How to Make America’s Best Ribs at Home

Pork ribs with potato chips
Pork ribs with potato chips Eugene Mymrin / Getty Images

The American Royal Barbecue, held in Kansas City, Missouri every October, is the nation’s largest BBQ contest. More than 560 teams competing, 270,000-plus people show up to taste-test, and one barbecuer is crowned grand champ. This year, it was Tuffy Stone, head cook for team Cool Smoke, and founder of Q barbeque restaurants in Virginia.

Here’s how to make his award-winning BBQ ribs.

Tuffy Stone’s Award Winning Ribs Recipe


  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. chipotle
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 racks St. Louis-cut pork spareribs (about 3 lb. each)

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  • 3 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. medium chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. cayenne
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar


1. Make the rub: Mix sugar, paprika, chili, onion and garlic powders, cayenne, chipotle, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Apply generous coat of rub to the ribs and let sit 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Whisk together ketchup, sugar, vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire, chili powder, paprika, onion and garlic powders, cayenne, pepper, and ¾ cup water in a 4-qt. saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook, stirring, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, measure 1 cup into a bowl, and stir in ¼ cup honey and the apple cider vinegar; set aside. (Reserve remaining sauce for another use.) Pour apple juice into a spray bottle; set aside.

3. Prepare your cooker or grill. If using a grill, set it up on a 2 zone method so that you have both a direct and indirect cooking area. This can be achieved by turning off one of the burners on a gas grill or by putting lit coals on only one half of the bottom of a charcoal grill. If using a grill cooker, on the side of the grill that doesn’t have hot coal or on the side where the burner is off. Place ribs, meat side up, on grill grate. Maintaining a temperature of 275° (if using a kettle grill or bullet smoker, replenish fire with unlit coals, as needed, to maintain temperature), cook, spraying with juice every 30 minutes, for 2 hours. Remove ribs from grill; transfer to 2 large stacked sheets of foil. Drizzle butter, honey, and sugar evenly over both sides of ribs; position ribs meat side down and close foil around ribs. Return to grill and cook for 2 hours or until tender. Internal temperature will be around 203-205 degrees. This can be checked with a skewer or a meat thermometer. Carefully uncover the ribs and discard foil. Brush a thin coat of sauce on both sides of the ribs and return to grill/cooker. Cook for 15 minutes to set the sauce. Serve with remaining sauce on the side.

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