What Are St Louis Style Pork Ribs? A Detailed Guide

Are you a fan of barbecue? Do you love sinking your teeth into juicy, flavorful ribs?

If so, you’ve likely heard of St Louis style pork ribs. But what exactly are they?

These ribs come from the belly side of the pig and are known for their meatiness and rich flavor. They’re a popular choice for grilling and smoking, but there’s more to them than just their taste.

In this article, we’ll explore the origins of St Louis style pork ribs, how they differ from other types of ribs, and tips for cooking them to perfection.

So grab a napkin and get ready to learn all about these delicious ribs!

What Are St Louis Style Pork Ribs?

St Louis style pork ribs are a type of rib cut that comes from the belly side of the pig. They are known for their meatiness and rich flavor, making them a popular choice for barbecue enthusiasts.

To create St Louis style pork ribs, the butcher removes the belly from the pig, giving easy access to the ribs from the underside. These ribs have a lot of connective tissue and tough cartilage attached to them, which is usually removed by cutting down the surrounding tissue.

Once the ribs have been trimmed down, they are known as St Louis style pork ribs. They are flatter than baby back ribs, making them easier to brown. They also have more fat between the ribs, which gives them their sweet and flavorful taste.

Origins Of St Louis Style Pork Ribs

The origins of St Louis style pork ribs date back to the 1930s through the 1960s when smaller meatpackers in St. Louis started creating a new, more rectangular cut for pork spare ribs. This cut included more meat and removed cartilage from the side of the ribs, resulting in a meatier and more flavorful rib.

It is important to note that the name “St Louis style” does not refer to the marination or cooking method, but rather the type of cut for the pork ribs. The name simply indicates the specific type of cut that was created to make the ribs look pretty during presentation.

The popularity of St Louis style pork ribs quickly grew across the country, with butchers from California to Mississippi advertising them as a premium product. The rectangular shape of the cut made it easier to package and sell as a BBQ item, which contributed to its widespread popularity.

Today, St Louis style pork ribs remain a favorite among BBQ enthusiasts and are often overshadowed by its more famous cousin, Kansas City-style barbecue. Despite taking inspiration from other styles of barbecue, St Louis-style barbecue retains its own distinct style and flavor.

What Sets St Louis Style Ribs Apart?

St Louis style pork ribs are unique in several ways. Firstly, they are a neatly trimmed section of the larger spare ribs, with the irregular ends removed and the rack cleaned up into a rectangle of ribs. This makes them a favorite among pitmasters for their even cooking, straight bones, and neat presentation.

Secondly, St Louis style ribs have less meat than your average spare rib, with the cartilage and breastbone having been trimmed away. This gives them a meatier and more tender texture than spareribs, but not quite falling off the bone like baby back ribs.

Lastly, St Louis style pork ribs are longer than baby back ribs but shorter than full spare ribs. They are not commonly found in supermarkets and are usually considered a specialty item that may need to be custom ordered from a proper butcher.

How To Prepare St Louis Style Pork Ribs For Cooking

Preparing St Louis style pork ribs for cooking requires a few steps to ensure they turn out tender and flavorful. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1. Remove the ribs from their packaging and rinse them with water. Pat them dry with paper towels.

2. Locate the flap of meat that looks out of place and slice it off close to the bones.

3. Flip the ribs over and remove the membrane on the back. Start at a corner and use a paper towel to get a grip, then start ripping it off in strips.

4. Apply your dry rub to the ribs, making sure to cover all sides evenly. You can leave the rub on for 15 minutes to a few hours to let it marinate the ribs.

5. Preheat your oven to 350°F and place a rack in the middle. Wrap the ribs in aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 2 hours or until tender.

6. Remove the ribs from the foil and generously brush them with barbecue sauce. Return them to the oven and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until the sauce has warmed up and turned darker.

7. Cut the ribs into individual pieces and serve.

If you have time, you can also let the ribs marinate in the dry rub overnight in the fridge before cooking them. During cooking, you can spray them with apple juice every hour or so to keep them moist and add flavor. And remember, every pig and every cooker is different, so let the ribs tell you when they are done by picking them up with tongs or inserting a toothpick between the bones until there is very little resistance.

By following these steps, you can prepare St Louis style pork ribs for cooking that are tender, juicy, and packed with flavor that will impress your guests at your next barbecue or dinner party.

Cooking Techniques For Perfect St Louis Style Ribs

Cooking St Louis style pork ribs can be a daunting task for beginners, but with the right techniques, anyone can create a delicious and tender rack of ribs.

Firstly, it is important to prepare the ribs properly. Start by flipping the ribs over and removing the thin membrane on the backside using a paper towel. Trim off any excess fat and remove the bones on each end, as they are too small to be used as turn-in ribs. Also, trim off the flap of meat on the backside. Rub mustard and rib rub on both sides of the ribs and let them rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Next, heat your grill to 225°F degrees and place the ribs on the grill meat side up. Smoke with the lid closed for 3 hours. After 3 hours, place the ribs on two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil and top with butter, brown sugar, honey, and juice. Wrap tightly and place back on the smoker for 2 more hours.

After 2 hours, remove from the smoker and unwrap from the foil. Flip the ribs over and brush with your favorite barbecue sauce. Return to the smoker for one more hour. Once done, remove from the smoker, let them rest for a few minutes, and then slice.

It is essential to cook St Louis style pork ribs low and slow to achieve that fall-off-the-bone tenderness. A good rule of thumb is to smoke them for around 5 hours at 225-250°F degrees. However, every pig and every cooker is different, so it’s best to let the ribs tell you when they are done. You can use two methods to see if they are done without cutting into the meat: pick them up from one end with tongs, if the meat starts to crack, then they are pretty much done; or insert a toothpick between the bones, when they are done, there should be very little resistance.

Serving And Pairing St Louis Style Pork Ribs

When it comes to serving and pairing St Louis style pork ribs, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to have plenty of napkins on hand, as these ribs can be messy to eat. Additionally, having a variety of side dishes can help balance out the rich flavors of the ribs.

In terms of wine pairings, the bold and smoky flavors of St Louis style pork ribs pair well with structured red wines such as Zinfandel, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. A red wine with some smokiness, like a Syrah, can also work well.

When it comes to side dishes, there are many options to choose from. Baked beans, cornbread, and cheese grits are all classic choices that complement the flavors of the ribs. For a lighter option, a fresh salad with a tangy vinaigrette can help cut through the richness of the meat.

Ultimately, the key to serving and pairing St Louis style pork ribs is to balance out the bold flavors with complementary sides and drinks. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can create a delicious and satisfying meal that is sure to please any barbecue lover.