How to Trim St. Louis Style Ribs with BBQ pitmaster Heath Riles

How to Trim St. Louis Style Ribs with BBQ pitmaster Heath Riles

Today, we’re taking a break from our usual mouthwatering recipes to help you hone a skill every pitmaster should possess: trimming St. Louis style ribs. Properly trimming your ribs is key to juicy, flavorful meat that cooks evenly. It also gives your food a gorgeous presentation, giving you the upper leg if you participate in BBQ competitions. 

Whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned pro, I’m confident you’ll learn something new from my tutorial. This unique yet precise method has helped me win multiple competitions. Grab a seat and sharpen your best knife; it’s time to level up. 

How to Trim St. Louis Style Ribs | Heath Riles BBQ

St. Louis style ribs are known for their intricate balance of meat and flavorful fat. They tend to have a jagged appearance, needing extra TLC. Many pitmasters make the mistake of smoking their St. Louis style ribs as is. While that may save you a little time, it results in ribs that don’t cook evenly, making one side of the meat overly dry. 

There are a million different ways to trim St. Louis style ribs, but this method is tried and true. Whether you’re prepping for a cookout or getting ready to take home the gold, it'll benefit you. Be sure to watch the video to learn a few of my secret pro tips!

How to Trim St. Louis Style Ribs

If you’re a visual learner, you’ll benefit from watching my in-depth video. For now, here’s a quick rundown of how to trim St. Louis Style Ribs

  • Trim meat flaps. My St. Louis style ribs had oversized flaps on one side. This is typical of this cut of meat, but it can affect your overall cooking time. I cut those off, saving them for later. After all, the meat is still good. I call these scraps “Chef’s snacks!” 
  • Square up the ends. Next, I went right up against the first bone and cleaned up the end of the rib. I also knocked off the single end bone from the other side, giving the meat an even appearance. If you’ve done this step right, you’ll have a slightly uneven rectangular shape. Don’t worry; we’ll make everything appear uniform in the following steps. 
  • Even the surface. Once the ends were squared, I placed my knife flat against the meat and carefully scanned across the ribs, making the surface even. You’ll want to watch out for any discoloration or heavy fat areas. 
  • Trim the sides. Then, I trimmed the ribs lengthwise so the sides looked even. The easiest way to do this is to place your knife right against the bones. Be sure to save these remnants; here in the South, we call them “rib tips” and use them in stews and sandwiches. Delicious!
  • Touch it up. I used my hands to feel the surface of the ribs, ensuring they were free of any bone fragments and hidden fat pockets. Speaking of fat pockets, an easy way to know your rib fat will render is to poke small holes in it before cooking. This allows the fat to melt on the pit, giving you juicy ribs without excess gristle.
  • Remove the membrane. The only thing left to do was skin the membrane. Usually, you can just slip your thumb under the membrane and pull it off, but St. Louis style ribs keep it interesting! You may need a knife to remove stubborn membrane pieces and a paper towel to steady the ribs. 

The Results

The result was handsome St. Louis style ribs that laid flat. The edges were smooth, and the meat had just enough fat to keep things moist. The ribs had the perfect amount of marbling, making them look as good as they tasted. These ribs are the ideal canvas for any St. Louis rib recipe. 

The Knife

Every pitmaster will play butcher from time to time. That’s why it’s essential to have the best knife possible. A sharp knife will help you get the perfect cut of meat and keep you safe. There’s nothing more dangerous than working with a dull blade! 

My knife of choice is the Victorinox Fibrox Boning Knife. This knife is cost-effective, and it gets the job done. It also comes with a lifetime guarantee! 

My Favorite St. Louis Rib Recipes

Now that you’ve crafted the perfect cut of meat, you’ll need to cook it. Here are my favorite St. Louis Rib Recipes. 

  • St. Louis Ribs on the Gateway Smoker. These St. Louis Ribs come together with just a few ingredients and have the perfect balance of sweet and smoky flavors. They’re wrapped AND sauced, giving you the ultimate game day ribs. 
  • Honey Peach St. Louis Style Ribs. If you’re a fan of Georgia-style ribs, you’ll adore this honey peach variation. These ribs taste like summer and are always a crowd-pleaser. 
  • Cherry Dr Pepper Ribs. Are you obsessed with Dr Pepper? If so, you’ll want to give this recipe a shot. It features a Dr Pepper glaze that gives the ribs a sticky-sweet texture. My wife requested this recipe, and I was happy to oblige! 
  • Honey Pecan St. Louis Style Ribs. This recipe is a BBQ classic, combining sweet honey with succulent pecan. The best part? Anyone can enjoy this recipe as my Pecan Rub is allergy-friendly. 

Equipment and Tools

Victorinox Fibrox Boning Knife

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