Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off

July 12, 2012 | Other Goodies


Attention, barbecue and rib lovers, this post is for you.  If you love everything about barbecued meats: the smell of meat being smoked for hours on end, the sweet and tangy sauce tantalizing your taste buds and dripping down your face and hands, tender “fall-off-the-bone” ribs, “falls apart in your hands” brisket, superbly smoked and sauced pulled pork, and different barbecue styles and sauces from around the country — this is an event of truly epic proportions, one you will not want to miss (it make even require an annual pilgrimage… I never miss one!).

Every year during Labor Day weekend, the Nugget in Sparks, Nevada (right next door to Reno) hosts the “Best in the West” Nugget Rib Cook-Off for six days.  With twenty-four of the country’s top barbecue vendors, this incredible annual event is the “big machumba” competition for the competitors; taking home the first prize trophy is a prestigious honor, and grounds for extreme bragging rights.  So needless to say, these competitors bring their A game for six glorious days… and we get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

All of the vendors offer their baby back ribs, and most offer a variety of their homemade sauces for you to put on top of the ribs.  They usually also offer brisket, beef ribs, pulled pork, hot links, and typically some sides like coleslaw and biscuits so you can make up an entire meal.  The beauty of the rib cook-off to me are the samplers of the ribs: three ribs you can get at any vendor, costing around $7.  This is a dream to me because it allows one to sample many of the vendors’ ribs, instead of filling up at one booth.  It is even better when you have one or two other people with you to share, you can really get a large sampling of many different kinds of ribs.  There are also other booths spread around the event which offer items like fried zucchini, funnel cake, grilled corn on the cob, ice creams, cold beverages (non-alcoholic and alcoholic), and much more.

Now, this competition isn’t made up of the small “mom and pop” businesses, these competitors are the hardest of the hardcore.  They erect gigantic, twenty or thirty feet high signs and displays with banners of their “wins” from previous competitions.  Each of the booths is approximately twenty feet wide, typically accommodating four or five lines of people to order food (and the lines are never short).  This is an event where you need to plan on a leisurely day of wandering, drooling, and consuming because the lines can be quite long as thousands of people attend this even each day.

This is an all ages event, and I highly recommend going on a weekday (Friday and Saturday nights are body-to-body people, and frankly, when it’s 90° outside, it’s just not enjoyable at all) for minimal crowds — especially if you are bringing your little ones.  I also recommend bringing some kind of wet-wipes (a huge help with all of that wonderful, sticky sauce), and getting there when the event opens to be able to get decent parking.  There are hundreds of craft vendors during the day, and live music in the evenings.  And the best part of the event… it’s free to get in!

Just go.  No questions… just go.  You’ll thank me later.

Texas Outlaws Booth — My personal favorite ribs at the competition.

If you have been to the rib cook-off in the past, please feel free to share your experience(s) below in the comments!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *