ribs and the beginning of the “rib tip” with no problem.
There’s a weird “overgrowth” of “flap meat” over part of the ribs, maybe a little, maybe a lot. Hack that off to reveal the ribs below it. Then remove the silvery membrane across the ribs. With your knife, loosen up a corner, enough to get a grip, and using a paper towel or cloth for traction, grab it and pull across the ribs, slowly and steadily. The membrane should come right up. Now and then you need to really work at it and take more than one try. Get it the best you can.
What to do with the trimmings from the Rib Rack when Making Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs:
Set your trimmings aside, discard the membrane. Now some people use those trimmings as kind of a chef’s snack. I’m a little more frugal, so I’ll turn those into a secondary meal. I use them in my Denver Green Chili, my New Mexican Pozole or in my newest creation,
coming soon, Yucatan Pork Stew or sometimes my Brunswick Stew, Georgia Style.
Depending on what I’m making, sometimes I like to cook those trimmings (although I don’t season or rub them, so they are more neutral in flavor) right along with my ribs. You can do the same or stash them in the freezer for later cooking. If I’m smoking on the grill, I put the trimmings in a foil packet and watch them. They’ll take a couple hours but usually not as long as the ribs. Just turn them now and then and check after three hours or so.
If I’m cooking in the oven or the Instant Pot, I might cook the trimmings right along with the ribs or might stash them in the freezer for later. But with either oven or Instant Pot cooking, especially with the Instant Pot, there is a bonus. You’ll have wonderful, flavorful juices. Save any juices from the ribs along with the trimmings (you probably won’t have any if you’re smoking) and keep those for one of those secondary meals I listed above if they strike your fancy or a recipe of your own. Never waste flavor, right?
Saving Money on Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs:
First of all, buy your ribs on sale. Watch the specials. That’s a no-brainer, right?! I usually (but I’m out a freezer now) have a rack or two in my freezer but they are awkwardly shaped and take a lot of room. Ribs generally come in a cryovac package, so I hate to cut into that package and trim the ribs. If space is a big issue and you want nice, uniform ribs to stack, that’s an option.
As far as the spices, I buy the larger containers at the big box store for my basics like paprika, garlic and onion powder (and I don’t buy garlic salt or onion salt, I just add my own salt to garlic powder or onion powder) and watch for sales for the others. Did you know that there’s a “set” time for spice sales? Watch holiday sales, but also stock up in the spring, watch your coupon matching site who should notify you, and watch particularly for Catalinas.
Catalinas are spit out at the grocery store. They’re the little annoying slips that come with your receipts. First, you’ll generally trigger them when you buy something – they’ll notify you of a current or upcoming sale. Then you have to buy the requisite amount of items to trigger the Catalina, which is a coupon that prints out that you can use (mostly) like cash at your next store visit (or until the Catalina expires.) These are coupons that say things like “Buy four McCormick spices, get $2.00 off on your next visit.” See my Spice, Herb & Flavor Packet Substitutions for more spice rubs and money saving tips.Print
Competition Barbecue Spare Ribs
These are the spare ribs you’re going to want again and again; classic flavors in a “dry” rib and fantastic smoked on the grill, from the oven or in the Instant Pot.
- Total Time: varies
- Yield: 1 rack of ribs
For the rub:
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup paprika
- 1/3 cup garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons table salt or 2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
For the ribs:
If you’re cooking in a 6 quart instant pot, only 1 rack of ribs plus the trimmings will fit at a time. All other methods, use one to four racks.
For the rub, mix together ingredients. Store in an airtight container.
For the spare ribs:
Prepare as directed on the site by trimming if necessary and removing the membrane. Sprinkle with three or four tablespoons of the rub if using the Instant Pot, a little more if oven roasting or smoking. Gently pat on to ribs if needed; do not actually rub. If time allows, wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.
To smoke: Set up grill for indirect heat (See PDF) with desired wood chips. Place ribs, bone side down over drip pan filled with two to three cups water. Cover and cook at 225 degrees F. for four to six hours, until done. Replace wood chips and water as needed.
To oven roast: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place ribs on a rack over a large foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and add a cup and a half of water to the pan. Roast until done, adding more water as needed. Cover the ribs with additional foil after one hour of cooking. Total time will be about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove the pan with the ribs from the oven. Drain the liquid (save if making soup) and place ribs back on the pan. Turn on broiler and broil ribs, about six inches away from the element, until the rub becomes bubbly and caramelized.
To cook in instant pot:
Add one cup water to the bottom of the Instant Pot and rack if there is room. Curl ribs and place in Instant Pot vertically, trimmings in the center. Seal and cook on High Pressure for 25 minutes. Allow to go to the keep warm function and after 20 minutes, release the remaining pressure. Place ribs on a foil lined pan. Sprinkle with more rub, a little or a lot, depending on your preference. Turn on broiler and broil ribs, about six inches away from the element, until the rub becomes bubbly and caramelized.
There will be extra rub. Allow extra time to let the ribs sit in the rub. See PDF on setting up grill if you’re planning to rig your grill for smoking.