You hear a lot of people describe their ribs as 'falling off the bone.'

But if your smoked ribs ARE falling off the bone - then all you have is pink mush on a stick.

If you are a competition BBQ cook, then already know that you can get a REALLY bad score in tenderness if your ribs are too tough AND if they are TOO tender. And that bad tenderness score can keep you off the stage and out of the prize money.

Your ribs need to be tender, but they need to have some bite. Your ribs need to have a "melt in your mouth" texture, but they still need to have a little pull.

When you overcook ribs, you aren't going to have any texture - it's going to feel like a wet paper towel in your mouth... and that's not good.

Competition BBQ Judges are told to look for a few things when judging ribs...

- If they pick up the bone, the meat should come with it - and it should not remove from the bone until they bite into it.

- The meat should pull away CLEAN from the bone after you take a bite.

- The bone should dry out almost instantly (and stark looking chalky) when the meat is removed.

When cooking ribs - just like cooking all other BBQ - you really walk a thin line of perfection... And since each slab cooks differently, you really need to know what to look for to tell when it is done.

Tips to know exactly when your ribs are ready.

- Make sure you are using a proven cooking method - and watch your time closely... this is one process where you don't want to have to guess at your cooking times.

- If you think your ribs might be done - remove them from the smoker and give them a little pull. You don't want to separate the ribs; you just want to see what kind of resistance you get. If the meat starts to break-free of the bone with a little twist - then it means that all that fat and all that tough connective tissue has completely rendered out and left you with tender, moist meat.

- If you are wrapping your ribs with foil, remember that your meat will "lock back up" a little once they are taken out of the foil. Make sure you place your ribs back on the smoker after removing them from the foil so they can "lock back up" in the right, warm environment. Letting them get cold immediately after removing them from the foil will only cause your ribs to toughen up a LOT MORE than you want them too.

If you want more tips on cooking ribs, I have a complete, competition-style, loin-back rib procedure - and step-by-step videos of our Spare Ribs method at

Malcom Reed 
Killer Hogs BBQ