How to Make BBQ Baby Back Ribs and St. Louis Style Ribs
Pork Ribs and summer go hand in hand, especially when you have the perfect dry rub and sauce for baby back ribs or St. Louis Style pork ribs.
Ribs take planning, you can’t just throw them on the grill and think in 20 minutes you’ll have dinner, ribs need to slow cook for a long time to be fall off the bone tender and first you need to “marinate” the ribs in a dry rub that helps tenderize the meat and infuse the pork with flavor.
You also need to baste ribs with a basting sauce, sometimes called a mop sauce.
I’ve tested many dry rub and basting sauce recipes for my family over the years and finally landed on the perfect mix of spices that maximizes the flavor of the ribs. You can even serve without BBQ Sauce if you dare, but in my house, that would be sacrilege.
Difference between Baby Back Ribs and St. Louis Style Spareribs:
The two most commonly sold types of ribs are Baby Back Ribs and St. Louis Style Spareribs. Baby Back Ribs also go by the names pork loin back ribs, back ribs, or loin ribs. The upper ribs are called baby back ribs because they are shorter in relation to the bigger spare ribs.
St. Louis Style Spareribs are meaty and cut from the belly of the pig. They are usually trimmed down by cutting away the breastbone so the slab is more rectangular in shape.
I’ve bought both and my family prefers the St. Louis style pork ribs because they have a bit more meat on the bones. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
If you have country-style pork ribs – be sure to check out a few recipes for those here:
To Prep Your Baby Back Ribs:
Whether you are cooking baby back ribs or St. Louis style ribs, you need to remove the tough membrane on the back of the rib rack. Removing this is not hard, you simply place your knife under the lining in the middle of the rack edge and start pulling up. I’m usually able to take it off in one long piece, but sometimes it can be stubborn and comes off in a few pieces.
Dry Rub for BBQ Ribs
After you remove the membrane, you need to prepare your dry rub and get rubbing! I like to use a mixture of salt, pepper, paprika, brown sugar, onion powder, dry mustard and garlic powder. The basting sauce is also super simple – a combination of apple juice or cider, butter and soy sauce.
Dry rub your ribs with spices and let it sit for at least 2 hours. If you remember to do this the night before, even better because you’ll give the spices even more time to tenderize the meat. As the ribs cook, brush with a basting sauce to ensure they don’t dry out.
Brush again after they’re tender and cooked with more BBQ sauce, and broil or grill the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling.
Cooking Ribs in the Oven:
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Place the ribs, bone side down, on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Cover the ribs with foil and cook the ribs for 45 minutes.
Brush with the basting sauce, turn and brush again. Continue cooking the ribs for 45 minutes to 1 hour longer until well browned and tender. At this point, they should be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers after 2 1/2 to 3 hours for spare ribs or 1 1/2 to 2 hours for baby back ribs total cook time.
Brush with your favorite BBQ sauce, broil the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, and a couple of minutes at the end of cooking to brown the sauce on the top.
Remove from the oven and let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the ribs.
Grilling BBQ Ribs:
Set up the grill and preheat to medium (325° to 350°F).
Place the ribs, bone side down, in the center of the grate, cover the grill and cook the ribs for 45 minutes.
Brush with the basting sauce, turn and brush again. Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs 45 minutes to 1 hour longer until well browned and tender. At this point, they should be tender enough to pull apart after 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours of total cook time. If you have the time and like it low and slow over a charcoal grill, set up the grill and preheat to 225°F and cook the ribs for about 4 to 5 hours for baby backs or 5 to 6 hours for spare ribs. Brush with basting sauce mid-way through cooking.
Brush with your favorite BBQ sauce and grill the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, a couple of minutes per side. Remove from the grill and let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the ribs.
Smoking BBQ Ribs:
Set up and light the smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat it to low (250°F).
Place the ribs in the smoker bone side down and smoke until cooked through 4 to 5 hours. Brush the ribs with the basting sauce after an hour, then mop the ribs again once every hour until cooked tender.
Brush with your favorite BBQ sauce and smoke the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, a couple of minutes per side. Remove from the smoker and let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the ribs.
The Basting Sauce
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 cup apple cider or apple juice
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
Ribs Dry Rub
- 6 lbs baby back pork ribs 2 racks minimum
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp dry mustard
- To make the rub: mix the salt, brown sugar, pepper, paprika, onion and garlic powders, and dry mustard in a small bowl and mix well.
- Remove the thin membrane from the back of each rack by inserting a knife under it and pulling it away from the rib rack.
- Sprinkle dry rub over both sides of the ribs, rubbing it onto the meat. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for 2 hours minimum.
- For the basting sauce melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and soy sauce. Keep warm until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Place the ribs, bone side down, on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Cook the ribs for 45 minutes.
- Brush with basting sauce, turn and brush again. Continue cooking the ribs 45 minutes to 1 hour longer until well browned and tender.
- Brush with your favorite BBQ sauce, and broil the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, a couple minutes per side.
- Remove from the oven and let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the ribs.
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