A good feed of smoked pork ribs must mean that summer has arrived. What could be better than sharing some perfectly smoked ribs and all the trimmings with your friends and family on a hot summer day? First, let’s compare the various types of pork ribs. Back ribs, spare ribs, St. Louis style ribs, and country style ribs. They are all different and need to be cooked a bit differently. Here we can see the location of these three ribs types on the hog.
Spare ribs have a unique shape as you see here. These ribs can be smoked just as they are of course but the more common approach is to convert these to St. Louis style ribs. St. Louis ribs are cut from spare ribs as shown here. St. Louis style ribs are the gold standard cut of pork ribs that the professional pitmasters use in competition cooking. This is because of their tenderness and consistent thickness that allows for more even smoking.
Here we can see a contrast between the St. Louis style ribs (bottom) and the back ribs or “baby backs”(top). These are also quite popular. As we can see here, the back ribs are more irregular in shape – thicker at one end than the other. They are generally heavier as well. The texture of the meat is also quite a bit different than the St. Louis style. When properly smoked both will be a great tasting meal.
Consider using a smoking pan and rack to catch the drippings to reduce the mess in your smoker. It makes clean up much easier. You will also need an instant-read thermometer to ensure you are cooking your tender smoked pork ribs to exactly the right temperature. This is not just about getting the doneness right, it is also about food safety as well. In the case of smoking pork ribs, there is often not enough meat between the bones to get an accurate reading on your thermometer. Check out this video on an alternative way of testing the doneness of your ribs.
Tender Smoked Pork Ribs (2 types)Course: MainCuisine: ComfortDifficulty: Medium
All cooking times are approximate. Please use your instant-read thermometer and the internal temperature target as your guide.
ingredients and supplies
1 rack St. Louis pork ribs
1 rack pork back ribs
Pork rub (Flying Swine All Purpose Rub)
Vegetable oil or cooking spray
Wood pellets – hardwood blend
- Trim Spare Ribs.
To create the St. Louis style ribs trim (add link here) the spare ribs as shown.
- Remove Membrane.
One if the trickier parts of preparing ribs is removing the membrane on the back of the ribs. This will allow the smoke, salt and seasonings to penetrate the ribs. This will help to ensure your ribs are tender every time. Here is a quick look at how to do it.
- Dry brine / season.
Dry brine the ribs with an ample coating of kosher salt followed by an even sprinkle of your favorite pork rub. In this case we are using Flying Swine All Purpose Rub. To help all of these seasonings adhere to the surface of the meat a coating of vegetable oil will help. I like to spray mine with pan spray to deliver a quick and easy oil coating before seasoning. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours. Let’s take a look.
The question I get asked most often is about determining when the ribs are actually cooked. It is difficult to use an instant read meat thermometer. Often there is not enough meat between the ribs to get an accurate reading. Here is the best way to check the doneness of your ribs. The St. Louis ribs will cook in approximately 3 hours while the heavier back ribs will be on the smoker for around 5 hours.
- Please keep in mind that cooking times will vary with many variables at play.