What are St. Louis style ribs and How do I Grill Them? Simply put, St. Louis Style ribs are trimmed down spare ribs into a very rectangular, uniform slab of meat. That’s it:
Technically speaking the rib tips, skirt flap along the bottom and the cartilage laden section along the side that used to connect to the sternum parts are trimmed away. Sometimes a meat cutter will only cut away the part that used to connect to the sternum and call them St. Louis Style ribs. That’s what happened in this case since I had to pick up ribs from a grocer rather than my local butcher, Mateker’s, on a Sunday when Mateker’s is closed. So despite charging me the full price for extra trimming, I had to trim the other two sections off myself. This is why I say to always go to your local butcher. They may be a little higher in price, but the service and knowledge are well worth the extra expense.
First I had to remove the skirt flap along the bottom:
Then I had to remove this tapered end or the rib tip:
But how do I grill St. Louis style ribs? Well, that’s easy. Go with the high heat method.
St. Louis Style Ribs Ingredients:
2 slabs, St. Louis style ribs
your favorite rub
your favorite BBQ sauce
First, trim off that tapered end and that flap along the bottom if it’s there and peel off the membrane on the back. A paper towel works wonders here to get a good grip. Also if there is an egregious amount of fat anywhere, trim it off as well. What is egregious? That depends on you. Fat tastes good, after all. For me, this glob on the end was egregious:
Then season with coarse salt and your favorite rub, starting bone side first so the seasoning will be held up off the cutting board or butcher paper and not stick to it when the ribs are flipped over. Then season the meat side the same way:
Now let’s prepare the grill for indirect or two zone grilling. What is two zone grilling? It simply means setting up the grill with a cool area for the meat to cook/smoke without getting blasted with heat. For a conventional grill, that means coals on one side and the meat on the other. For a Kamado style grill like the Grill Dome, that means a plate setter is put between the coals and the grill grate to redirect the heat around the meat or St. Louis style ribs in this case. Target temperature inside the grill is 300.
First, gotta light the grill. For this I bust out the HomeRight Products, ElectroLight Fire Starter:
That bad boy got the coals lit in right about 2 minutes. I didn’t leave off the 0. Not 20 minutes. TWO minutes. I only use my chimney anymore if I’m doing a demo somewhere and don’t have power near the grills to plug it in. Otherwise I use this charcoal lighter each and every time. Check out my review of the ElectroLight Fire Starter.
Remember, we’re doing indirect (or two zone) grilling here so the coals go on one side and the St. Louis style ribs will go on the other:
Pro Tip ~ Leave one of the grill grates off to make it super easy to add fuel and smoke wood.
Next up, put the ribs on and a few chunks of hickory:
Close the lid and let the heat and smoke work their magic.
But wait. The recipe calls for two slabs of ribs. One of the slabs was considerably lighter than this slab, so I put this slab on 30 minutes earlier. At the half hour mark they are browning up nicely:
Time for the second slab:
Don’t forget the nibblers. Nibblers, you wonder? Yeah, all that great rib meat that was cut off to make them St. Louis style ribs needs to be seasoned and thrown on the grill as well to enjoy during the grilling process. Those may in fact be my favorite part of the cookout as it reminds me of childhood when dad would pull off a chunk of meat, slice it into bite size portions and we would sample the nibblers:
Add more smoke wood and fuel if necessary but make sure the temps stay around this point:
I know what you’re thinking. That’s way too high to grill ribs. I do mine at 225 for four hours. I used to do that to. Then I saw the light. The light of the high heat method. I grill all my ribs at 300 now, sometimes a little higher. The ribs are only going to take smoke on for a couple hours, and after 2-3 hours at 300 they are perfectly cooked. Not fall off the bone cooked, but that’s over done. If Myron Mixon can do his briskets at 350, we can do ribs at 300. Brisket is far less forgiving than ribs.
At the 90 minute mark for the slab on the right, and 60 for the one on the left, the ribs are looking outstanding:
Don’t believe me on the high heat method? Check out the meat pulling back from the bones on the slab on the left after only an hour:
Now is where some personal preference comes into play. To sauce or not to sauce? Some people prefer only a rub. Some want them slathered in sauce. Some prefer to dunk in sauce. I do two of these methods to satisfy all involved. The ones on the right will get slathered, the ones on the left will stay naked.
But what sauce to use? I’m in St. Louis. I gotta go with some Pappy’s!
Flip over the slab and sauce the bone side first:
Then flip back over and hit the meat side:
After another 30 minutes (and every 30 minutes until they’re done), re-sauce the meat side:
I generally don’t add more sauce to the bone side after the first application. This is my personal preference. Do what you will. They’re your ribs.
Don’t forget the nibblers to hold you over till the ribs are done:
After the smaller slab has been on for a little over 90 minutes, the meat has pulled way back from the bone:
Those puppies are done. Don’t go by time on the grill. Go by the flex of the slab when you pick it up and how much the meat has pulled back from the bones. At 1/4 – 1/3 of an inch of pull back, the ribs are ready to serve:
Time to carve them up:
Don’t forget to serve them with some sauce on the side to dunk in:
Another 30 on for the bigger slab of St. Louis style ribs and another application of Pappy’s before they are ready to come off about two hours and forty five minutes:
Time to slice:
And a close up:
The hickory wood doesn’t give the richest of smoke rings, but it’s definitely there. And here’s the aftermath:
But how were they? Juicy, tender, not quite fall off the bone, smoky, with a lovely tinge of smoke in every bite. Man, do I love ribs!
In all honesty, despite being from St. Louis and there being a rib of the same name, I prefer the baby back rib. Here are two of my favorite baby back rib recipes. First, blow torch ribs. Yes, I used a blow torch. And the second is one where I baby back ribs smoked the ribs with garlic and onion rather than smoke wood.
- 2 slabs, St. Louis style ribs
- your favorite rub
- your favorite BBQ sauce (optional)
- Peel the membrane off the bone side of the ribs and coat that side with salt and your favorite rub
- Flip over and repeat on the meat side
- Prepare the grill for two zone grilling with a target temperature on the inside of the grill of 300
- Place the ribs on the side with no heat and smoke wood on the coals
- Smoke the ribs for about 90 minutes and then apply sauce to both sides (optional)
- Re-sauce every thirty minutes
- Once the meat pulls back from the bone for ¼ to ⅓ of an inch they are done (approximately 2.5-3 hours)
- Remove from the heat and slice
- Serve ribs with no sauce with a bowl of BBQ sauce on the side to dunk in