I’m born and raised in the city of St. Louis, or at least in the area, within 20 miles of the city proper. St. Louis has a couple of regional things that set us apart from other BBQ towns. Pig snoots are big in this town. I’d try to explain it to you, but I’m not sure how to do that exactly. It’s one of those things you have to experience first hand. Also, we invented the pork steak. What is a pork steak? Pork shoulder cut into steaks. Duh! That’s the short answer. The long answer would not be something to go into in a post about ribs. And while those two items haven’t gone national, the third thing St. Louis is known for in terms of BBQ has. St. Louis-style ribs are immensely popular, particularly in the world of competitive BBQ.
Unlike the typical spare rib or the baby back, the St. Louis-style rib is really uniform in shape. A slab is almost a perfect rectangle, which makes for even cooking all the way through — ideal for competition BBQ, where replicating the same, superb results over and over is the gold standard.
It’s also good for presentation at the BBQ comps. Uniform rib sizes all lined up in a row is more pleasing to the eyes of the judges than a bunch of irregular shaped ribs tossed in a box.
Technically speaking, if you were to go to your local meat cutter and ask for St. Louis-style ribs and for some reason she/he had no idea what that is, all you need to ask is to remove the rib tips, skirt flap along the bottom and the cartilage-laden section along the side that used to connect to the sternum. Make sure to have all that stuff that was cut off packaged with the ribs. We call them nibblers.
Let’s get to grilling these succulent bones of deliciousness.
Pro Tip ~ Always season the bone side first when doing ribs. If the meat side is seasoned first, when the ribs are flipped over to season the bone side, all the seasoning that touches both the meat and the cutting board or butcher’s paper will not stick to the meat. On the other hand, the bone side elevates the rub off the cutting board thanks to the natural concave of the bones.
Pro Tip Part Two ~ When skinning the ribs, a paper towel is your friend. The membrane is pretty slippery. The paper towel will allow you to grip it and make skinning the ribs much easier.
Pro Tip Part Three ~ Leave one grill grate off over the coals to make it easier to add charcoal or smoke wood.
A brief description of what St. Louis-Style Ribs are from the guy from St. Louis along with how to grill them properly.
- 2 slabs of St. Louis style ribs
- Your favorite rub
- Your favorite BBQ sauce (optional)
- Skin the membrane off the backs of the two slabs of St. Louis-style ribs.
- Season the bone side with salt and the rub.
- Flip over and season the meat side with the salt and the rub.
- Set up the grill for two-zone grilling with coals on one side and nothing on the other. The target temperature inside the grill is 300 °F.
- Place the ribs on the side with no heat and put smoke wood on the coals.
- At 90 minutes, sauce the bone side and then flip over and sauce the meat side (optional as you could serve the sauce on the side).
- Re-sauce every 30 minutes until the rib meat pulls back from the bones 1/4 - 1/3 of an inch (about 2 1/2 - 3 hours).
- Remove from the grill, slice and serve.