The 29th annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off concluded on Labor Day. Rib vendors from all over the world congregated in Sparks to compete for the prestigious Best Ribs Award. This year I attended the event for the first time. I’m no ribs expert, but here are my top 5 ribs.

Chicago BBQ Company

Chicago BBQ is one of the most successful vendors in this competition’s history, and you can definitely see why. These ribs fall off the bone as soon as they are picked up as all ribs should. The sauce is just a simple BBQ sauce, but it’s noticeably better than sauces you would find on a shelf at Winco. Chicago BBQ Company has mastered the quintessential rib, which is why they have found so much success in competitions.

BJ’s Barbecue

The first thing you notice while in line for BJ’s is the six painter’s buckets full of sauce. Despite my desire to try the ‘bourbon’ and ‘honey jack’ sauces, I tried their ‘regular’ sauce to stay consistent with other ribs. I was expecting the typical thick, brown sauce. The sauce ended up looking and tasting like sweet-and-sour sauce. The ribs themselves were not mind blowing, but the sauce made up for it. Luckily for Northern Nevadan rib lovers, BJ’s is based in Sparks and is open for business every day.

Carson City BBQ

Another Nevada representative, another master of sauce. Carson City BBQ has won Best in the West Best Sauce in 2004 and 2009. The ribs are tender, chewy and smoked to perfection. While the ribs are simplistic, the sauce is complex and comes in waves of flavor. First, when the sauce hits the tongue, there is a burst of tanginess. After chewing on the meat, the flavor transitions from sour to sweet. I may have to drive down to Carson City soon for a platter of ribs.

Rasta Joe’s BBQ

These ribs were the only ones I had that deviated from the standard rib recipe. Joe “Rasta Joe” Alexander perfected his recipe after five trips to the Caribbean. He dry rubs his ribs in local Jamaican spices and flavorings then slathers them in a sauce made with Jamaican rum. Last year, they took home the Best in the West’s highest honor. These were by far the best tasting and looking rib I had at the cook off. I even stole an extra container of sauce to bring home.

Texas Lightning BBQ

Despite this being only their third time at the Best in the West Cook Off, the Texas Lightning team is far from inexperienced. Grillmaster Nikki Hagerty has been competing in Sparks for years as part of her father’s company, Chicago BBQ Company. These ribs tear easily and come slathered in thick, flavorful sauce. While Texas Lightning is the novice of the competition, I foresee some success coming their way in the near future.