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Home Recipes Smoked St. Louis style ribs

These delicious St. Louis ribs are topped with a mouthwatering rib rub and smoked to absolute perfection. The combination of flavors and the tenderness of the meat make these ribs an irresistible treat for any barbecue lover.

This recipe and video will show you just how easy it is to achieve incredible results right in your own backyard.

sliced st louis style ribs on a black background with one rib at bottom

What are St. Louis style ribs?

You guessed it, St. Louis style ribs originated in the St. Louis area of Missouri. Essentially trimmed down spare ribs, these are extremely tender and meatier than other cuts. They come from the belly of the pig, have a bit more fat and are more flavorful than lean rib cuts like baby back ribs

A full rack of spare ribs includes the brisket bones, which are often used to make riblets or rib tips. Once those are removed, the rectangular rack or ribs is called a St. Louis cut.

PRO TIP: St. Louis ribs usually cost a bit more per pound than spare ribs, so to save money, you can purchase spare ribs and trim them down yourself.

One end of a rack of St. Louis style ribs will be thicker and fattier. The opposite end will have smaller thin bones. Each rack usually has at least 11 bones and weighs 3-4 pounds.

When you look at the sides of the ribs, you’ll see that one side has obvious hard bones. The other side includes a strip of cartilage. If you want to trim your bones to be a certain length like for a barbecue competition, trim them from the cartilage side.

The meat rests on top of and in between the bones. The backside of the rack includes a strip of meat that is usually trimmed down before they’re packaged. Most of the time, the bones are covered with a membrane, also called silverskin. This should be removed before cooking.

For best results, cooking your St. Louis pork ribs low and slow using a 3-2-1 method is the secret to perfection. This method makes the meat incredibly tender and juicy. 

You will be amazed at the tenderness and flavor of these ribs. Once the ribs are cooked, they are ready to be served. They can be eaten as-is or with your favorite barbecue sauce for extra flavor. 

The smoke and the spices from the rib rub blend together to form an amazing flavor and make for a recipe making the best ribs. You will definitely want to return for more.


Ingredients

  • St. Louis Style ribs
  • Yellow mustard
  • Your favorite dry rub seasoning: Pork ribs taste great with a rub that is a little bit on the sweeter side. My award-winning Pork Rub is a great choice.
  • Butter: The butter helps the ribs to stay moist and fall-off-the-bone good.
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey: This adds a hint of sweetness, along with the brown sugar.
  • Juice: Use grape juice or apple juice as a braising liquid.
  • Your favorite barbecue sauce

Substitutions: Instead of buying a pre-made BBQ rub, you can also make your own by combining kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Add a little brown sugar for sweetness and cayenne or chili powder for heat.

See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.

bottles of BBQ rubs on black background

How to cook St. Louis ribs

St. Louis style ribs can be cooked on any type of grill or smoker at 225F degrees over indirect heat.

If you have a kettle charcoal grill, push the lit coals to one side and smoke the ribs on the grill grate over the side without coals.

If you’re cooking on a charcoal ceramic cooker like a Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe, insert the diffuser plate and adjust the vents until you reach 225F degrees.

For a gas grill, turn on one burner. Adjust that burner until the grill temperature reaches 225F degrees. Cook on the side with the burners turned off. To add smoke, use wood chips in a foil pouch.

If you have a pellet grill, simply set the temperature to 225F degrees.

For the Ninja Woodfire Grill, add pellets to the smoke box, set the function to smoke and the temperature to 225F degrees.

PRO TIP: Pecan, hickory and apple woods are the best choice when choosing smoking woods for ribs.

  1. STEP ONE: With your fresh pork ribs bone-up, pull off the thin membrane and discard. This connective tissue is called the silverskin. The easiest way to remove the membrane it is to grip it with a paper towel.
using paper towel to remove membrane on beef back ribs.
  1. STEP TWO: With a sharp knife, trim away any excess fat on top and the flap of meat on the backside.
  1. STEP THREE: Rub the backside of the ribs with mustard and your favorite spice rub. Let rest for at least 15 minutes. The rub will start to sweat. Flip and repeat on the top side of the ribs.
  1. STEP FOUR: Place the seasoned ribs on the grill over indirect heat with the bones facing down. Smoke with the lid closed for 3 hours. After three hours, your ribs should have developed a nice mahogany bark.
  1. STEP FIVE: Place two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil on the counter. Crimp up the edges so the ingredients don’t flow off. Using a butter knife, add 4-5 pats of butter, 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, a liberal drizzle of honey and 1/4 cup juice onto the foil. Place the ribs on the ingredients, meat side down. Add 4 pats butter, 1-2 more tablespoons brown sugar and another drizzle of honey to the bone side of the ribs. Wrap tightly, crimping up the ends.
  1. STEP SIX: Place wrapped ribs back on the grill with the meat side facing down. Smoke for 2 more hours.

PRO TIP: Wrapping the ribs creates a braising environment, which ensures the ribs will be nice and moist.

  1. STEP SEVEN: For the final step, you want to unwrap the ribs and get that lip-smacking candy sauce gloss on the ribs. Remove them from the smoker and unwrap them from the foil. Flip the ribs over and brush the meat side with barbecue sauce. Return to the smoker with the bones down for one more hour.

How to tell when St. Louis ribs are done

When you pick your cooked ribs up with a pair of tongs, they should bend. If they bend and break in half, they’re overcooked. If they barely bend, they’re undercooked. You want them to bend to the point where they start to crack but don’t break.

Another surefire way to know when St. Louis ribs are done is to measure the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Insert the probe into the meat from the side, in between the bones. A temperature of 205-210F degrees will result in a perfectly tender rib that’s not overcooked.


How to serve St. Louis ribs

Allow the ribs to rest for about 15 minutes. Then, place them on the cutting board with the bones facing up. Slice between the bones with a long serrated knife.

I personally love serving St. Louis ribs with some delicious sides like corn on the cob, macaroni salad or potato salad.

For those who like it extra saucy, serve them with a bowl of your favorite BBQ sauce on the side. 

Storage

After the meat is cooked, you can freeze for up to four months or refrigerate for three to five days. You’ll want to ensure that whatever method you use to store creates an airtight environment. 


GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips

  • For tender ribs, look for a rack that has visible white marbling in the meat
  • Be sure to remove the silverskin from the back of the ribs
  • Use the 3-2-1 method to form great bark and juicy meat

Frequently Asked Questions

Are St. Louis ribs beef or pork?

St. Louis ribs are pork and are cut from the pork belly. 

Should I boil St. Louis ribs before grilling?

While you definitely could, I personally do not boil before grilling because it waters down the meat and can make it mushy. Making these delicious ribs requires coating them with a dry rub and allowing the seasoning to develop as they smoke.

Can you overcook St. Louis ribs?

When preparing St. Louis ribs, it is important not to overcook them, as this will result in tough, dry ribs. To guarantee succulent and tasty ribs, use a meat thermometer. Check the internal temperature. When it reaches a final temperature of 205-210F degrees take the ribs off the grill. 

What is the difference between St. Louis ribs and spareribs?

A full rack of pork spareribs can be broken down into two smaller cuts: St. Louis style ribs and brisket bones. The St. Louis style cut of ribs are a favorite among barbecuers, especially competitive pitmasters. The brisket bones are great for making rib tips.

How many ribs should I plan on per person?

One rack of ribs includes 10-12 rib bones and should serve two to three adults. Each person will generally eat 3-4 rib bones, depending on what other proteins and side dishes you’re serving. If you’re planning a party for 10 people, cook at least three racks of ribs. 


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4.57 from 153 votes

Smoked St. Louis style ribs

Many pitmasters use the tried-and-true 3-2-1 method when cooking St. Louis Style Ribs. This recipe and video will show you how easy it is.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • 2 racks St. Louis Style Ribs
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup BBQ rub
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup apple or grape juice
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce

Instructions 

  • Heat Grill: Heat your grill or smoker to 225F degrees with an indirect heat zone.
  • Remove membrane: Flip the ribs, so that the bones are facing up. Using a paper towel, pull off the membrane and discard.
  • Trim: Trim off the flap of meat on the backside. Trim and remove any excess fat on top of the ribs.
  • Season: Rub the backside of the ribs with mustard and season with rib rub. Let the ribs rest for 15 minutes. Flip and rub the topside with mustard and rib rub. Rest for 15 more minutes.
  • Smoke: Place the ribs on the smoker meat side up. Smoke with the lid closed for 3 hours.
  • Wrap: Place two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil on the counter. Crimp the edges so the liquid doesn't fall off. To the foil, add 4-5 pats of butter, 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, a liberal drizzle of honey and 1/4 cup juice. Place the ribs on the butter, meat side down. To the bone side of the ribs, add 4-5 more pats butter, 1-2 more tablespoons brown sugar and another drizzle of honey. Wrap tightly, crimping up the ends.
  • Braise: Place the ribs back on the smoker meat side down and cook for 2 hours.
  • Sauce: Remove from the smoker and unwrap from the foil. Flip the ribs over. Brush with sauce on the top side of the ribs. Return to the smoker bone side down for one more hour.
  • Slice: Remove from the smoker. Let rest a few minutes and slice.

Notes

For my ribs, I like to use my award-winning Pork Rub and Code 3 Spices Patriot Sauce.
If you add more juice, your ribs will be more tender. If you’re competing, be careful you don’t add too much. Judges don’t like their meat to completely fall off the bone. They like it to have a little bite.
Instead of juice, you can also use beer or wine.
Nutritional content will vary, depending on how much mustard, sugar, honey and BBQ sauce you use.

Nutrition

Calories: 656kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 39gFat: 32gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 165mgSodium: 796mgPotassium: 821mgFiber: 1gSugar: 47gVitamin A: 443IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 114mgIron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Did you try this recipe?Be sure to rate it, leave a comment and save it so you can make it again. Show off your awesome results on social by tagging @girlscangrill

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christie vanover standing against wood wall.

Hey BBQ Family

Hi. I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and have dozens of top ten category finishes. People know me as the girl who is forever hovering over a grill, smoker or campfire with tongs in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

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Recipe Rating




82 Comments

    1. During the last hour, take them out of the foil, and put them directly on the smoker without sauce. I recommend basting them with some of the juices from the foil every 15 minutes or so.

  1. The only thing I changed is the heat recipe. I did an hour 165 then hour at 180 then 1.5 hours at 225 and then wrapped with peach butcher paper and 2.5 hrs at 225. This is for family on the 4th, so I wanted them fall off the bone.

    1. I used a combo of apple juice and cherry coke to spray on the ribs every 30 min during smoke. Then used the remainder of the spray mix in the foil wrap with butter, brown sugar, and honey.

    1. I sent ahead and added you. Thank you. Please let me know which link is giving you problems, so I can fix it.

  2. Hi Christie,

    I was just wondering if you purchase your St. Louis Style Ribs directly from a butcher, or are you using cryovac ribs that have been injected by the manufacturer?

    Thanks!!

  3. Hi there, made these last night they were fabulous. What’s the best way to reheat the leftovers? Foil wrapped on the smoker at 225? If so how long do you think it’ll take?

    1. If it’s just for a quick lunch, I microwave them. If you’re wanting to reheat a whole rack for a crowd, I wrap them in foil and put them in the oven at about 250. Check them after 30 minutes. If they seem dry, add a very small amount of water to the foil and wrap them back up.

  4. made these many times easy and turn out very good , one question do you shoot for a certain weight per rack ?

  5. I used pre-seasoned ribs from Costco. Other than that, followed your directions. I used pineapple juice and just a tad or honey. Brushed on a spicy sauce for the last hour, and the outcome was fantastic!

    1. Awesome! I’m glad you loved the results and made them your own. May I ask why you gave 4 stars instead of 5?