Slow Smoked St Louis Style BBQ Pork Ribs

It’s FINALLY time! Yep, the pictures are downloaded and I finally have time to tell the tale. Easily offended vegetarians, vegans, kosher and halal eaters may want to leave now. 😀

That said, here’s the run down on the BBQ a couple of days ago. St Louis style BBQ ribs were the main course.

For anyone who doesn’t know the difference, St Louis style spare ribs (keeping it simple) are from the thicker belly ribs on the pig. Baby Baby back ribs (a.k.a. loin ribs, back ribs, or Canadian back ribs) are taken from the top of the rib cage between the spine and the spare ribs, below the loin muscle. St Louis ribs are flatter, have a slightly higher fat content (which can make for good flavor), and brown more evenly. Baby Backs do come from adult pigs, and some people think they’re more tender. It’s more about how either is cooked though.

The same can be said with the meat content for either rib. St. Louis style come from the belly, so the thicker the meat on the ribs, the less bacon and pork belly you get from the pig. It all depends upon how both pieces of meat are cut and trimmed. I look for packages with nice thick ribs. 🙂

THAT is the bone side of the ribs. You want to cook the ribs with that side facing the heat to avoid drying out the meat. That layer of white across 2/3 of it is called silver skin (at least it is in cooking circles here). It’s a connective membrane that helps keep meat together and connect fatty tissue to meat. Now if the silver skin is thin, you can ignore it and let the cooking weaken it. THIS is really borderline, and I probably should have skinned it off. If it’s thicker or especially if you’re doing a competition, you want all silver skin gone. It can not only be tough, but it also blocks flavor from smoke or seasoning from getting through.

Now this is the other side. Almost all the meat on St Louis ribs are on this side or between the ribs. This side rarely has any silver skin, BUT…

That’s a perfect example of way too thick silver skin. I had to get my trusty Cutco fileting knife and cut that out. It would have been like having a piece of rubber in the ribs otherwise.

There was a little left further under that fold of fat and meat to the right but it was thinner and I didn’t want to cut away half the meat to chase, so I left it.

After that, it was time for the rub:

There’s BBQ folks that put 20 different seasonings in secret combinations to create a fancy rub. Almost all of them have brown or white sugar also. I believe in keeping it simple. Just like with my last few food posts, it was salt, pepper and garlic, then some of Costco’s mesquite flavoring.

With my family’s roots in Texas, I’m not big on sugar in cooking (baking is another story, hehe). Never mind it’s unhealthy, and hidden in everything we eat too. Even my BBQ sauce recipe (four generations old at this point) is only tomato, water, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, lemon juice and a little Tabasco. Tangy and savory without being sickeningly sweet like the bottled stuff at the grocery stores.

Once all three racks of ribs were done, into the smoker they went:

Yep, it’s a big smoker, but we wanted one that would let us entertain.

Now in competition, the big thing with smoking ribs anymore is the “3-2-1” method. You start out low and slow for 3 hours, misting the ribs as you go, then at the 3 hour mark, you pull them, put them in a ‘boat’ of aluminum foil, add some apple cider, seal it up and throw the ribs back on for 2 hours. This lets them steam in the apple cider. Pork and apple are a good pairing, so if you want to do sweet, that’s a good option. This also supposedly keeps the ribs from drying out due to the prolonged cook. Then the last hour, you pull them back out of the foil and cook them “naked” again to finish cooking and hopefully put a little bark on the ribs.

Me… I have to be different, LOL

Here’s what I don’t like about the 3-2-1 method. First, the few times I tried it, I tasted more apple than pork. No bueno. Secondly, the time spent steaming in the apple cider tended to make the ribs a little mushy. Yes, I went fairly light on the cider too. 🙂 The mushiness wasn’t horrible, but you just couldn’t get a good looking bark or crust to the ribs. Lastly, the method is really intended for an old fashioned ‘stick burner’ smoker. Those are designed to operate around 250 degrees F (121degrees C) or so. Using a pellet grill, I am able to keep a very constant heat as low as 180 degrees. I just do a straight cook through, spraying the ribs every half hour or so to keep them moist. When they’re within 30 or 40 degrees of done, I turn up the temperature on the pellet grill and finish them off, putting a nice bark on them:

Do those look dry at all? LOL Because I go low and slow, I’m able to get smoke flavor and coloring all through the ribs also. I had one guest as me if they were done because of that even pink color. 😀

One thing I didn’t cover was the “spritz” AKA what I spray them with while cooking. Apple cider is again a common choice. Too sweet though, especially if you’re doing the 3-2-1 method also. What I use on either beef or pork is a mixture of broth, water and pepsi or coke. 1 part Pepsi to two parts water to 4 parts broth. Using broth as a primary ingredient keeps the flavor pure. Just use beef broth for beef and pork broth for pork. The water keeps the broth weak enough that the meat doesn’t taste like soup, and helps with moisture. The soda pop helps the spritz stick, adds a little browning and just a touch of sweet without overpowering the meat’s flavor.

One last note: Ribs are properly done when they have an internal meat (not bone or fat) temperature of 185 to 200 degrees. At that point, the meat should stay on bone, but still come away easily with a light tug of the fingers or teeth. If it’s tough, it’s undercooked. If it falls apart, it’s been cooked to death. My own personal experience vs conventional wisdom is that 185 to 190 is about the ideal temperature.

And that’s it for Silk’s scrumptious Southern style BBQ ribs. 🙂

We also had leftover Brisket and chicken, along with that homemade BBQ sauce I mentioned, green beans and bacon, smoked portabella mushrooms sauteed in marsala and garlic, biscuits, a green salad and raspberry and yogurt fruit salad sort of thing I found on Pinterest.

All of that would take an entire second post however, lol.

9 thoughts on “Slow Smoked St Louis Style BBQ Pork Ribs

  1. Pingback: There Was So Much at Steak… | Silk Chatters

  2. Pingback: How To Trim Pork Ribs St Louis Style | Silk Chatters

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