St. Louis-Style Ribs

published May 17, 2023
St. Louis Ribs Recipe

Ribs covered in a smoky barbecue seasoning, brushed with your favorite barbecue sauce, and then broiled until sticky and caramelized.

Serves4 to 6

Prep30 minutes

Cook4 hours 15 minutes

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Oven baked St. Louis style ribs on butchers block.
Credit: Kristina Vanni

A rack of glossy, seasoned ribs is bound to be the star of any summertime spread. Luckily, you don’t have to have a professional smoker setup or even an outdoor grill, because this succulent rack of ribs is made exclusively in the oven. St. Louis-style ribs are ideal for both beginner and experienced rib wranglers. The ribs are covered in a smoky barbecue seasoning, brushed with your favorite barbecue sauce, and then broiled until sticky and caramelized. They’re so good they’ll disappear as soon as they hit the table!

What Is the Difference Between St. Louis Ribs and Baby Back Ribs?

St. Louis ribs are cut from the belly area where the breastbone has been removed, and are usually uniform in shape. They may also be labeled as St. Louis-style spareribs or breastbone-off pork spareribs.

Baby back ribs, on the other hand, come from the area where the rib and spine meet after the loin is removed. These ribs are shorter than spare ribs, hence the term, “baby.” This style may also be labeled as pork loin back ribs, back ribs, or loin ribs. It’s often more expensive than St. Louis-style ribs.

How to Cook St. Louis Ribs

  • Make spice rub.
  • Remove membrane.
  • Brush ribs with mustard and apply spice rub.
  • Rest ribs in the refrigerator.
  • Wrap each rack in heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  • Bake for about two hours.
  • Unwrap and bake for about two more hours.
  • Brush ribs with barbecue sauce.
  • Broil until the sauce is bubbly and sticky.

Do You Cook St. Louis Ribs Bone-Side Up or Down?

Cooking ribs bone-side down prevents the meat from becoming waterlogged in its own juices as it cooks in the foil packet. 

Credit: Kristina Vanni

Why Can St. Louis Ribs Be Tough and Dry?

If your St. Louis ribs are tough and dry, it has more to do with how you prepare and cook them than it does the style of ribs. Here are a few tips for ensuring juicy, tender St. Louis-style ribs.

  • Remove the thin membrane. This membrane on the underside, or bone-side, of the ribs is made of the same stuff as silverskin on pork or beef tenderloins. No amount of cooking will soften this type of connective tissue, so it’s best to remove it before you begin. 
  • Apply the spice rub early. Applying a dry rub that includes salt is the same thing as dry brining. Through the process of osmosis, the salt pulls moisture from the meat, the salt and seasonings dissolve in that moisture, then over time the liquid is reabsorbed back into the rib meat. Apply the rub hours or up to a day in advance so that all of the meat — not just the surface — is seasoned and retains moisture.
  • Bake low and slow. Ribs contain a lot of other connective tissue (aside from the aforementioned membrane). That tough tissue will dissolve over time when cooked at a low temperature, resulting in juicy, tender meat. 
  • Know when the ribs are done. Fall-off-the-bone ribs are the result of overcooked ribs, and decidedly not what we’re looking for. After all, the best ribs have a bit of chew to them! Using tongs to pick up each rack in the center, the ribs should bend in an upside-down rainbow, or “U” shape, and the spice-rubbed crust should crack and expose the meat below. 

St. Louis Ribs Recipe

Ribs covered in a smoky barbecue seasoning, brushed with your favorite barbecue sauce, and then broiled until sticky and caramelized.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 4 hours 15 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons

    packed light brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    smoked paprika

  • 1 tablespoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    garlic powder

  • 2 teaspoons

    onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground coriander

  • 2 racks

    St. Louis-style pork ribs (2 1/4 to 4 1/4 pounds each)

  • 1/3 cup

    spicy brown or Dijon mustard

  • 1 cup

    tomato-based barbecue sauce, divided

Instructions

  1. Fit a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.

  2. Place 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon ground coriander in a small bowl and stir to combine.

  3. Place 2 racks St. Louis-style ribs on a cutting board, meaty side down. Insert a butter knife between the ribs and the membrane and pull up. Use a dry paper towel to grasp the membrane and gently, but firmly, pull the membrane to completely remove it.

  4. Brush 1/3 cup spicy brown or Dijon mustard all over the ribs, including the ends and sides. Sprinkle the spice rub all over the ribs. Pat down to make sure the spice rub adheres to the ribs. Place the ribs on the rack. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

  5. When ready to cook, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 225°F. Meanwhile, let the ribs sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

  6. Wrap each rack of ribs completely in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place each rack on a separate rimmed baking sheet, meaty side up. Bake, rotating the baking sheets after 1 hour, for 2 hours total.

  7. Unwrap the ribs and place directly on the baking sheets, still meaty side up. Return to the oven and bake, rotating the baking sheets after 1 hour, for 2 hours more. The ribs are ready when you lift the rack of ribs in the center with a pair of tongs and the ribs bend into a wide “U” shape and the spice bark (coating) cracks.

  8. Remove the ribs from the oven. Turn the oven on to broil. Flip the ribs over and brush the bone side lightly with about 1/4 cup of the barbecue sauce. Broil one rack at a time on the upper rack until the sauce bubbles, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the ribs over and brush the meaty side with the remaining 3/4 cup barbecue sauce. Broil one rack at a time on the upper rack until the sauce bubbles and darkens in color, 2 to 3 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The spice mixture can be made up to 3 months in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

The uncooked, spice-rubbed ribs can be wrapped in aluminum foil and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.