These best St. Louis ribs are seriously some of the best ribs we’ve ever experienced. They boast a robust spice rub and a slathering of barbecue sauce. Toss them on a grill or in the smoker.
“These ribs are among the best I’ve had.” That’s what folks are saying after tasting these best St. Louis ribs, which take their extreme excellence from both a robust spice rub and a not-too-sweet barbecue sauce. Originally published May 13, 2015.–Renee Schettler Rossi
How To Know When Ribs Are Done
Here’s what the author of this best St. Louis ribs recipe has to say on knowing when your ribs are ready to pull off the heat: “When it comes to the best St. Louis ribs–or any ribs–if I can teach people one thing, it’s to disabuse them of this notion that rib meat should be so tender it ‘falls off the bone.’ You’d be laughed off the competition circuit if you turned in a rib without meat on it. However, a rib should pull away cleanly from the bone as you eat it—holding it with your fingers, not cutting it away with a knife and fork.” Yeah. What he said.
Special Equipment: Smoker (or the know-how to use your grill as a smoker)
Best St. Louis Ribs
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 10 H
- Serves 6 to 8
- For the Q Company’s Basic Rub
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup Hungarian paprika
- 1/4 cup seasoning salt
- 1/4 cup granulated garlic
- 1/4 cup onion salt
- 1/4 cup celery salt
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1/4 cup black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- For the Q Company’s Basic BBQ Sauce
- 5 cups ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 2/3 cup dark amber maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 1 scant teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- For the ribs
- 2 to 3 racks St. Louis-style pork ribs
- Olive oil
- Make the Q Company’s Basic Rub
- 1. Combine all the ingredients in an airtight container and shake vigorously until thoroughly mixed. You should have about 3 cups. (You can store the leftover rub in a dry, cool place for up to 6 months.)
- Make the Q Company’s Basic BBQ Sauce
- 2. Combine all the ingredients in a medium nonreactive saucepan over low heat. Gently simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature. You should have about 6 1/2 cups. (You may use the sauce immediately or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.)
- Make the St. Louis ribs
- 3. Pat the ribs completely dry. Place the ribs, meaty side down, on your work surface. Use a butter knife or skewer to remove the silver skin on the underside of each rack of ribs. (The silver skin is the thick, shiny, opaque membrane that runs the length of the rack. To remove it, starting with the second bone, insert the knife or skewer between the membrane and the bone and rip or pull off the entire length of the silver skin, holding onto it with a paper towel because it gets slippery. Make sure the entire silver skin is removed, because it will keep the rub from flavoring the meat and it’s tough to chew.) Repeat this procedure for each rack of ribs.
- 4. Coat the racks with 1 cup rub and massage the spices into the meat. (The rub is never the predominant flavor; it is only an accent.) You want to coat the ribs evenly. Add a generous drizzle olive oil to each rack and smear it over the ribs to sorta turn the rub into a paste. Store the ribs in a super large resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.
- 5. To cook the ribs in the smoker: Heat the smoker to between 225° and 240°F (107° and 115°C). Place the ribs, meaty side down, on the grill grate. Leave the ribs in this position for 1 hour. Then flip the ribs and cook for 1 hour more. Mop the top of the ribs with some of the barbecue sauce then flip the ribs meaty side up. Mop the meaty side of the ribs and cook for another 30 minutes or until each rack of ribs bends in the middle when it’s picked up with tongs. To cook the ribs on a gas grill: Put your soaked wood chips in an aluminum pie plate and cover the top tightly with aluminum foil. With a butter knife, poke about 10 holes in the foil. Remove the grates from one side of your grill and place the pie plate directly on those burners. Light your grill and set only the burners underneath the wood chips on their lowest setting. If there is a large vent on the side of the grill with the wood chips, plug it with an old rag to prevent the smoke from escaping. Keep your meat on the opposite side of the grill, where the grates are still in place. Wait for the wood to start smoking—at least 15 minutes—before you place your meat on the grill. Heat the grill to between 225° and 240°F (107° and 115°C). Place the ribs, meaty side down, on the grill grate. Leave the ribs in this position for 1 hour. Then flip the ribs and cook for 1 hour more. Mop the top of the ribs with some of the barbecue sauce then flip the ribs meaty side up. Mop the meaty side of the ribs and cook for another 30 minutes or until each rack of ribs bends in the middle when it’s picked up with tongs.
- 6. Remove the ribs from the grill grate, brush them with more sauce, then cover with foil and let them rest for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
Variations On The Barbecue Rub & Barbecue Sauce
- Adapt the basic rub to suit your tastes. For a more intense caramel flavor, substitute turbinado or brown sugar for the granulated sugar. Experiment by adding different brands of dry mustards. Vary the types of chili powders, using a smoky ancho, for example.
- Over the years, we’ve experimented with any number of barbecue sauces—some with jaw-clenching tartness, others with honeyed sweetness. We encourage you to play with this sauce’s notes. For a sweeter sauce, substitute honey for molasses in the recipe. For a sauce that packs more tingle, throw in some crushed red pepper flakes. For a smokier sauce, add ground ancho chile powder. The point, dear readers, is to make it suit your own taste.