What Are St Louis Style Pork Ribs? Helpful Recipes & Sides

Prepared with precision, St. Louis is celebrated for its perfect balance of meaty texture and flavorful fat, cut into rectangular shapes that are not only visually appealing but also optimized for cooking. This article will help you learn the question “what are st louis style pork ribs?”, let’s start this fascinating journey together, where every juicy bite tells a story of tradition, craftsmanship and a shared love for good barbecue.

A Brief History of St. Louis Ribs

A Brief History of St. Louis Ribs

St. Louis ribs originate from a specific cut of the pig known as the spare rib. The spare rib area runs along the belly and side of the pig below the loin. St. Louis style ribs come from trimming the spare rib tips off to create a rectangular rack. This method emerged in the 1950s as St. Louis meatpackers sought ways to improve the spare rib. Removing the narrow tips made the racks more uniform in shape and size for even cooking. The St. Louis cut also removed some of the harder cartilage pieces, leaving behind juicier, meatier ribs. As for the name, it comes from the cut’s popularity among barbecue restaurants in St. Louis. The city’s strong pork rib culture increased demand for this style of rib across the country. Today cooks everywhere seek out St. Louis ribs for grilling, smoking, and oven roasting.

What Are St Louis Style Pork Ribs?

St. Louis style pork ribs are a specific cut of ribs that come from the belly side of the pig, known for their rich flavor and tenderness. Here are some key points differentiating St. Louis style ribs from baby back ribs:

  • Origin: St. Louis ribs come from the belly side of the pig, while baby back ribs come from the upper part of the rib cage where the spine and ribs meet.
  • Shape: St. Louis ribs are flatter and straighter, while baby back ribs are curved and shorter.
  • Meatiness: St. Louis ribs have more meat between the bones and are fattier, making them a more flavorful choice compared to baby back ribs.
  • Cooking: St. Louis style ribs are generally grilled rather than slow-cooked over indirect heat with smoke, which is typical for other styles of barbecue.

Choosing the Best Racks of Ribs

Quality ribs start at the store. Look for ribs with the following characteristics:

  • Meat – Deep red color and nicely marbled with white fat. Avoid pale or grayish meat.
  • Bones – Clean, white bones without cracks. Should have some flexibility, not cracked.
  • Fat Cap – Layer of white fat lining the back. Helps keep ribs juicy.
  • Shape – Rectangular rack with bones of roughly equal lengths.
  • Weight – Around 2-2.5 lbs. Heavy racks have more meat.
  • Date – Fresh ribs will have further sell-by dates.
  • Smell – Raw ribs should have little odor. Avoid ammonia-like or sour smells.

Buying the best gives you a head start on fabulous ribs.

Proper Handling and Thawing St Louis Style Pork Ribs

Caring for ribs properly ensures food safety and quality results:

  • Store ribs in the coldest part of the refrigerator if cooking within 2-3 days. Place in a shallow pan to catch drips.
  • For longer storage, freeze ribs in an airtight freezer bag up to 4 months.
  • Thaw frozen ribs for 18-24 hours in the fridge in a pan, never at room temperature.
  • Once thawed, use within 3-5 days. Do not refreeze. Discard if you see any odor or slime.

Handle raw ribs carefully to avoid cross contamination in the kitchen. Never place cooked and raw meats together.

Pre-Cooking Prep Steps 

Before seasoning and cooking, ribs need some prep work:

  1. Remove Membrane: The membrane is a thin, slippery layer of connective tissue on the back of the rack. Removing it ensures tenderness. Use a knife to loosen an edge, then grab and peel it off in one piece. Trim any remaining bits.
  1. Trim Excess Fat: Leave about 1⁄4 inch of the outer fat cap for moisture. Trim any hard fat lumps or flaps hanging off the edges.
  2. Remove “Skirt Meat”: This thin, tough meat hangs below the last rib bone. Cut it off for tenderness.
  3. Halve or Portion the Rack: Cutting the full slab in half or into individual ribs makes seasoning and handling easier.

Crafting Your Own Seasoning Blends

Making your own dry rub or wet marinade lets you control the ingredients and customize flavors.

Dry Rub Ideas:

  • Base: Brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper
  • Customize: Cumin, cinnamon, coffee, herbs

Wet Marinade Ideas:

  • Base: Oil, vinegar/juice, Worcestershire, spices
  • Customize: Soy sauce, hot sauce, mustard, herbs

Experiment with flavors like cayenne, onion, oregano, maple syrup, citrus, and more. Tailor combinations to your tastes.

Cooking Method #1: Oven Baking

Baking ribs in the oven gives hassle-free results every time. Use indirect heat to gently cook ribs:

  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Prepare ribs with dry rub and marinade as desired.
  • Place ribs meaty-side up on a wire rack set inside a foil lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 2-3 hours until fork tender. Check doneness; bake up to 30 minutes longer if needed.
  • Increase temperature to 400°F during last 15 minutes for caramelization if desired.
  • Let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Tips for Oven Ribs

  • Add apple juice, beer, or water to the baking sheet to help steam and braise ribs.
  • Wrap tightly in foil after 2 hours to finish cooking for fall-off-the-bone ribs.
  • Turn ribs over halfway through baking to ensure even cooking.

Cooking Method #2: Grilling

The classic way to cook ribs, grilling imparts delicious smoky flavor:

  • Prepare charcoal or gas grill for medium indirect heat, around 300°F.
  • Oil the grill grates well to prevent sticking.
  • Grill ribs on indirect heat for 2-3 hours with lid closed as much as possible.
  • Flip and rotate ribs every 30 minutes for even cooking.
  • Move ribs directly over heat during last 10-15 minutes to caramelize sauces and spices.
  • Remove ribs from grill and let rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Grilling Tips for Great Ribs

  • Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes then scatter over coals for smoked flavor.
  • Use a spray bottle to spritz ribs with apple juice or vinegar every hour for moisture and sheen.
  • If flames flare up, move ribs to indirect heat and close the lid to suffocate the fire.

Cooking Method #3: Smoking

For the ultimate barbecue ribs, slow smoking infuses rich, smoky flavor:

  • Prepare a charcoal or electric smoker with water pan for 225°F indirect heat.
  • Place a drip pan below the ribs to catch fat drippings.
  • Smoke ribs for 4-6 hours, adding more charcoal as needed to maintain temperature.
  • Spritz ribs every hour with a squirt bottle of apple juice/vinegar to help keep moist.
  • Apply sauce during last 30-60 minutes to let it caramelize nicely.
  • Rest ribs for 10-15 minutes before cutting into portions.

Smoking Tips

  • Use wood chips like hickory, pecan, applewood. Soak before adding to coals.
  • Don’t peek at the ribs too often. Opening the smoker lets heat escape.
  • Allow extra time at the end to let the smoke fully permeate for the deepest flavor.

Advanced Techniques for Tender, Juicy Ribs

It takes practice to master the ideal balance of moist, tender meat with barky edges. Try these tips:

  • Low and Slow – Stick to lower temperatures like 225-300°F for patience to pay off in tender results.
  • Wrap in Foil – Wrapping ribs in foil while cooking helps break down connective tissues. Do this after 2-3 hours.
  • Dry Brining – Salt ribs overnight before cooking to boost juiciness. Rinse before seasoning.
  • Spritz While Cooking – Use a spray bottle of apple juice, vinegar, or broth to keep ribs from drying out.
  • Rest Before Serving – Let ribs rest 10-15 minutes after cooking so juices redistribute through the meat.

Must-Have Gear for Rib Mastery

Having the right gear makes prepping and cooking ribs much easier:

  • Meat Thermometer – Monitor internal temp without losing moisture to poking. Pull ribs off heat at 195°F.
  • Basting Brush – Apply sauces and marinades smoothly and evenly over ribs. Disposable silicone is convenient.
  • Heavy Duty Foil – Key for wrapping ribs while oven roasting or smoking to speed tenderness.
  • Spice Grinder – Freshly grind whole spices and dried chiles for intense dry rub flavors.
  • Kitchen Shears – Easy cutting through ribs for portioning racks into individual bones or servings.

Investing in quality equipment brings convenience and consistency.

Troubleshooting Common Rib Problems

Even experienced cooks encounter some rib pitfalls. Here are solutions to the most common issues:

Ribs are tough and dry

  • Cook at too high heat. Lower temperature and slow down cooking.
  • Meat not tenderized properly. Allow more time or wrap in foil.

Ribs are too fatty or greasy

  • Didn’t trim excess fat before cooking. Remove it next time.
  • Cooked too hot. Lower heat for gentler rendering of fat.

Ribs stick to the grill

  • Grill not oiled properly first. Always coat grates.
  • Moved ribs too soon. Allow more time to release from grates after flipping.

Ribs have burnt, bitter flavor

  • Portions got too close to heat source. Rearrange for even cooking.
  • Left on grill too long. Watch closely near the end to avoid burning.

Sauce won’t caramelize

  • Applied too early before surface browns. Brush on sauce for just the last 15-30 mins of cooking.

The Art of Choosing Louis Style Pork Rib Sauce

The Art of Choosing Louis Style Pork Rib Sauce

Barbecue sauce adds moisture, shine, and flavor contrast to ribs. Tailor sauce to different palates:

  • Sweet Sauces – Offer classic barbecue balance with molasses, honey, maple.
  • Spicy Sauces – Bring the heat with peppers, chili powder, mustard, horseradish.
  • Regional Sauces – Tomato-based for Kansas City; vinegar-based for North Carolina; mustardy for South Carolina.
  • International Sauces – Asian, Mexican, Hawaiian, Caribbean inspiration.
  • Specialty Diet Sauces – Paleo, gluten-free, vegan.

Make your own signature sauce or use store-bought. Apply sauce during the last 30 minutes only so it has time to caramelize without burning.

Finish Strong with Resting and Serving

After removing ribs from the oven or smoker, take these final steps:

  • Rest – Let ribs sit 10-15 minutes to allow juices to redistribute through the meat.
  • Separate – Use a knife to cut racks into individual bones. Cut between each rib.
  • Sauce – Brush ribs with sauce for extra moisture and sticky glaze.
  • Slice – Cut ribs across the bone into 2-3 inch pieces for easier eating.
  • Serve – Pile high on a lined platter with sauce on the side. Share and enjoy immediately.

Conclusion: What Are St Louis Style Pork Ribs

Few foods summon up memories of quintessential Americana like St. Louis style pork ribs. Their deep, rich flavors and finger-licking goodness bring people together for backyard fun, delicious meals, and lasting food memories. Cooking ribs requires patience to let connective tissues break down into tender perfection. Mastering the nuances of rubs, timing, and temperature control separates decent ribs from championship ribs. Luckily practice makes perfect. The more ribs you cook, the more your skills improve. Follow these tips and soon you’ll earn renown for serving outstanding ribs worth bragging about. Remember to savor the process as much as the end result. Grilling ribs represents the pleasure of taking your time to create something wonderful to share.

6 thoughts on “What Are St Louis Style Pork Ribs? Helpful Recipes & Sides”

  1. Question: Do you find that when you hang ribs in the PBC that the end closest to the coals gets burned, even when the pit is running at 250ish?

    • I have that problem when I hang ribs in mine. I often trim off the bottom 2-3 ribs just to give them a better shot of not drying out. Sometimes I will isolate the coals to one side of the basket and move the ribs to the cold side after an hour or so so they can cook indirect.

  2. I would so love to learn how to do this. Please accept my sincere congratulations on not only your talent, but such wonderful work.

    Maybe someday……


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