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Easy Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs Recipe (Spare Ribs)

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St Louis-style ribs are seasoned with a dry rub and cooked low and slow on the smoker until they are tender and juicy. Brushed in a sweet and tangy sauce, this pork spare ribs recipe is perfect for a cookout or backyard barbecue.

Ya’ll! These are the best ribs ever! Marrekus is a master in the kitchen, but he is best known for his Southern barbecue recipes. These St. Louis style ribs are his favorite and are always on rotation at our house. Just about every other weekend. Yep, you heard me right. Marrekus is from Memphis, so barbecue runs in his blood. But let me tell ya, there’s something special about St. Louis style ribs. That sweet and tangy sauce? Pure perfection.

Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a beginner on the grill, this recipe is for you. Trust me, it’s the best ribs recipe you’ll ever try. And the best part? You can make them easily no matter what type of smoker or grill you have. We also whipped up our own original dry rub and vinegar-based sauce. But hey, feel free to use your own if you’ve got a family recipe that’s been passed down through the generations (or even store bought, we won’t judge!).

So, let’s get smokin’! 

What you’ll love about this recipe:


  • TENDER MEAT – Cooking ribs low and slow helps them become tender and juicy, making every bite satisfying.
  • DELICIOUS FLAVOR – These juicy ribs are seasoned with a dry rub made of spices like smoked paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder, giving them a delicious flavor. You can also make your own bbq sauce or try our vinegar-based barbecue sauce recipe.
  • COOKING METHOD – You can use either a smoker or a grill for this recipe, offering flexibility based on what equipment you have available.

Memphis vs St. Louis Style Ribs

You may be wondering what’s the difference between Memphis vs. St Louis style ribs. Memphis ribs are dry and don’t have much sauce, while St. Louis ribs are saucy and sweet. 

  • Memphis style ribs are rubbed with a mix of spices like paprika and garlic powder to give them flavor. Then they’re slow-cooked with wood smoke for that classic BBQ taste. These ribs don’t usually have sauce on them, but you might get some on the side for dipping.
  • St. Louis style ribs are ribs are trimmed to look neat and are also rubbed with spices. The difference is that they’re cooked with a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce at the end that makes them sticky and delicious. The sauce is put on while cooking and again at the end for extra flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 3-4 pound rack of ribs (St. Louis style cut)
  • yellow mustard
  • butcher paper

Spice Rub for Pork Ribs

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion 
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic 
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder

Vinegar based barbecue sauce

  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Spritz

  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of hot sauce (optional)
  • spray bottle

Note: If you can’t find St. Louis ribs at the grocery store, buy spare ribs and trim them yourself. We’ve included instructions in the “Preparation” section below.

Preparation

To prepare your St. Louis style ribs for smoking, gather all of your ingredients. You will also need a cutting board, a butter knife, paper towels, and a sharp knife or boning knife.

  1. Step 1: Remove the membrane. The tough membrane is a piece of silver skin on the back of the ribs. Some people like to leave it on but we prefer to take it off. To remove, lay your spare ribs on a cutting board and use a butter knife to get under the membrane and pull it off. You can also use your fingers with a paper towel to grip and remove it.
  2. Step 2: Square off your ribs (if using spare ribs). We love a St. Louis-style cut, which is more uniform and rectangular. St. Louis-style cut ribs are often sold at the grocery store, but you can also do it yourself. If using spare ribs, first, trim any uneven or jagged edges. Then locate the flap of meat that extends beyond the bone on the bone side of the ribs. Use a chef’s knife or boning knife to cut along the edge of the bones to remove this flap.
  3. Step 3: Apply the binder. Use yellow mustard as a binder; it basically acts like glue and helps the dry rub stay on. Simply coat the ribs with mustard, including the sides of the ribs.
  4. Step 4: Apply the dry rub. Combine all the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl and stir until the spice mixture is evenly blended. Store any leftover seasoning in an airtight container in your pantry or spice cabinet. Coat the ribs generously on all sides. It’s ok to take a heavy-handed approach. Just be sure to pat the rub in so that it sticks. 

Setting Up Your Smoker or Grill

For this St. Louis style ribs recipe, you can use a smoker or a grill set up for indirect heat.

  1. Heat your smoker to 250°F (121°C).
  2. Add smoker wood or chips when the temperature has been reached.
  3. Once heated, place rib rack on the smoker grate. 

Gas or Charcoal Grill Instructions

If you plan to cook St. Louis style ribs on a charcoal grill, set your coals and smoker wood to one side for a hot and cool zone. When cooking, the ribs will go over the cool zone.

If you want to cook the ribs on a gas grill, you only have to worry about maintaining a 250°F (121°C) temperature throughout the cooking process. It would also help to use the burners furthest away from where you set the ribs.

How to Smoke St. Louis Ribs

  1. Put the ribs on the prepared smoker or grill and cook them for about 2 hours until they turn a nice mahogany brown color.
  2. Every 30 to 40 minutes, give the ribs a spray with the liquid spritz to keep them juicy.
  3. After 2 hours, take the ribs off the smoker and spray them again before wrapping them up in butcher paper.
  4. Put the wrapped ribs back on the smoker and cook for about 1 to 1 1/2 more hours until they’re really tender inside, reaching around 205°F.
  5. Once they’re done, take the ribs off the smoker and brush them in your favorite BBQ sauce or use the vinegar based BBQ sauce recipe provided below.
  6. Cut the ribs into slices and they’re ready to eat!

How long to smoke St Louis Ribs at 250°F?

Smoking St. Louis style ribs at 250°F typically takes around 3 to 4 hours. This low and slow cooking method allows the ribs to become tender and flavorful while absorbing the smoke flavor from the wood. However, it’s essential to monitor the ribs throughout the process, as factors like rib thickness and your specific smoker setup can affect cooking times.

You’ll know they’re done when the meat has pulled back from the bones, and you can easily insert a toothpick between the ribs with little resistance. The internal temperature of properly smoked St. Louis style ribs should reach around 200°F to 205°F.

Vinegar Based BBQ Sauce

To make a a vinegar based bbq sauce, combine all of the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Store leftover sauce in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

Recipe Tips & Tricks

  • Maintain Temperature: Keep a close eye on the temperature of your smoker or grill to ensure it stays around 250°F. Fluctuations in temperature can affect the cooking time and result in unevenly cooked ribs.
  • Spritz Regularly: Spritzing ribs with the liquid mixture helps to keep them moist and adds extra flavor throughout the cooking process. Aim to spritz every 30 to 40 minutes to maintain juiciness.
  • Monitor Internal Temperature: While cooking times can provide a rough estimate, it’s best to rely on the internal temperature of the meat to determine doneness. Use a meat thermometer to ensure they reach around 200°F to 205°F for optimal tenderness.
  • Rest Before Serving: Allow ribs to rest for 10-15 minutes after cooking before slicing and serving. This allows the juices to redistribute within the meat, resulting in juicier ribs.
  • Experiment with Wood: Different types of wood can impart unique flavors to your ribs. Experiment with different varieties, such as hickory, oak, or cherry, to find your favorite flavor combination.

What to Serve With Ribs

  • Coleslaw: Our creamy and crunchy BBQ Coleslaw is a Southern-inspired side dish that brings the perfect blend of textures and flavor. 
  • Potato Salad: Our potato salad has the best creamy texture and tangy flavor, with ingredients like dill pickle relish, mustard, hard-boiled eggs, and seasonings. 
  • Baked Beans: Flavorful baked beans with ground beef is a classic barbecue side dish that’s as convenient as it is delicious. Made with canned beans, seasoned beef, bell pepper, onion, and seasonings, these beans are perfect with pulled pork.
  • Cornbread: Our soul food cornbread recipe is easy to follow and yields a moist, tender crumb. It combines the rich tang of buttermilk with classic ingredients like butter and sugar for a delightful side dish that complements any meal.
  • Mac and Cheese: Our recipe features cheddar, Monterey jack, and mozzarella, and is made without a roux. It’s decadent and comforting, and an absolute must-try for anyone looking to savor a taste of the South.
  • Grilled Vegetables: Lightly charred and seasoned grilled vegetables, such as zucchini, bell peppers, and onions, provide a fresh contrast to the smoky meat.
  • Pickles: Tangy pickles or pickled vegetables offer a refreshing palate cleanser between bites of the rich pork belly.
  • Corn on the Cob: Sweet and juicy corn on the cob is a classic barbecue side that complements the smoky flavors of the pork belly

FAQ

What’s the difference between spare ribs and baby backs?

Spare ribs are cut from the belly of the pig, whereas baby back ribs are cut from around the pork loin. They also differ in terms of meatiness, fat content, and flavor.

Do I need to wrap spare ribs in butcher paper?

Yes! Once your spare ribs have reached the desired color, wrap ribs in butcher paper. We always use butcher paper because it helps to maintain the bark on the ribs. You can also use foil, but it’s easier for moisture to get in that way.

Summary

Whether you’re an experienced pitmaster or just getting started into the world of grilling, these St. Louis style ribs are a must-try. With their irresistible blend of smoky flavor, tender texture, and sweet and tangy sauce, they’re sure to become a favorite in your household, just like they are in ours. So, gather your loved ones, fire up the grill, and get ready to create memories over a plate of these mouthwatering ribs. 

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Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs Recipe

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 to 3 1/2 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x
  • Category: main course
  • Method: smoking
  • Cuisine: southern barbecue

Description

St. Louis-style ribs are seasoned with a dry rub and cooked low and slow on the smoker until they are tender and juicy, then slathered in a homemade BBQ sauce.


Ingredients

Scale
  • (1) 3-4 pound rack of ribs (St. Louis style cut)
  • yellow mustard for rubbing
  • butcher paper

Dry Rub for Pork Ribs

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder

Vinegar based barbecue sauce

  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Spritz

  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of hot sauce (optional)
  • spray bottle

Instructions

  1. Dry Rub: In a bowl, combine all dry rub ingredients thoroughly. Set aside.
  2. BBQ Sauce: In a saucepan, mix together all sauce ingredients. Stir to combine. Simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Smoker Setup: Preheat smoker to 250°F. If using a grill, set it up for indirect cooking and heat to 250°F. Add smoker wood splits, chips, or pellets when the temperature reaches 250°F.
  4. Preparing the Ribs: Remove the membrane from the spare ribs. Coat both sides of the ribs with yellow mustard.
  5. Season ribs generously with the prepared dry rub, ensuring spices are patted into the meat for better adhesion.
  6. Smoking: Place ribs on the smoker and cook for 2 hours or until they achieve a deep mahogany color.
  7. Spritz ribs with the spritz mixture every 30 to 40 minutes to prevent drying.
  8. Remove ribs from the smoker and spritz before wrapping them in butcher paper.
  9. Return wrapped ribs to the smoker and cook until the internal temperature reaches 205°F, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  10. Once cooked, remove ribs from the smoker and lightly brush on BBQ sauce.
  11. Let ribs rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Keywords: st louis style ribs, st louis ribs, spare ribs, pork ribs, smoked ribs

2 Comments

  1. I love the added use of mustard as a binder for the spice rub. This recipe will definitely be on repeat during grilling season.

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