St. Louis vs. Baby Back Ribs: Which BBQ Style is Best?

St. Louis-style ribs are meatier, juicier, and cheaper than baby back ribs, making them a great value for BBQ lovers.

st louis vs baby back

Enjoying barbequed ribs with their charred, smoky deliciousness and messy barbeque sauce is one of life’s simplest yet greatest pleasures! Although, knowing what the difference is between St. Louis and baby back ribs is essential, particularly if you want to BBQ like a boss. 

St. Louis-style ribs are sourced from a pig’s belly area under its breastbones. Baby back ribs are cut from a pig’s backbone or spine area below their loin muscles. St. Louise’s ribs are cheaper, larger, meatier, and juicier, with more marbling than costly, leaner, and more tender baby back ribs.

Even though St. Louis style and baby back ribs are both great BBQ options, they are vastly different. They need to be prepared and barbequed in a specific way to ensure they are juicy and tender. So, if you want to enjoy the best ribs on the planet – read on!

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St. Louis Vs. Baby Back Ribs – Here’s The Best BBQ Style

St. Louis and baby back ribs have unique characteristics in terms of their meat content, flavor, marbling, and juiciness. So, with that said, let’s look at how they differ and the best way to prepare them for your next family barbecue.

Succulent St. Louis Spare Ribs

This BBQ style is native to St. Louis, Missouri, where these delicious spare ribs are prepared and cooked traditionally. St Louis ribs are sourced from a pig’s meaty belly, underneath their breastbone area.  

They differ from other rib cuts as their chewy cartilages and breastbones are removed in the quintessential St. Louis style, which leaves a rectangular-shaped piece of meat.

St. Louis ribs are flatter and contain far more meat and marbling fat than baby back ribs. They are easier to brown on the BBQ and pack a punch in the meaty flavor department!

These generous ribs typically weigh more than 2½ pounds, so they can easily feed up to four guests. They are usually a lot cheaper than baby back ribs, so they offer great value for money.

Lean Baby Back Ribs

st louis bbq ribs St. Louis vs. Baby Back Ribs: Which BBQ Style is Best?
St Louis style BBQ ribs glazed in sauce

Baby back ribs feature 10-13 slightly curved rib bones from the area near the pig’s backbone or spine below their loin muscles.

They earned their “baby back” nickname as they usually are wider on one of their sides and smaller (3-6 inches long) than regular sparerib cuts. Most importantly, they are not sourced from baby pigs. 

You may also be more familiar with their other names, which include loin ribs, back ribs, or pork loin back ribs. 

Unlike generous St. Louis ribs, baby back ribs only weigh between 1½-2 pounds on average. They can typically feed about 2 people, not 3-4 people like St. Louis ribs.

Although baby back ribs are typically much sought after as they are lean and tender, they are more expensive than St. Louis-style ribs. 

How To BBQ St. Louis And Baby Back Ribs Like A Boss!

Here are the best methods to prepare and BBQ delicious St Louis and baby back ribs. While the preparation time may take a little longer if you buy them untrimmed – good things come to those who wait, and you will be rewarded with juicy, moreish ribs. 

The Best Way To BBQ St. Louis Style Ribs

Even though you can opt for pre-trimmed St. Louise ribs, they are typically far more expensive. So, if you are on a tight budget, it’s cheaper to prep them at home. However, if you purchased pre-trimmed ribs, you could skip the first step. 

  1. Trim: start removing the rib’s cartilage and membrane by laying it flat. Then use a sharp kitchen blade to cut along the thickest segment of the ribs, slice your knife across the rib joint, and remove the inedible tips and cartilage.
  1. Eliminate the thin membrane by sliding your knife between the meat and the tough membrane. Grab a paper towel, and use it to lift the slippery membrane, then pull it away (in sections if it does not come off in one go). 
  1. Season: now it’s time to apply a vegetable oil coating to the ribs and create your favorite BBQ spice rub with chili powder and paprika. Or a St. Louis-style blend with coriander, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and brown sugar for caramelized deliciousness.
  1. Marinade: while you don’t have to marinade your ribs overnight, you can do so for at least an hour, as it will add an extra depth of flavor.
  1. BBQ: Preheat your grill to 350 degrees F, then place your charcoal on the right and left of your grill in true St. Louis style. Then let your ribs cook for at least 30 minutes. Remove them, and brush on some apple vinegar.
  1. Wrap the semi-cooked ribs in aluminum foil and place them back on the grill to cook for another 30 minutes.
  1. Apply BBQ sauce: the final step is to brush on some barbeque sauce and let the ribs cook for at least another hour until the caramelized meat falls off the bone.

How To BBQ Juicy Baby Back Ribs

BanginMeats ST LOUIS RIB RUB BBQ Seasoning

To prepare the baby’s back ribs for the grill, follow these steps, which are similar to the St. Louis preparation method, albeit with a low-and-slow grilling method:

  1. Trim: place the baby back ribs on a flat surface, then slide a sharp knife blade between the inedible membrane cover and the meat. Then lift the blade upward to remove the membrane or use a paper towel if it is too slippery. 
  1. Season: apply vegetable oil first and a substantial amount of your favorite blended dry-rub spices, ideally containing kosher salt to soften the meat and create a crispy coating, including some black pepper. 
  1. Marinade: like with St. Louis-style barbeques, marinading the baby’s back ribs overnight or an hour before cooking them is optional. Although marinating them beforehand does make them more tender.
  1. BBQ: using a smoker to cook the ribs for 3 hours over a low, 225 degrees F heat allows them to soak up the woody and tasty depth of flavor until the meat is juicy and super tender. However, it’s essential to apply BBQ sauce while they are cooking. 

St. Louis Vs. Baby Back BBQ Styles: The Final Verdict

There’s no doubt that St. Louis and baby back ribs are both great choices if you prepare and BBQ them correctly.

Although, having said that, St. Louis ribs offer better value for money as they contain more meat and marbling, which adds a rich meaty flavor. Hence, they also require fewer spices than baby back ribs.

However, baby back ribs are a great choice if you prefer leaner and less fatty meat. Especially when they are smoked and barbequed with a substantial amount of barbeque sauce to keep them moist and utterly irresistible. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know all the ins and outs of the best BBQ style, let’s address any lingering questions you might have before you light your fire. 

Are St Louis Style Ribs The Same As Baby Back?

While St. Louis and baby back ribs are both pork cuts of meat, they are vastly different in terms of their sizes, including their amount of meat and fat marbling. 

Which Is Meatier, St. Louis, Or Baby Back Ribs?

St Louis-style ribs are far meatier than baby back ribs, so they weigh more than their smaller cousins.

Is St Louis Style Baby Back?

No, they are entirely different as St Louis-style ribs tend to contain tougher fatty meat, with a distinctive pork flavor, compared to the more subtle flavor of lean baby back ribs.  

Which Is Better, Baby Back Or Spare Ribs?

It depends on your taste and whether you prefer juicier ribs, like spare ribs, or lean and tender like baby back ribs. 


Comparing the BBQ style of St. Louis versus baby back ribs is challenging as they are both excellent, with their distinct taste and utter deliciousness! Although St. Louis-style ribs are great if you love meaty and juicy cuts, baby back ribs are ideal for a leaner, tasty BBQ. 

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