When you have a craving for pork ribs, you probably picture mouthwatering tender ribs slathered in BBQ sauce.
If you are cooking your own ribs at home in your offset smoker or natural gas grill, your neighbors will probably be knocking on the door before the ribs are finished.
Although going to the store and picking up a package of ribs seems really easy, have you considered the type of pork ribs you want to cook.
What Are Baby Back Ribs?
Baby back ribs are carved from the area where the rib connects to the spine. They are cut from the animal after the loin has been cut.
Although the name implies it, baby back ribs have nothing to do with baby pigs. It refers to a size comparison.
The upper ribs are much smaller than spareribs. It’s like comparing a ribeye steak to a brisket. Therefore, they are called baby back ribs because of their size.
Baby back ribs can be cooked in several ways. However, they are almost always smoked in an electric smoker to intensify their flavor.
What Are St Louis Ribs?
In contrast, St.Louis ribs are much larger and more meatier than their smaller counterparts.
Spareribs are fabricated from the pig’s stomach region after the belly has been removed.
Technically speaking, St Louis ribs are the same thing as spareribs. However, these ribs have been trimmed to remove the
breastbone and cartilage from the ribs. Much like baby back ribs, St. Louis ribs are almost always smoked, but they can also be baked or fried.
St Louis Ribs vs. Baby Back Ribs
Even though both baby back ribs and St. Louis ribs are both cuts of pork, they are vastly different. In fact, these two types of ribs are like night and day.
St. Louis ribs are flatter than their counterparts. Therefore, their flat shape helps them brown evenly.
In contrast, baby bake ribs are curved, which makes them difficult to brown.
Baby back ribs can range between 2-3 pounds. Each rack has about 10-13 bones.
Unfortunately, up to 50% of the weight consists of bone. Nevertheless, the remaining half of the weight is tender, juicy meat.
In contrast, St. Louis ribs also contain 10-12 bones and can range between 2-3 pounds in weight. But the biggest difference is that the bones are approximately 5-6 inches in length.
In addition to this, a hefty portion of St Louis rib’s weight is fat.
There’s nothing worse than driving to the grocery store only to find out they don’t have the one ingredient you are searching for.
It’s like driving to a butcher shop to buy pork butt, but the butcher tells you they are out of pork butt. Frustrating right?
Luckily you won’t have this problem with baby back ribs. Usually, popular meats like back ribs that are always in demand are hard to find.
However, I’ve never visited a grocery store that ran out of baby back ribs. Simply look in the meat aisle, and you will find back ribs.
On the off chance you cannot find baby back ribs in your local grocery store, you can visit local farmers, meat markets, or butcher shops.
In fact, your butcher will probably be able to special order the baby back ribs for you.
Even though St. Louis ribs are considered the underdog since they are not as popular as their counterparts, they are also easy to find in grocery stores.
If they are not in the display case, you can ask the butcher if they have St. Louis ribs on hand. You can also visit a butcher shop to find St. Louis ribs.
Regarding flavor, baby back ribs and St. Louis ribs have the same relationship that ribeye and prime rib do.
Both types of cuts are carved and fabricated from the same animal.
Furthermore, both cuts are located in similar regions of the animal.
Therefore, it cannot be ignored that there are bound to be some similarities between both cuts when it comes to flavor.
In essence, the flavor differences between St. Louis ribs and back ribs are as follows.
Baby back ribs are more tender than their counterparts.
They are also less meaty than St Louis ribs. Baby back ribs are so tender because they are located in close proximity to the long and contain about 1/2-inch of loin meat near the top of each rack.
In contrast, St. Louis ribs are meatier and slightly tougher than baby back ribs.
However, St. Louis ribs contain a healthy amount of marbling, with gives them a big, bold flavor.
Baby back ribs are much leaner than St Louis ribs. Therefore, they can dry out if you leave them in your pellet smoker too long.
In contrast, since St. Louis ribs are fabricated from the pig’s belly, it has higher levels of fat.
Therefore, you do not have to worry about the meat drying out as much.
When it comes to cost, if you are working with an inflexible budget, it may be best to smoke St. Louis ribs.
You can also choose regular untrimmed spareribs, which are even cheaper than St. Louis ribs.
Sadly, most popular meats are expensive, and baby back ribs are no different. Therefore, you should only purchase baby back ribs if you have a flexible budget.
It makes no difference whether you cook St. Louis ribs or baby back ribs as long as you smoke them in an offset smoker or a portable pellet grill.
Although ribs can be cooked in the oven or crockpot, smoking them allows the wood chips to impart a subtle flavor that will not overpower the ribs.
If you choose to prepare your ribs in the oven or using another indoor cooking method, make sure you cook them at a low temperature for hours.
This gives the meat’s fat time to melt slowly and tenderize the meat.
Baby back ribs can be cooked at a slightly higher temperature than St. Louis ribs. So if you want to eat the ribs faster, go with baby back ribs.
It’s no surprise that due to their size, St. Louis ribs have a longer cooking time than baby back ribs.
For example, if you are smoking your baby’s back ribs at 275°F, it would take about 3-4 hours to smoke.
In contrast, if you were to smoke St. Louis ribs at 275°F, it would take about 5 hours to cook.
If you smoke the ribs at a lower temperature, such as 250°F or 225°F, they will take longer to cook.
Nevertheless, if you cook the ribs at a lower temperature, they will be that juicer and more tender than if they were cooked at a higher temperature.
How Much Ribs per Person?
Before you decide on which type of ribs are best, think about how much meat per person. For example, the average rack of baby back ribs can serve 2 people.
However, if you are feeding a few persons with large appetites, it may be best to go with 2 racks of baby back ribs per person.
In contrast, when it comes to St. Louis ribs, it’s best to estimate 3/4-1 pound of ribs per person. This is about 5-6 ribs per person.
Regarding group size, if it is a small intimate party consisting of a few people, cook St. Louis ribs. St. Louis ribs have more flavor and have a higher meat-to-bone ratio.
Plus, you can easily whip up a small amount consisting of 3-4 racks on your kamado grill.
In contrast, if you are having a full-blown BBQ party, it’s best to go with baby back ribs.
Since they are smaller, you can grill several batches and keep them warm in a cooler.
Which Is Better, St. Louis Ribs or Baby Back Ribs?
If you just purchased your first smoker and are a novice barbecuer, I would recommend starting your BBQ journey with baby back ribs. Baby back ribs are not as tough as St. Louis ribs.
In addition to this, baby back ribs will cook faster since they are smaller than their counterparts.
However, the downside of using baby back ribs is that they can dry out since they are smaller than their counterparts.
In contrast, if you want to take the plunge and try your hand at St. Louis ribs, go for it. Just note that they will take longer to cook than baby back ribs.
When it comes to St. Louis vs. baby back ribs, both types of ribs are delicious.
That is why I recommend firing up your smoker and cooking both types of ribs.
After all, you and your family will get to indulge in the best of both worlds.
You might also be interested in:
- Pork Shoulder Vs. Pork Butt
- Pork Belly Vs. Bacon
- Pork Loin Vs. Pork Shoulder
- Pork Loin Vs. Pork Tenderloin
- Baby Back Ribs Vs. Spare Ribs
- Beef Ribs Vs. Pork Ribs
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.