Sticklands Ribs

Strickland's Restaurant is a local takeout favorite, with specials like ribs. (Photo/Tim O'Brien)

Strickland’s is a family-owned Athens classic that has served Southern specialties for over 60 years. Brett Strickland, co-owner of the Atlanta Highway restaurant, shares a barbecue option that’s great for tailgating. 


baby back ribs

½ cup yellow mustard

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

8 tablespoons butter

honey (just to drizzle)

your favorite BBQ sauce

For the rub

¼ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper


First, get your smoker going. The ideal temperature range is 200-225 F. Post oak is a good option, but it’s hard to get. You can do hickory as well. You don’t want thick white smoke, but instead, for best results, you want thin blue smoke.

Take the baby back ribs and remove membrane. Rub down in yellow mustard. 

Put your dry rub on the ribs and let adhere for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Throw ribs on the smoker unwrapped. You want the side that you pulled the membrane off of facing down. Cover the smoker and keep them going for 2 hours. At the 2-hour mark, spray the ribs with apple cider vinegar. For this, you can use a salon misting bottle. Cover your smoker and continue smoking for another hour.

After 3 hours on the smoker, remove the ribs from the grill. Tear tinfoil into long strips (enough to fit the entire rib in it). Take six pats of butter and stick to the bottom of the tinfoil. Cover that in a generous few pinches of brown sugar. Add a drizzle of honey and place the rib down on top of the butter/brown sugar/honey mixture. Repeat the process on top of the rib. Wrap tightly with the tinfoil, and be sure that it doesn’t tear or leak. Place ribs back on the smoker for 2 hours. 

At the 2-hour mark remove the ribs. Carefully unwrap the ribs. There will be a good deal of liquid. Take that liquid and pour it into a fat separator, take the good stuff from the separator and mix into your favorite BBQ sauce.  

Make a “boat” out of the tinfoil you wrapped your ribs in. Generously baste your ribs and put them back in the smoker. Smoke for 30 minutes and baste your ribs again. Throw a few extra chunks of wood in your smoke box. This will bump the temperature up and take your sauce up. Smoke for an additional 30 minutes.

Remove ribs from the smoker, let rest for 10 minutes, and enjoy. 

This recipe originally was published in the 2022 Red & Black Tailgate Guide.