Military Hero Ribs

by Dana ‘Big Papa’ Hillis

I have been lucky the last few years to not only get into competition BBQ, but to have been successful enough to win several contests and make some lifelong friends along the way.

I've been able to practice a lot of recipes and flavor profiles and have had a lot of friends suffer through taste-testing my experiments.

We recently cooked in Barnesville, Georgia – which is a long way from home for us – so we picked up Rub from Swamp Boys to ride with us and split some of the fuel costs. Barnesville is a cool town that fills up the streets with BBQ teams, and a lot of people come out to enjoy some good food. The main reason we drove 625 miles to do this contest is we love this little town and have a bunch of friends we don’t get to see unless we go there.

Mike from the Barnesville Blues Brothers and TJ and Amanda are always fun to see, and the music and entertainers are first class. Congratulations to Foy with the BBQ Crew for winning Grand. No team enjoys cooking more than this crew, and it really felt good to see them win. Foy is proof there is more to this game then just showing up and cooking.

Next, we ventured to a first-year contest in Ocala where the folks did a great job making the teams feel welcome and served up a nice dinner of pasta and salad and chicken wings.

This contest was held at the Florida Horse Park. Seeing all the horses and riders was very entertaining. Terry with Git R Smoked came out on top of a tough crowd to edge out Swamp Boys for the Grand Champion – becoming the first two-time winner this year and adding points to his lead for the FBA “Team of the Year” race. Git R Smoked is in the lead for the “Team of the Year” race by a large margin at the current time, but there is a long way to go, and several teams are within striking distance. Matt with Hot Wachulas plans to make a run for it, as do Big Papa and the Florida Boys. And, you can never count out the Swamp Boys.

Jady Hill from the Florida Boys has been cooking for a long time and told me he has a plan to win it all. He also has come up with nicknames for all the teams and said that, "Baby Cakes (Terry with Git R Smoked) is gonna be hard to catch, but we could do it.”

(story continued below)


Military Hero Ribs


• 1 case of St. Louis cut ribs (3.5 lbs. or less for each slab)

• Big Papa’s Rib Rub

• Florida Crystals sugar

• Black cherry cranberry juice

• Liquid butter

• Blackberry jelly

• Big Papa’s Spicy Peach

Cooking Instructions:

I swear BBQ’ing could fix a lot of the world’s problems. Here is the rib recipe I'll cook for any of our military heroes when I get the chance:

1 case of St. Louis cut ribs (3.5 lbs. or less for each slab). If you have spare ribs weighing more, you can cut them down to St. Louis style and also cook the “rib tips.”

Trim off excess fat from ribs and peel skin off the back side. Lay ribs on plastic wrap. Rub liberally with Big Papa’s Rib Rub (or any rib rub that DOES NOT have a real high salt content).

Sprinkle heavily with Florida Crystals sugar. Spray with black cherry cranberry juice to get moist, then wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat grill to 250 degrees. Place ribs on indirect heat for approximately three hours or until meat starts to pull back from the bones. Spray every 15-20 minutes, keeping ribs moist. When meat starts to pull, lay ribs on foil. Rub with liquid butter and rub each slab with 2 tablespoons blackberry jelly.

Wrap ribs in foil and put back on grill with meat side down. Check after one half hour to see if bone tears easily from rib meat. When you see about 1/2 inch of bone, take ribs off grill and pour excess liquid from foil.

Glaze ribs with Big Papa’s Spicy Peach (or your favorite) sauce and lay back on grill for 20 minutes. Slice ribs and glaze all four sides. Let sit for 5 minutes (or less if your hungry).

Thanks to all our military personnel for all you do!

(story continued from above)

Our next BBQ adventure is taking us to Las Vegas to cook in the “Smoke On the Water” – which offers $125,000 in prize money – making it the largest paying contest ever scheduled.

All the teams that you have seen on television will be at this contest, and this one sure will be interesting, especially if a couple of teams from Florida can go make a good showing.

Janet and I went to Vegas every year until we started cooking BBQ competitions. She wanted to go back, so cooking a competition and taking her back to her playground is going to be fun.

My dad has been battling some health issues recently, so I went through New Port Richey to pay him a visit. He likes to hear about my BBQ adventures, and I have taken my competition trailer to his house before to cook a bunch of Q for him, packed it in small portions and put it in the freezer so he was able to take single servings out and have ribs whenever he had a craving. I like to cook slabs of ribs, cut them in half and wrap them individually so it is easy to take out a small serving at a time. You can do the same thing with pulled pork.

While there, my brother Dwayne and I went to a little BBQ joint in New Port Richey called Pit Boss BBQ, which I have been going to for over 20 years. They have chopped brisket and pork, good ribs and chicken, and they cook on a big wood-fired grill inside the restaurant, which keeps my dad’s neighborhood smelling awesome. Their baked beans are one of my favorites, and their coleslaw and potato salad are really good.

Gary Taylor and Tim Sherrell have been putting out oak-grilled BBQ for a long time, and Dominika treated us great. Stop in at Pit Boss BBQ when you have the chance (4221 Little Road, New Port Richey, 727-376-BOSS or 2677). You will be pleased.

I wish I could have a big cookout in my backyard and feed all the boys from Seal Team 6. I know they are the kind of guys that would love some good ribs. I would like to think our President is the kind of guy that would fire up a big ol’ stick burner at the White House and cook up some BBQ for all the Cabinet members and chiefs of staff. I can’t think of a better way to solve the world’s problems than hanging around the cooker enjoying some cold beverages.

If radical extremists spent more time cooking BBQ and hanging out with their friends, the most evil thing they could come up with would be trying to figure out the recipe for my BBQ sauce and exactly how to cook a good brisket.

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