St. Louis style ribs start with a sweet and spicy dry rub. Then Alex Guarnaschelli doubles down with tangy, sweet barbecue sauce made with red-wine vinegar and blackstrap molasses. Guaranteed to wobble knees.
When I was a kid, we always had the kind of ribs you get from Chinese restaurants—never from American barbecue places. My dad didn’t like sweet and tangy American ribs, and if my dad didn’t like something, we didn’t eat it! So here is my rewrite of my childhood pork ribs made in the decidedly American barbecue style that I always wanted: with a mix of sweet and spicy dry rub on the meat and a juicy, sloppy sauce to finish. Some might see it as a barbecue sin, but I’m telling you, when you make this, people will eat everything down to the bone—and they might even try to gnaw on the platter, too. –Alex Guarnaschelli
St. Louis Style Ribs
- 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup hot paprika
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1/4 cup Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt or 3 tablespoons Morton brand kosher salt plus more for finishing
- 1 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
- 2 racks St. Louis-style pork ribs (5 to 5 1/2 pounds total | 2.3 to 2.5 kg total)*
- 1 1/2 cups store-bought or homemade ketchup
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 large lime halved
- In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine 1/3 cup of the brown sugar with the paprika, chili powder, salt, and mace. Rub the mixture all over the racks of ribs.
- Wrap the ribs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
- In a large pot over medium-low heat, combine the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, the remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar, the molasses, and the vinegar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring from time to time, until the sauce thickens and the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pot to keep the sauce warm.
- Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a rack on it.
- Remove plastic wrap from ribs and place them directly on the hot grill and grill them just long enough to flavor and leave a nice dark grill mark without cooking them fully, 5 to 8 minutes per side.
- Transfer the rib racks, bone-side up, to the rack. Divvy the warm sauce between two bowls and reserve one bowl for serving. Brush the sauce from the first bowl onto both sides of each rack of ribs.
- Cover the whole pan with a layer of foil, crimping it around the edges, and bake the ribs for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the foil and turn the racks over. Wrap the foil back tightly over the ribs (or use a new piece) so they are covered. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the ribs are nicely browned and tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours more. The meat should come off the bone easily. If it doesn't, cover and bake longer.
- Remove the pan from the oven, remove the foil, and let the meat rest for 15 minutes.
- Move the racks to a flat surface and cut between the bones to separate each rack into individual ribs. Season the meat with salt. Spoon the reserved sauce over the ribs. Squeeze the lime over them and serve.
*WHAT ARE ST. LOUIS RIBS?Compared to regular ol' spareribs, St Louis ribs are a sight to behold—they're trimmed into a shapely rectangle by having the cartilage and rib tips removed. They do have less meat than baby-back ribs but the meat they have is fattier and can be harder to dry out. Because they've been trimmed down, they're thinner and flatter, making them easy to get uniformly browned.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This is pretty much a perfect rib recipe. It has it all—a great rub, a great sauce to apply both during and after cooking, and a perfect cooking technique, producing incredibly tender and flavorful ribs.
St. Louis style ribs are ideal because the cartilage and tips have been removed allowing the ribs to cook evenly, but this recipe would also work well with baby back ribs, although the cooking times might be a bit less. I was surprised that the oven temperature was to be set at 350°F (177°C) which is more than what I am used to when I make ribs “low and slow,” but the timing was perfect and my ribs were fall-off-the bone perfect in exactly 2 1/2 hours. Serves 6 to 8 hearty appetites.
This recipe for St. Louis style ribs was great—I was worried that the rub was going to be too spicy and the sauce was going to be too tangy but the rub and sauce worked really well together.
I think I could have cooked them slightly longer and they would have really fallen off the bone. The sauce was tasty, but might be a bit tangy for some people.
Originally published April 10, 2021