Here are five different takes on how to smoke ribs from barbecue legends.
This article has been compiled from information that has been published in various places across the Internet. I will show you how these folks smoke ribs and where I found the information.
If you want to replicate any of these ribs at home do not get hung up over EXACT time and temperatures.
The heat and air flow dynamics inside of these folks big smokers is nothing like what is happening inside of your Weber kettle.
Use this guide as a starting point but don’t be afraid to use some common sense and make adjustments for your particular smoker.
Let’s Get Started!
How to Smoke Ribs Like Myron Mixon
I can’t promise that this is Myron’s exact competition rib recipe but it should get you pretty close.
Myron cooks ribs two different ways depending upon the type of competition.
Myron smokes baby back ribs for Memphis in May competitions and switches over to St Louis spares for Kansas City Barbecue Society events.
For both types of contests Myron is simply cooking the type of ribs that the judges expect.
The main difference between how Myron cooks spare ribs and baby back ribs is the temperature of his pit. Baby back ribs get smoked at 250F while St Louis spares get smoked at 275F.
The St Louis spares get smoked at a higher temperature as they have a higher fat content than baby back ribs. The higher heat helps the fat render from the St Louis ribs.
Start by removing the membrane from the back of the ribs and trimming off any excess fat.
Combine the following marinade ingredients:
- 1 liter ginger ale
- 1 quart orange juice
- 1cup soy sauce
- 2 cups salt
- 2 1-ounce packets dry ranch dressing mix
Place the ribs in an aluminum pan and cover with the marinade. Wrap the pan in aluminum foil and refrigerate for four hours.
After four hours remove the ribs from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
After the ribs have been patted dry it is time to season them with the dry rub.
Combine the following ingredients:
Myron Mixon Rib Rub
- 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
Apply the rub to the top, back and sides of the ribs. Let the ribs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes as the rub works its way into the ribs.
As soon as the ribs have been coated with rub you need to make sure your smoker is at the right temperature; 250F for baby backs and 275F for spares.
Myron likes to use peach wood for ribs. Most folks don’t have a local supply of peach wood. Here are some links to pick some up on Amazon.
Myron does not place the ribs directly onto the grate of the smoker. Myron places the ribs, bone side down, in an aluminum foil pan and places the pan in the smoker.
Myron cooks EVERYTHING in pans. I think this is a trick he uses to keep his smoker clean.
Myron lets the ribs smoke uncovered in the pan for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes he starts spraying the ribs with the following:
Myron Mixon Rib Spritz
3 cups apple juice
2 cups white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons liquid imitation butter
The ribs get spritzed at the 30 minute mark and every 15 minutes thereafter until the ribs have been smoked for two hours.
After the ribs have smoked for two hours remove the pan from the smoker.
Pour one cup of apple juice into the pan and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
Place the foil covered pan back on the smoker for one hour.
While the ribs are cooking in the foil you will have time to prepare the sauce for the ribs. This is what Myron calls his Hog Glaze.
Start by making a vinegar sauce. Combine the following ingredients and warm (but don’t boil) until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
Myron Mixon Basic Vinegar Sauce
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup hot sauce
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup sugar
To finish making the Hog Glaze take two cups of the vinegar sauce and combine it with two 18 ounce jars of apple jelly and two cups of light corn syrup.
After the ribs have cooked in the foil for one hour remove them from the smoker and transfer them to a clean aluminum pan.
Brush both sides of the ribs with the Hog Glaze and cover the pan with aluminum foil.
Place the covered pan back on the smoker for 30 minutes while the sauce sets.
Myron says he shuts off the heat to the smoker in this last step. He uses some big smokers so even when it shuts it down there will still be plenty of residual heat left over to cook the ribs some more.
After the sauce sets and the ribs are at the tenderness he wants Myron pulls them from the pit and sends them to the judges!
Myron has given bits and pieces of this technique in multiple locations. I haven’t shared anything here that wasn’t already publicly available on the Internet.
Here are the sources I used for Myron’s rib recipe:
There are variations to this recipe compared to what is in his book (Smokin’ with Myron Mixon). What is in his books is a little different than what he teaches in his on site competition barbecue classes.
I don’t think Myron is being deceptive in having multiple versions of his rib recipe. I am sure that his methods are always evolving.
How to Smoke Ribs Like Mike Mills
Not everyone is familiar with Mike so I took the liberty of summarizing his biographical information from his website.
In the world of barbecue, champion pitmaster Mike Mills is affectionately known as “The Legend.”
In the early 1990s, Mike was co-captain of the Apple City Barbecue team, one of the most celebrated teams ever on the circuit.
He is a four-time World Champion and three-time Grand World Champion at Memphis in May, otherwise known as the Super Bowl of Swine.
Mike is also the 1992 Grand Champion of the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue Cooking Contest and he won the Jack Daniel’s Sauce Contest that year as well.
Mike cooks his ribs at 210 to 225 degrees and uses Royal Oak lump charcoal with apple wood for smoke. Over the course of six hours Mike uses about four cups of apple wood.
Mike cooks baby back ribs that have had the membrane removed.
When you are shopping for the ribs make sure the rack weighs more than two pounds. Smaller ribs dry out too easily.
Mike dusts his ribs with his dry rub and likes to let them sit overnight.
The Rib Rub (Magic Dust)
- 1/2 cup paprika
- 1/4 cup kosher salt, finely ground
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons mustard powder
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1/4 cup ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup granulated garlic
- 2 tablespoons cayenne
The ribs get added to the smoker bone side down and are
cooked for six to seven hours until he gets the desired tenderness.
Mike sprays the ribs with apple juice about every thirty minutes while they are cooking. At no point do the ribs get wrapped in aluminum foil.
Mike mentions that several times during the cooking process the ribs will “open up” and start to sweat. When the ribs are sweating they can take up extra flavor so that is the time to hit them with a little more Magic Dust.
About 10 minutes before the ribs are ready to come off the pit he bastes them with his barbecue sauce.
Mike Mills BBQ Sauce
- 1 cup Hunt’s ketchup
- 2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup apple juice or cider
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup bacon bits, ground in a spice grinder
- 1/3 cup peeled and grated apple
- 1/3 cup grated onion
- 2 teaspoons grated green bell pepper
Combine the ketchup, rice vinegar, apple juice or cider, cider vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, mustard, garlic powder, white pepper, cayenne, and bacon bits in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the apple, onion, and bell pepper.
Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes or until it thickens slightly.
This summary comes from Mike’s appearance on Good Morning America. The recipe and technique also appear in his great book, Peace, Love, & Barbecue. If you are serious about barbecue then Mike’s book needs to be in your house.
A word of caution. There is a product on Amazon that is being marketed as Mike Mills’ Magic Dust. Based on the reviews and the product label I do not believe the product is the actual recipe given above.
How to Smoke Ribs Like Tuffy Stone
The next competition rib recipe I want to share with you comes from Tuffy Stone. Tuffy is a regular judge on Barbecue Pitmasters. Tuffy is also the lead cook an the competitive barbecue team “Cool Smoke”.
Here are some of Tuffy’s awards and credentials from his website.
Tuffy has earned Grand Champion titles in nearly every major barbecue competition on the circuit. In 2013 Stone took home two World Champion titles while only cooking eight contests and he followed up in 2014 with another World Championship title, winning the American Royal Open. That year he also won 1st Runner Up at the Houston Live Stock and Rodeo World Championship, and took 2nd place in ribs at Memphis in May.
Tuffy has won contests all over the country, including back to back wins at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, Grand Champion at 2013 Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational, and First Place in Whole Shoulder at the 2010 Memphis in May World Championship to name a few.
Most recently, Tuffy took home the top prize in competition barbecue, winning Grand Champion at the 2015 Kingsford Invitational.
Tuffy uses the 3-2-1 method (3 hours in smoke, 2 hours in foil, 1 hour setting the glaze) for ribs. This recipe is designed for KCBS contests and uses St Louis style spare ribs. The dry rub, sauce and technique were published in the June/July 2011 issue of Saveur magazine.
Tuffy brushes his ribs with a light coating of oil, applies the dry rub and lets them sit for an hour.
Tuffy’s Rib Rub:
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup sweet paprika
- 1 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tbsp. onion powder
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. cayenne
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 tbsp. ground black pepper
The ribs go into the cooker bone side down at a temperature between 225 and 275 with some apple wood providing the smoke.
About every thirty minutes the ribs get spritzed with apple juice while they cook for three hours.
After three hours the ribs are removed from the grill, placed on foil and coated with butter, honey and sugar.
The ribs are wrapped up and put back on the smoker, bone side down, for another two hours.
After two hours the ribs are removed from the foil and cooked directly on the grate. The ribs are allowed to cook for another 30 minutes and then are brushed with Tuffy’s rib sauce.
Tuffy’s Rib Sauce
- 3 cups ketchup
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 3⁄4 cup distilled white vinegar
- 2 tbsp. molasses
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tbsp. sweet paprika
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1⁄2 tsp. cayenne
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1⁄2 cup honey
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1⁄2 cup apple juice
- 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 1⁄4 cup light brown sugar
After about another thirty minutes the glaze has set and the ribs are done.
One of Tuffy’s tips to folks starting out is that most rookies tend to over smoke their meat. I know that this described my initial attempts at ribs. If you are just starting out you might want to cut back on your wood a little.
How to Smoke Ribs Like Chris Lilly
This competition rib recipe comes from Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson’s barbecue.
Chris has won the Grand Championship at the American Royal and is a FOUR TIME Grand Champion at Memphis in May. Chris is famous for his pork shoulder but his ribs are pretty good as well!
This is a Memphis in May technique using baby back ribs. The description below was taken from a Food Network show, “Southern Foods: Memphis in May” Episode CL 9699. The episode is a little bizarre in that they have him cooking ribs in an oven but the technique would be identical in a smoker.
Chris gives his ribs a heavy coating of dry rub front and back. Here is his dry rub recipe.
The Rib Rub:
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup paprika
- 1/3 cup garlic salt
- 2 tablespoons onion salt
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
The ribs are cooked bone side down at 250 degrees for a little over two hours.
At what Chris calls the “second stage” the ribs are placed in foil, meat side down, with ½ cup of apple juice and ½ cup of grape juice. The ribs are tightly foiled and cooked meat side down for one hour.
By cooking meat side down Chris is letting the meat braise directly in the sweet liquid.
After the ribs have braised with the fruit juices they are removed from the foil and given a second coating of dry rub.
In this “third stage” the dry rub consists of three parts of the original dry rub combined with one part brown sugar. The ribs get a medium coat of the new dry rub on the meat side and are cooked bone side down for another thirty minutes.
In the “fourth stage” the ribs are glazed with a mix of 3 parts Big Bob Gibson Championship Red Sauce and one part honey.
The temperature of the cooker is raised to a little over 300 degrees to help the glaze set.
After about thirty minutes the ribs are done.
I don’t have a recipe for the Big Bob Gibson Championship Red Sauce but it is available on Amazon.
The Amazon reviews for this sauce are misleading. You will see a LOT of one star reviews. When you read the actual comments you will see that all of the negative reviews are for the Big Bob Gibson WHITE sauce.
How to Smoke Ribs Like Melissa Cookston
Melissa Cookston is a three time Memphis in May grand champion. She offers up a few tweaks in her smoked baby back ribs recipe.
After Melissa takes the membrane off the back of the ribs she applies the first layer of seasoning.
Melissa adds about a tablespoon of ULTIMATE rub followed by a tablespoon of yellow mustard. She uses the mustard to spread the rub out and help it adhere to the ribs. She does this for both the front and back of the ribs.
Melissa Cookston BASIC Rub:
1 cup turbinado sugar, ground
1/4 cup kosher salt
6 tablespoons Spanish paprika
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
Melissa Cookston ULTIMATE Rub:
1 cup turbinado sugar
5 cups Basic BBQ Rub
¼ cup light chili powder
¼ cup granulated garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne
Melissa likes to wrap the ribs in plastic wrap and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, before the ribs go on the smoker, Melissa applies a second round of dry rub and mustard.
Melissa smokes the ribs with apple and cherry wood for two hours at 225F.
After two hours she takes the ribs out of the smoker and adjusts the temperature of her pit to 250F.
When the ribs are out of the smoker she applies a THIRD application of mustard and dry rub.
She then adds honey and turbinado sugar to the top of the ribs and puts them, meat side UP, in aluminum foil.
Melissa adds about a quarter cup of purple grape juice into the bottom of the foil and loosely wraps the ribs. She makes sure the ribs are not tightly wrapped because she wants steam to be able to escape.
The foiled ribs go back onto the smoker at 250F for another two hours.
After two hours Melissa removes the ribs from the foil, applies her barbecue sauce and puts them back on the smoker for another 15 minutes to let the sauce set.
Melissa Cookston Barbecue Sauce
¼ cup canola oil
¾ cup finely diced sweet or yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1½ cups ketchup
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup water, or as needed
½ cup Basic BBQ Rub (see above) or Ultimate BBQ Rub (see above), or to taste
Melissa’s technique was provided at several different sources as follows:
If you want to learn more tricks from the Winningest Woman in Barbecue then check out her book, Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room.
Five Barbecue Grand Champions have shown you how to smoke ribs! Pretty cool!
Another great championship rib technique is Johnny Trigg’s. I do not have an official source to reference but there are plenty of versions of his technique on the Internet.
My buddy, Sol, sells the rib rub Johnny Trigg uses and has published a synopsis of the technique. Here is a link to Sol’s site with his Johnny Trigg rib recipe.