Apple Habanero Smoked BBQ St. Louis-Style Ribs

The backyard version of a competition classic. Champion BBQer Jay Tinney reveals his secrets step by step for how he makes a rack of grand champion-worthy ribs at home.
Jay Tinney, Tinney Barbecue

Head Country Brand Ambassador

Jay Tinney is pitmaster at Tinney Barbecue in Austin, Texas. He has been a competition BBQer for nearly 20 years, winning titles at numerous contests in Texas. For over 15 years, Tinney has been the head competition chef on several of the largest teams at the Austin Rode. He was the San Antonio Rodeo BBQ Cookoff Grand Champion in 2018. Tinney uses Head Country in his catering as well as at competition.


1 4.5-5-lb rack of St. Louis-style ribs
Salt/Pepper/Garlic seasoning (Jay likes the Fajita seasoning from Fiesta)
Head Country Original Championship Seasoning
Apple juice
Butter, 1/2 c. (one stick)
Honey, 2 Tbsp.
Tiger Sauce, 2 Tbsp.
Light brown sugar, 1 c.
Head Country Apple Habanero BBQ Sauce

Spray bottle
Basting brush
Heavy-duty aluminum foil


275 degrees F


4-1/2 hours


Bring your grill or smoker up to 275 degrees F.

Remove ribs from packaging and place on a cutting board bones side up. Starting on the larger side of the rib rack, use a knife to begin to loosen the membrane attached to the bone-side of the rack, gently inserting the knife to pry the membrane away from the rib. Using a paper towel, grab the flap of loosened membrane and gently but firmly pull the membrane completely from the rack of ribs. Use the butter knife and paper towels to remove any remaining membrane from the ribs. If desired, trim any flap of meat that remains on the bone-side of the rack of ribs.

To trim ribs competition-style, remove any excess fat or meat to make a rectangle shape from the rack of ribs—”square it up,” as Jay advises. Turn the ribs over and, keeping the trimming knife flat against the meat of the ribs, trim any large pieces of fat from the meat side of the ribs.

Season both sides of the rack of ribs with the Salt/Pepper/Garlic seasoning. Add a second layer of seasoning with Head Country Original Championship Seasoning. Most backyard cooks don’t use enough seasoning on ribs, Jay says—go for a medium-thick layer of seasoning on the ribs to ensure good flavor and the formation of a bark during smoking. Allow the ribs to sweat with the seasoning, returning to add a second layer of seasoning.

Add ribs to your grill or smoker, bone sides down. Cook for one hour and 40 minutes. Moisten the ribs with sprays of apple juice occasionally.

About one hour and 20 minutes in to the cook, combine the butter, honey, and Tiger Sauce in a small sauce pan and heat until melted.

Remove the ribs from the grill or smoker and place on a layer of heavy duty aluminum large enough to wrap the ribs. Pour the butter mixture over the ribs. Top the ribs with a large handful of light brown sugar—about 1 cup. Add a layer of Head Country Original Championship Seasoning. Wrap the ribs, tenting over the top of the ribs so that the foil does not touch the surface of the meat.

Once the cook hits the four-hour mark, remove the ribs from the smoker or grill and from the foil wrapping. Glaze the ribs with Head Country Apple Habanero BBQ sauce. Add the ribs back to the smoker or grill to set the glaze, 30 minutes.

Slice ribs to serve.