Saturday, October 4, 2014

St. Louis Style Ribs

It's a great time of the year for grilling even though Autumn weather is upon us, and what doesn't taste better on the grill than ribs. Today I'm making St. Louis style pork ribs, which are a common cut of pork in that city.

Julian's St. Louis Ribs on the Gril
They are differentiated from other types of ribs as they are spare ribs with the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed which creates a more rectangular-shaped rack. I usually prepare baby back ribs but as the local Costco had these on hand today, I thought I would prepare them instead.

Like most cuts of pork, the meat is not naturally highly flavorful as you find in beef. As such we typically cook pork with a variety of seasonings or other foods to render more flavor into the meat. For baby back ribs I generally use a wet barbecue sauce. So today for these St. Louis style ribs, I'm instead doing a dry rub that requires no sauce at all. You can prepare your own or purchase any number good rubs at the store.

2 Tablespoons dried crushed red peppers
4 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 Tablespoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 teaspoons granulated garlic or garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Whatever type of rub you use, it's best to do this at least 24 hours in advance. Lightly oil the ribs and then rub them thoroughly with your rub of choice. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place them back in the refrigerator.

For extra flavor, I like to use the smoker function in my Weber grill particularly for ribs and BBQ'd pork shoulder, as both benefit greatly from the flavor. As ribs require a long, slow roast on the grill, this is a perfect time to use the smoker box. I generally use pecan wood chunks although most varieties will render good flavor. Just make sure you have soaked the wood chunks for at least an hour in advance and that you have a sufficient quantity wet and ready to go, as the long roasting time will need to have additional wood added throughout cooking.

I would not recommend you follow the instruction you often find on the package of ribs. Rather, lightly oil the grill grates to prevent the meat from sticking. Place the wet wood chips in the smoker box (or in a foil tray inside the grill if you don't have a smoker box). Then heat the grill to about 400F degrees and place the seasoned ribs inside. Turn off most of the burners except the one nearest or under the smoker box/foil tray of wood chips.  Watch the grill temperature carefully as it should be reduced to 250F degrees. At this temperature it will take 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours for a full rack of ribs to cook completely. It hard to get an accurate temperature on ribs, so instead I use the 'tong technique' to know if they are done. When you lift the ribs in the center with tongs, they should bend into a nice arch. This indicates they are tender, but not falling apart. The temperature should be around 180-190F degrees. But as I said, that's difficult to know because the meat is thin and close to the bone.

Julian's St. Louis Ribs
Unlike baby back ribs, these ribs are longer and as such should be cut into individual rib pieces for serving. They really do not require any additional wet BBQ sauce. Just a side of a couple good late summer fresh vegetables and you are ready for a feast.

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