The analogy of competition BBQ ribs.
Championship BBQ Ribs
When I first started cooking real BBQ , I started with pork loin ribs ( baby backs ). I saw a spot on the Today Show with Chris Lilly. I copied his recipe off the Internet . His recipe call for cooking them in an oven. I guessed I cooked over a dozen ribs. My wife enjoyed them so it wasn't hard to spend the money on them. In the instructions I was told to peel off the back membrane. I had no clue what that was. After a dozen ribs , I figured it out. It is very essential to have a sharp knife and a paper towel handy. The recipe also introduced me to what a rub was. At first , I had trouble wasting so much seasoning but quickly learned it was part of the game. Finally , I figured to kick it up a notch and get a smoker. I bought an El cheapo Brinkman. I made the changes and then I was hooked. I loved that smoked flavor.
After mastering the Chris Lilly ribs , I thought was ready to compete. Since Chis Lilly mostly competes in Memphis In May contest , I would try a MIM in Richmond Va. It was definitely a learning experience. I got the pleasure to meet Myron Mixon of Jacks Ole South and many other great teams that weekend. I was grateful we did not finish last (DAL)!I left that contest with a lot of respect for BBQ.
The next contest was in Danville Va , a KCBS contest. The ribs we used this time were spare ribs. We used spare ribs cut to a St. Louis cut. "St. Louis Style Spare Ribs ,pork ribs that are taken from the whole spareribs of the hog, which have had the brisket bone and some meat surrounding it removed so the cut appears more rectangular in shape. In comparison to whole spareribs which can weigh up to 5 pounds, the St. Louis Style Spare rib will most often weigh up to the 3 pound range. ("http://www.recipetips.com/glossary-term )
We found that the spare ribs gave us more room for error and more meat. We continued to use the Chris Lilly recipe withe spare ribs. The recipe called 1/2 cup of grape juice and a 1/2 cup of apple juice then wrap with foil. After a few contest a new lang smoker I found that was painful and way too much work. I also figured out that I had to increase the cooking time with the spare ribs to about 6 hour. Then after we got rid of the foil ,we went to 7 hours.
Other tricks we learned on the way is to roll your ribs and sprinkle rub on the bones. The marrow and the rubs really gives you a little more of a edge. Also we found out what honey , Parkay margarine and dark brown sugar is all about. They all can give you a different layer of flavor.
Sauces: There are many different sauces. We have won with K.C. Masterpiece and many other BBQ sauces. Experiment with your favorite sauce.At most contest , we found that the judges like sweet ribs with a medium heat. We were most successful at Danville , Chesapeake Va. , and Snow Shoe WV x 2. I think ribs are definitely regional. In New Holland maple is king! We learned that the hard way.In WV they like Cinnamon, go figure.
After 20 contest we still are tweaking the ribs. We still use foil if we need to speed up the cooking time and try to play around with the sauce. All in all we are happy with our finish product.The biggest problem is not to over and under cook you ribs. Good Luck and hope this helps.