St. Louis Style Ribs With Jimmy Kennedy

By Justin Brouillard, & Jimmy Kennedy
Cook Ambassadors

St. Louis ribs are simply spare ribs that have been trimmed to have a neater and more rectangular appearance. They are easy to find at your local grocery store and are my favorite to use when catering or just for a family backyard barbecue. I feel smoking ribs is one of those things/recipes that people tend to have a lot of questions about or think is more difficult to do than it really is. It does take some time, but it’s very easy and well worth the effort. All you really need to make incredible smoked ribs is a grill, barbecue sauce, dry rub, heat and ribs, of course.

Start by making the dry rub. The standard rule of thumb is equal parts sugar, salt and spices but I tend to go heavy on the sugar since the ribs are not going to be on direct heat. You can use your favorite dry rub recipe or favorite store-bought rub. This is my go-to rub, and I use it on just about anything that goes on the grill or anything that needs a little spicing up. 

To make the dry rub, just combine the granulated and brown sugar with the salt, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, paprika and cayenne pepper. 

Once you have the rub made, start a fire on your smoker or grill. If using a charcoal-type grill, which is fine, make the fire on one side of the grill. The idea is to cook the ribs on indirect heat for around five or six hours at a temperature of 250 to 275 degrees. Also, if using charcoal, have some wood chips to throw on the briquets to add that smoky flavor. If using wood, which is highly recommended, try to use oak, hickory, apple or other fruit woods. We have an overabundance of maple here in Vermont, and I’ve found that it works pretty well, also. 

When you have a good fire going and the temperature is right, you’ll want to rub the ribs.  Lay the ribs on a baking sheet, parchment or worktable. Some folks like to cut and remove the membrane from the back of the ribs but, in my opinion, it’s not necessary at all. I actually think it is better left on and helps hold the ribs together as they get more and more tender. Whichever you decide, sprinkle the rub all over the ribs until they are completely covered on both sides. Think of it as a light coating. 

When the ribs have been rubbed, place them bone-side down directly on the grill and close the lid. Many barbecue folks like to wrap the ribs in aluminum foil after three hours and then smoke them for another two hours, then unwrap and smoke for one final hour. This is known as the 3-2-1 method, and it definitely works well. However, I seldom wrap ribs and love the way they turn out. If you see that the ribs are cooking at a higher temperature and think they could dry out, it’s a good idea to, at least, cover them with some with foil until you have a lower temperature or for the final hour of cooking. 

Another variation is when to add the barbecue sauce. Some folks add it halfway during cooking, and others spritz the ribs occasionally with a vinegar-based sauce during the smoking. Personally, I like to add the sauce at the end. Just remember, the best method is your own method and what works for you. Testing and experimenting is the fun part and, no matter what, unless you burn them, they are going to be good. Just remember, low and slow. 

When the ribs are nice and tender and you can start seeing the bone at the top of the ribs, do a little test and see if the meat pulls away from the bone with a little tug. If using an internal thermometer, I like to see around 190 degrees. When they are done, remove from the grill and mop with your favorite barbecue sauce, then let sit for thirty minutes or so to rest. You can always add more sauce later for serving, as well. 

Enjoy, and Happy National Barbecue Month! 

(Photo: Justin Broulliard)

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