How to Smoke Ribs With Heath Riles

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Are you looking for a competition rib recipe that will help you win? Or ready to take your backyard barbecue to a new level?

In the video above, Malcom Reed of Killer Hogs interviews Heath Riles, who reveals his process for cooking MBN-style competition ribs. Heath has won more than 65 grand championships with multiple perfect-score category awards in MBN and KCBS, and this video is packed with great tips and tricks for helping you cook beautiful ribs with perfect texture and loads of flavor.


Step 1: Remove the membrane and square up the ribs if needed.

For this recipe Heath is using Chesire St. Louis style pork ribs from Heritage Farms in North Carolina. These are all natural and organic.

Remove the packaging, cut the ends off of them, and if the sides aren't straight, trim them a little to make them more square.

Step 2: Coat the ribs with a binder.

Heath likes to use yellow mustard, but you can also use peanut or olive oil. It's hard to notice the difference, but he says whenever he's used mustard in competitions, he's done better with them.

It doesn't take much, just enough to cover the meat.

Step 3: Season the ribs.

Start with a thin layer of Heath Riles Garlic Jalapeno, then a heavier layer of Heath Riles Pecan Rub. Lastly, add a layer of Heath Riles Honey Rub to perfect the color and sweetness profile.

Press the rub into the meat lightly, and let the ribs set for 15 or 20 minutes.

Step 4: Cook at 275 Degrees F until they pass the "smear" test.

Get your smoker running at 275 degrees F. Heath and Malcom are using a Traeger pellet smoker in this video, but you can use any smoker with indirect heat.

Heath said his favorite wood to use is cherry. Hickory adds a more traditional flavor to your meat, so he's using a mix of both.

The shape of the raw rack of ribs will determine the shape of the finished product. Heath likes to push the ends of the rack together to make the rack shorter and the ribs thicker, which is what the judge wants.

Let them cook for 2 to 2.5 hours until you can touch the seasoning and it doesn't smear or stick to your finger, that's an indicator that they are ready to wrap. They should have great color at this point.

Step 5: Wrap the ribs in foil with a butter bath.

Mix up a batch of Heath Riles Butter Bath with apple juice.

Lay out a double layer of aluminum foil on the counter, sprinkle it with Heath Riles Honey Rub.

Lay one rack of ribs on the foil meat side down, sprinkle the back side with more Honey Rub, and pour 3/4 cup of your Butter Bath mixture over the ribs.

Crimp the foil over the ribs and return them to the smoker for an hour or until the meat reaches 206 or 207 degrees F. Use a hand-held digital thermometer to check the internal temperature between the bones.

Step 6: Glaze the ribs.

While you're waiting, mix a glaze with 2 parts of the Heath Riles Vinegar Sauce and 1 part Heath Riles Sweet BBQ Sauce. You can also add some honey to make it sweeter if you'd like.

If you're cooking for a competition, warm up the glaze before applying it.

Once the meat is up to temperature, transfer the ribs to a cutting board for glazing.

Dust both sides with more of the Heath Riles Sweet Rub to give it more of that competition color and an extra pop of flavor. 

Brush both sides with the glaze. 

Set the ribs back on the smoker without the foil for 15 minutes to set the glaze. Heath used a rack inside a shallow pan.

Step 7: Slice and serve!

Transfer the ribs to a cutting board with a slicing knife or a pair of tongs.

If you're cooking for a competition, clean the ends of the bones with a Q-tip.

Slice them into individual single-bone portions.


"They've got the color and they've got the appearance... The texture is there. They are bite through. The flavor is through the roof!" —Malcom Reed


The rack should be able to "wave" without falling apart, yet the meat should be tender enough to pull off the bone cleanly. The moisture in these ribs was perfect!

"Flavor and tenderness wins contests." —Heath Riles

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If the bones are white when you pull them out of the meat, the ribs are overcooked. For competition ribs, the bones should turn white 5–7 minutes after pulling them out.


Man, check that out! The bone's clean.... these ribs are juicy!" –Malcom Reed


Pick up some award-winning supplies for your next barbecue! You can purchase Heath Riles sauces, seasonings, and butter bath in our online store or in our retail store where we carry a wide variety of equipment and supplies, such as charcoal, pellets, and thermometers. Call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA.

​About the author: Lavern Gingerich is a writer and the digital marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply​.

1 thought on “How to Smoke Ribs With Heath Riles

  1. Thanks for sharing, Lavern. Great insights from Heath to take backyard BBQ to the next level. So much to learn and try.

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