What Are St. Louis Style Pork Ribs

What Are St. Louis Style Pork Ribs? | All You Need to Know

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Do you have a thing for savory and succulent pork ribs? If so, then let us introduce you to St. Louis Style Pork Ribs. This well-loved cut of mouthwatering BBQ is among the most sought after dishes in outdoor grilling across America – and now it’s time for you to experience its flavor too. Not only are St. Louis Style Pork Ribs deliciously meaty with an exquisite taste, they’re also very easy to prepare. So why not get your grill ready and find out what are st. louis style pork ribs? You won’t regret it.

Introduction to St. Louis Ribs

Introduction to St. Louis Ribs

Barbecue ribs come from the upper portion of the pig near the backbone. Different cuts of ribs have their own distinctive shapes, meat content, and flavors.

The most common types of pork ribs are:

  • Baby back ribs – From the loin near the spine. Shorter, curved, leaner.
  • Spare ribs – From the belly and side. Longer, straighter, fattier.
  • St. Louis ribs – Trimmed spare ribs. Rectangular shape, meaty.

St. Louis ribs are a specially trimmed version of spare ribs. They are cut from the area of the pig’s ribcage stretching from the sternum to the spine. St. Louis ribs go through a distinct trimming process to remove the fatty belly section and tapering cartilage. This leaves a neat, rectangular rack of straight ribs with a meaty middle section ideal for barbecue cooking.

The preparation helps concentrate the pork flavor and allows the ribs to cook evenly. The straight profile also makes St. Louis ribs easier to handle, cook, and eat. Their signature taste and texture make these ribs a local specialty in St. Louis, where they anchor traditional barbecue menus.

Unique Characteristics of St. Louis Ribs

So what sets st. louis style pork ribs apart from other pork rib types? Here are their key features:

Rectangular Shape and Additional Meat

St. Louis ribs have a straight, uniform, rectangular shape compared to curvier baby back ribs. Trimming spare ribs into the St. Louis style removes the narrow ends and exposes a wide band of meat between each bone.

  • Shape allows even seasoning and cooking.
  • More meat per bone means more pork flavor in each bite.

Richer Pork Flavor and Fat Content

The meat on St. Louis ribs comes from higher up on the pig’s side. This area has more marbling and fat running through the meat, which gives St. Louis ribs a more robust pork flavor.

  • Higher fat content keeps them moist during cooking.
  • Marbling provides juiciness and flavor when biting into the ribs.

The leanness of baby backs means they take well to lots of sauces and bold seasoning. St. Louis ribs have a porkier taste on their own, so they need less external flavoring. A basic seasoning rub can let their signature flavor shine.

Preparing St. Louis Ribs for Cooking

Getting St. Louis ribs ready for cooking requires a few key steps:


Spare ribs usually have thin membranes on the back of the rack along with cartilage on the ends. Trimming off these non-meaty sections is what transforms spare ribs into the rectangular St. Louis cut.

You can sometimes find pre-trimmed St. Louis racks at stores. If starting with full spare ribs, you’ll need to:

  • Peel off the membrane for a neater look.
  • Trim cartilage and smaller bones on each end.

This leaves a nicely shaped rack ready for seasoning.

Seasoning the Ribs

BBQ rib recipes call for a dry spice rub or wet marinade to infuse flavor. Typical St. Louis rib seasoning includes:

  • Paprika – For color and mild heat.
  • Brown sugar – Adds sweetness and caramelized flavor.
  • Chili powder – Provides a touch of spiciness.
  • Coriander – Distinctive in St. Louis barbecue seasoning.
  • Mustard – Helps the rub adhere.
  • Salt and pepper – Essential for enhancing pork flavor.

Make sure to coat both sides of the rack evenly. Letting them rest overnight allows time for the seasoning to fully penetrate the meat.

Marinating (Optional)

Soaking ribs in a liquid marinade is another way to impart flavor. Acidic ingredients help tenderize meat fibers. Popular options are:

  • Vinegar or wine – For tanginess.
  • Fruit juices – To infuse sweetness.
  • Mustard – Adds zing.

Marinating for as little as 30 minutes can provide a boost of flavor. Leaving ribs to marinate for several hours or overnight maximizes the impact.

Traditional Cooking Methods for St. Louis Ribs

In St. Louis, ribs are classically cooked slowly over indirect heat, seasoned again before serving, and lacquered with rich, sticky barbecue sauce.

Indirect Grilling

Indirect grilling uses offset heat to gently cook ribs:

  • Bank coals to each side of a charcoal grill, leaving the middle empty.
  • On a gas grill, only light the outer burners.
  • Place ribs in the center so they don’t directly touch any flames.

This method provides even, constant heat on all sides to gradually render fat and make the ribs tender. Cooking times vary based on factors like temperature and rib size, but typically take:

  • 3-4 hours at 225-250°F – Lower temperature for slow rendering of fat.
  • 2-3 hours at 250-275°F – Slightly hotter for faster cooking.

Wrapping and Braising

Some recipes call for wrapping the ribs in foil during the last phase of grilling. The steam created within the packet gently braises the meat and keeps ribs moist. Adding apple juice, beer, or other liquid to the foil provides additional moisture and flavor.


As ribs near completion, unwrap them and lightly brush with barbecue sauce. Applying sauce too early can cause burning. The final minutes of grilling help caramelize the sauce onto the ribs. Use a sauce that complements the rub seasoning – tangy, spicy, or sweet as desired.

Maintaining Shape

The St. Louis cut enables the rack to hold its shape through indirect cooking. Try to avoid moving or flipping ribs often. Let them steadily cook while retaining their signature rectangular proportions.

Alternative Cooking Methods

While grilling and barbecuing are traditional, St. Louis ribs can be prepared using other techniques too:

  • Smoking – A classic option to infuse deep, smoky flavor over 4-8 hours in a smoker at 225°F. Use wood chips like hickory, apple, or cherry.
  • Oven Roasting – Cook uncovered at 300°F for 2-3 hours until tender. Baste with sauce toward the end.
  • Pressure Cooking – Quickly tenderizes ribs in just 25-40 minutes. Cook with 1 cup liquid under high pressure.
  • Slow Cooking – Low, moist heat makes ribs fall-off-the-bone tender after 6-8 hours on low. Add sauce at the end.

Serving and Enjoying St. Louis Pork Ribs

St. Louis ribs are ready to eat once they reach the ideal internal temperature and desired level of tenderness:

  • Internal temperature – Use a meat thermometer to ensure ribs reach 195-205°F when done. This guarantees any bacteria are killed for food safety.
  • Tenderness – Ribs should pull cleanly off the bone with a bit of tug, but not fall apart completely.

To round out a barbecue feast, serve St. Louis ribs with classic sides like:

  • Baked beans – Sweet, sticky, smoky.
  • Coleslaw – Cool, creamy, and refreshing.
  • Potato salad – Starchy, potatoey, with a punch of mustard.
  • Cornbread – Crumbly, corny, with a kiss of honey.

Don’t forget the barbecue sauce. Provide a few options:

  • Sweet and sticky – Thick, maple-infused sauce.
  • Tangy and spicy – Includes hot peppers and vinegar.
  • Savory and herby – Robust with tomato and herbs.

Let guests choose their favorite or sample multiple sauces.

The Signature Taste of St. Louis

The Signature Taste of St. Louis

With their rectangular shape, abundant pork flavor, crispy edges, and saucy coating, St. Louis ribs are truly an American barbecue specialty. Their devoted hometown fans have perfected the art of smoking and saucing these meaty cuts just right. The unique preparations help concentrate the ribs’ rich pork essence into every tasty bite. While baby back ribs may be petite and leaner, St. Louis ribs bring that satisfyingly big pork taste sought after by barbecue aficionados. Their heartiness stands up well to intense smoke and spice. When a bold pork flavor is what you crave, St. Louis-style ribs deliver in every meaty mouthful.


St. Louis-style ribs are a barbecue staple that highlights the porky essence of ribs in their full glory. The special St. Louis cut maximizes the meat on each bone for a substantial bite packed with juicy flavor. A restrained use of seasoning lets the natural taste of the ribs take center stage, while strategic grilling, smoking, or baking renders out their fat to achieve a perfect tender yet toothsome texture. With their trademark rectangular racks, St. Louis ribs cook up evenly while staying neatly aligned instead of shriveling and shrinking. Their straighter shape also makes them easier to handle and eat. When you’re seeking a truly meaty, richly pork-flavored rib that celebrates the cut’s inherent flavors, St. Louis spareribs fit the bill. They may not be quite as petite and dainty as baby backs, but for rib aficionados, bigger is better when it comes to enjoying serious barbecue ribs with some real meat on their bones.

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