St. Louis-Cut Ribs Are The Baby Back Alternative You Need To Grill ASAP

A rack of ribs makes for an impressive centerpiece at any cookout and, when done well, they're a pleasure to eat. The best ones (typically pork) separate easily from the bone and leave behind a glaze of tangy sauce on everything they touch. 

Although barbecuing and grilling are not the same thing, each method can be used to make ribs and we'd argue both are perfect in their own way — either for low-and-slow temperatures or a quick finishing sear. While we all want our baby back ribs at times, St. Louis-cut ribs are an underrated alternative that's just as well-suited for the grill as they are the smoker.

Diners love baby back ribs because they're tender, but St. Louis-cut ribs actually offer more meat and they're cheaper (they come from the same animal, they're from different parts of the rib cage). Plus, the rack's flat surface makes them a breeze to drape across the indirect heat of the grill meaning pit masters and first-timers alike can find flesh that cooks and browns evenly.

St. Louis ribs vs. baby back ribs

Baby back ribs come from the top part of an adult pig's rib cage, near the spine and underneath the loin. You may notice the ribs are wider on one end of the rack and narrow at the other. That tapered shape, and their location on the body, inspired the name "baby back." Their natural curved shape and tender, lean meat requires careful cooking since the bones can't lay flush against a grill.

St. Louis ribs, on the other hand, are even and flat. Technically, these racks are trimmed down spareribs that are found lower on the animal, around the belly. Meatpackers in their namesake city created the classic rectangular shape in the mid-1900s by removing the surrounding cartilage, breastbone, and the rib tips.

Compared to the popular baby back ribs, the Midwest cut actually offers more flavorful fat, meat, and bone. Since they're larger, they also take longer to cook. To adjust recipes, you can assume St. Louis-style will take time and a half.

Season ribs like a pro

While ribs rank as one of the worst foods to order on a first date, they're certainly fun to eat — and there's many ways to do so. To make the tastiest possible meal, look no further than the namesake city itself for seasoning ideas.

Though today's grocery stores offer delicious regional BBQ sauces from across the country, you can easily make your own at home. To stay loyal to the tastes of the Missouri city, opt for a recipe featuring simmered ketchup, cider vinegar, spices, and just a dash of sugar. While it's similar to Kansas City barbecue sauces, the St. Louis style boasts a thinner, more tart sauce made to coat ribs at the end of cooking and to add on at the table.

And, while manning the grill is a rite of passage for many home cooks, these racks of meat can also hold their own in the oven's controlled setting. Try mixing up a smoky dry rib rub to apply before it hits the heat to draw out more flavor. Regardless of where you cook them, however, make sure to place the ribs bone-side down and meat-side up to get the best results.