BBQ Spare Ribs

As a pork fan, I cook and eat a lot of ribs. Baby back ribs are family favorites because of the high meat content per rib.

The baby back ribs are at the top of the pig, near the spine. After the baby back ribs have been removed, you have, literally, the spare ribs. These are the St. Louis style ribs, which are those in the middle of the ribcage down the pig’s side, and the rib tips, which are below the St. Louis cut ribs down to the sternum.

Spare ribs explained

As you can see in the picture above, the red polygon is where the baby back ribs used to be. My sister took those before I could get to the meat freezer (dammit). The blue line shows, approximately, the delineation between the St. Louis ribs (below) and the rib tips (above). Note how the inner membrane only covers about the right 2/3 of the ribs.

The yellow polygon shows where the ribs attached to the sternum of the pig. Based on the orientation of the ribcage, these spare ribs are from his or her right side. Rest peacefully, little pig.

The meat on spare ribs is not quite as consistent throughout as in baby back ribs, and there are a couple ribbons of fat, but these can be delicious if made properly. As is often the case, I will prep the meat with seasoning in the fridge for a few hours, followed by indirect cooking with wet wood chip smoking.

I made a mustard-based paste for the ribs. In a large mixing bowl, I added a 12 oz. bottle of ground mustard, 1 cup of brown sugar, and some generous spoonfuls of garlic powder, Lawry’s seasoned salt, Italian seasoning, and cayenne pepper. After removing the membrane from the concave portion of the ribs, I smeared on the paste and wrapped the ribs in foil. It sat in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.

Spare ribs ready for smoke!

The grill was set up for indirect cooking with hickory wood chips. I set it and walked away for a while.

Two hours of smoking

After a couple hours, I rotated the ribs and added more wood chips.

It was a great day. We were making corn, ribs, bratwurst, stuffed chicken, beans, and flank steak. Family was coming over, so it was a BBQ-heavy day. This is the sign your day is going well:

What? You don't see this outside your house all the time?

After about three hours, the ribs were ready to go.


Each rib is long and meaty. There’s a ribbon of fat between the meat and the bones, and there are some small bone bits up near the rib tip portions, so they’re not quite as kid-friendly as baby back. They are still darn tasty. I mean, it’s BBQed pork.

Ribs. Eat 'em.

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