Last updated on October 11th, 2022 at 09:07 am.
Our favorite traditional rub for St Louis ribs. This recipe includes the dry rub, bbq sauce, and directions for cooking in an oven or on the barbeque. St. Louis style ribs get covered with a dry rub, wrapped in foil, and then slathered with BBQ sauce. They are delicious, fall off the bone, tender smoked St Louis ribs.
How to Make Rub for St. Louis Style Ribs with Recipe
St. Louis-Style Ribs Recipe (with Dry Rub)
St. Louis ribs are distinctive and many argue, superior to other types of barbecue that folks have been known to make “rib road trips” specifically for the purpose of eating the Missouri-grown treat known for their kick of vinegar.
While you should absolutely make a pilgrimage to St. Louis to get your barbecue fix, you can also easily make your own St. Louis style ribs at home. Our favorite method is smoked St Louis ribs for the most flavor.
What is Different About St. Louis-Style Ribs?
Unlike baby back ribs, St. Louis style ribs are cut from the belly area of the pig, which means they are meatier and have evenly-dispersed fat (and fat means flavor).
The trademark squared-off look of St Louis ribs is achieved by trimming the fat and gristle at the tip of a rack of spare ribs (also known as rib tips, which are a St. Louis bbq specialty all their own).
But the superior cut isn’t the only thing that sets St. Louis’s bbq ribs apart—these ribs have to be slow-cooked over low heat, and they have to be treated with St. Louis’s signature spice rub.
Who Invented St. Louis Style Ribs?
St. Louis style bbq rib sauce was pioneered in 1926 by a grocer named Louis Maull. Today there is a company in St. Louis called Maull’s Genuine making and selling the tangy recipe inspired by its namesake (you can also find Maull’s on Amazon).
St. Louis butchers started removing the cartilage at the end of the rack (the rib tip) for a more neat and appetizing look. This caught on, and soon St. Louis’s meatpackers were trimming their spareribs in a uniform, squared-off way to distinguish their ribs from non-St. Louis packers.
By 1950, ribs were popular across the U.S., and St. Louis style ribs were well known for their appealing shape.
Today, Pappy’s Smokehouse (3106 Olive St, St. Louis, MO 63103) is usually the first place that comes up if you ask about the best place to get ribs in St. Louis. Pappy’s holds to tradition, using a brown sugar-based rub and lip-smacking sauce for sticky, fall-off-the-bone ribs that they serve as a full rack.
While Pappy’s is not to be missed, there are plenty of amazing barbecue joints in “The Lou” experimenting with their own styles.
What’s the Difference Between St. Louis Ribs and Kansas City Ribs?
How can two cities in the same state have totally different styles of ribs? Well, just ask Nashville and Memphis—you don’t have to be far apart to develop your own bbq tastes.
While St. Louis and KC both use spare ribs, for St. Louis style the cartilage at the end of the rack (rib tip) is trimmed while for KC style it’s left in place. This may seem like a small difference, but the perfectly rectangular look of St. Louis ribs sets them apart.
Of course, smoking St Louis ribs is the only authentic way to prepare them.
What’s the Difference Between St. Louis BBQ and Kansas City BBQ?
Nothing starts a fight among barbecue fans faster than the subject of sauce. To sauce, or not to sauce? Should sauce be sweet? Tangy? Acidic?
The answer depends on where you’re eating. In Kansas City, bbq sauce tends to be tangy yet sweet and thick.
St. Louis ribs recipe and barbecue sauce, on the other hand, stick closer to Tennessee/Carolinas sauce with a thinner consistency and a vinegar-forward taste.
Rub for St Louis Ribs
From home pit-masters to famous bbq joints, everyone has their own secret blend for dry rib rub. However, most St. Louis style recipes include essential herbs and ingredients. How to make the best St. Louis Spareribs is a bit different for each chef, and it all comes down to flavor and tenderness.
How to Make Smoked St. Louis Ribs
The cheapest option for purchasing ribs is to get a full rack of spare ribs and trim them yourself using a sharp knife. If you’d rather leave this part to the pros, you can purchase a rack of ribs trimmed St. Louis style with the sides of the ribs squared off and any un-renderable fat and connective tissue already removed.
Along with the rub, you can make your own delicious sauce by combining apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and a combination of the spices you used for your rub. Recipes for the rub, sauce, and ribs are all below.
St. Louis-Style Ribs Recipe (including Rub and Sauce)
- ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons paprika
- 1 ½ Tablespoons dry mustard
- 2 Tablespoons sea salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- ½ teaspoon corriander
- 2 ¼ cups ketchup
- ½ cup water
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
- 2 slabs St. Louis-style pork ribs
- 1 cup Handful hickory or apple wood chips* for smoking (soaked in water and drained)
- ¾ cup apple juice or apple cider vinegar (in a spray bottle optional)
Make the Dry Rub
- Make your own homemade rub adjusting the seasonings to your taste, making sure to include at least a bit of each ingredient or follow recipe exactly.
- In a small bowl combine the dry ingredients.
- Mix them thoroughly and pour into into a shaker, which will help you evenly coat your ribs.
- You can make a double or triple batch of the rub ingredients to save for future rib dinners.
Make the BBQ Sauce
- While the ribs are cooking, place all of the sauce ingredients into a pan and bring to a quick boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often.
- Remove from the heat and allow the sauce to cool.
Prepare the Ribs
- Start with 2 racks of extra tender St. Louis pork spareribs, membrane removed.
- If the ribs have been refrigerated, let them come to room temperature before applying seasonings.
- At this point, some pit-masters apply a thin layer of yellow mustard or hot sauce all over the ribs for an added punch of flavor. (Optional)
- Evenly coat the ribs on both sides with dry rub.
- Wrap the prepared rib rack in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight. This will give the salt in the rub time to draw out the moisture from the meat and the seasonings time to penetrate the meat.
Oven Cooking Method for Ribs
- For the best ribs, place soaked wood chips in a small aluminum pie plate, cover with aluminum foil, and make slices on the top of the foil with a knife to vent the smoke.
- Put the wood chips in your oven, and preheat to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the aluminum foil-wrapped ribs, in a rimmed baking sheet or pyrex pan and be careful not to knock off your even layer of dry rub.
- Pour a small amount of apple juice or apple cider vinegar into the aluminum foil with the ribs to help keep them moist during the low heat cooking process.
- Close the aluminum foil on all sides and place in the oven for two to three hours.
- Check for doneness at tow hours and then every 15-20 minutes. At this time you can spray more apple juice or vinegar on the ribs.
- Cook to 145-150℉ for medium rare, 150-155℉ for medium, 155-160℉ for medium well, and 160℉ for well.
- Carefully remove ribs from the oven, discard foil and brush generously with barbecue sauce.
- Rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.
BBQ Method for Cooking Ribs
- For fall off the bone meat, start by placing a plate of wood chips on one side of your grill under the grate. If you’re using a gas grill as your heat source, set the burners under the wood chips to their lowest setting. If you’re using a charcoal fire, set the coals only on one side of the grill, let them burn down, and place the wood chips on top of them. Do not put charcoal on the other side of the grill where the meat will cook. This will create the indirect heat that makes for fall-off-the-bone tender ribs.
- Once the wood chips start to smoke, place the grate back on the top of the grill and place the ribs meat-side-down directly on the grate on the opposite side of the wood chips.
- Make sure any large vents in your grill are plugged to keep the smoke inside.
- Cook the ribs for one hour on the meaty side, then flip and cook for another hour, making sure your grill stays between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spray apple juice or vinegar on the ribs each time you turn or as often as you prefer.
- At this point, you can choose to coat the ribs in barbecue sauce and cook for another 30 minutes on each side or until the rack bends in the middle when picked up with tongs.
- After a total cook time of 2 ½ to 4 hours, your ribs should reach an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and be tender enough to bend in the middle.
- Carefully remove ribs from the barbeque and brush generously with barbecue sauce (optional).
- Rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.
Some folks prefer to cut the rib rack up into smaller portions or individual ribs, but others feel strongly that the full, succulent rack should go on the table in all its sticky, smoky glory.
Enjoy with french fries, potato salad, mac ’n cheese, greens, or whatever sides suit you. Don’t forget to have a lot of paper towels or napkins available!
If the idea of making your own St. Louis style ribs rub and sauce is too much of a task and you can’t make it to the city anytime soon, you can find Maull’s genuine BBQ sauce on Amazon.
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