St. Louis Style Ribs vs. Baby Back Ribs

St. Louis Style Ribs vs. Baby Back Ribs

Choosing the perfect rib…

There are generally 2 different styles of ribs… St. Louis Spares (or Spare Ribs) and Loin Backs (or baby back ribs)

barbecue ribs

What RIB you cook in competition BBQ…

In the MBN and Memphis in May competitions, you always use Loin-Back ribs – because it is simply what the judges expect. But in the Kansas City BBQ circuit, you always use St. Louis Spares.

The Loin-Back ribs tend to be smaller and don’t have as much meat on them.. but the meat is really, really tender. Spare Ribs are meatier and have a higher fat content.

What RIB I prefer to cook at home…

If I am cooking at home, I cook St. Louis Spares because I like the fat content – it really gives a good flavor to the meat when it is rendered out.

But when I cater parties, I always use baby back ribs, just because that is what people expect in the Memphis area.

The different RIB cooking techniques…

I use the same exact cooking technique when cooking St. Louis and Loin Back ribs – there really is no difference in the recipe for these two ribs… but you probably need to add a little time to your Spare Ribs because they are bigger and tougher.

Click here for my complete method for Memphis Style Baby Back Ribs >>

Click here for my complete method for St. Louis Spare Ribs >>

rib diagram (This diagram comes courtesy of Meathead over at Very cool BBQ Site to check out)

How to choose the perfect RIB…

When you are choosing a good Spare Rib, you want to look for one where you can see visible fat throughout.

This fat needs to be spaced evenly throughout the rack. You don’t want any heavy deposits of fat in any one place – you want it evenly marbled because that even distribution throughout the rack is what is going to evenly flavor your meat.

A large fat deposit will render down and leave you with big chunks missing from your meat, you will be left with a large chuck of nothing but bone.

When choosing a good loin-back rib, I look for an even thickness in the rack. Ideally, the rack will be the same size on every end and the bones will be uniform. I don’t want too much curvature in the bone and I want a good amount of even marbling.

Where the different cuts of RIBS come from on the hog…

Spare ribs are taken from the bottom of the ribs – on the side of the belly of the pig. This is why they are bigger, meatier and a little tougher cut of meat.

Loin-back ribs are taken from the top of the rib cage – close to the loin of the pig. This is why they are smaller and more tender cut of meat.

If you start with a good quality rib, you will end with a good quality product.

Comments 12

  1. Hi Malcom. I was watching your video on comp bbr and had a question on what you were using to mop your ribs with, as always your receipts are unbelievable.

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  2. Malcolm, do to buy your ribs from local gracery stores like Kroger or are you shipping in from someone like Cheshire? Seems the quality at most grocery stores doesn’t seem as good as you get at some restaurants.

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  3. Greetings from Germany Malcom. I have been trying to follow your techniques with baby back ribs but it seems like they are not as tender as they should be.

    I have an electric smoker with an electric element at the bottom. I smoked 2.2 lbs of baby back ribs for 3 hours at between 225-250 F for three hours with cherry wood. I pulled the ribs out and there was no bend at all and the internal temp was already 187 F. I transferred to foil and added some apple juice and water and cooked for 1 hour at 250 F and they were a little more tender but still no bend. I then finished bare at 250 F for one hour. I know you say that the ribs are done when they are done but is there any guidance you can provide to when to stop the smoking process and go to the foil? what should the internal temps be? (the inner-engineer in me likes the measure). If you cannot provide temp advice, what should be telling me to stop smoking and move to the next stage? I feel like I completed cooking the ribs after 3 hours in the smoker when the internal temps were already near 190. I feel like the ribs came out a little drier than I would have wanted. Anyways, I like your site and watch your videos on Youtube. I hope to get some advice.

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