St. Louis style ribs vs. Baby Back ribs?

Fight this Northerner’s ignorance: what’s the difference, in terms of what ends up on your plate? I googled around and learned that “St Louis” ones are cut from spare ribs, while baby back are from the “meaty loin area”…which left me not at all more informed.

Does one have more meat per rib than the other? Is there a difference in taste of the meat? (Rather than a difference from what sauce is used.)

See here for details. St. Louis are usually a bit meatier, but the taste is pretty much the same.

The Other Master speaks.

Let’s just ask a butcher (scroll down under more questions and answers)
Personally I think that St. Louis style are the best, but I have friends that swear by baby backs. YMMV.

Aha, very informative, especially the charts. So its all the same ribs, just different sections along their length. Simple, clear, me like.
But one group says the baby backs have more meat, the other says the St. Louis are meatier. One reference says the Baby backs taste best, another pulls for the St. Louis, and a third goes for Spare ribs.

What is a girl to do?

I know. Eat them all! :smiley: Tomorrow I will round up hubby and my best friend and we will conduct a scientific taste test using full slabs of all three.

And if there are leftovers…more taste tests the day after.
Some sacrifices are just forced upon us.


I think the taste test will be of benefit to us all.

On a personal note, regular spare ribs, while very meaty, always had an inferior taste to me.

I’ve always preferred baby backs over St. Louis, but I think that’s only because they quite often are seasoned in a different way. The St. Louis rub is a very distinctive style. I don’t prefer that seasoning. Baby backs strike me more as seasoned the way you would in Southern Virginia, and the Carolinas(with parts of S. Carolina thrown in). St. Louis style are seasoned more along the lines of the way people BBQ in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri-Oklahoma, and parts of Alabama/Mississippi. I know I’m generalizing, but I’ve eaten a few Q’s in my day.

You learn well, young padawan.

The difference is in the cut, not how they’re rubbed, seasoned, or cooked.

A spare rib is the whole rib. St. Louis rib is the same as a spare rib, but with the chine bones and skirt removed. The Baby back IIRC isn’t actually a rib, per se, but the pork chop bone with some meat left on it.

Says Duke, who’s won a few rib cook-offs in his day. And, FWIW, went to the store Saturday morning to get some spare ribs but they were out. I got loin back ribs and cooked them just as I would spare ribs except for time (they are small). Same seasoning, same prep, all that.

Do a little reading Here and follow the links here and here. You’ll learn all about the different cuts of ribs. How you cook them is up to you.

Thanks. Those were great links and I bookmarked them. And they DID explain the difference.

I guess what I’m complaining about is something sold in the commercial grocery stores called “country spare ribs” or something to that effect. They are incredibly meaty. But I"ve never liked the taste when I’m done. I’m a novice on the grill, but I know what I like to eat. And they aren’t it.

Baby backs are certainly the more popular cut, but I far prefer spares and consider them more flavorful, more meaty, and more difficult to cook well. My very favorite rib actually is the tip (the stuff that gets cut off a spare rib to make the St. Louis cut.)

Baby backs are leaner and have a bit more “hammy” taste when smoked, for lack of better description. Spare ribs are fattier, meatier, and have a more pork-shoulder-like taste when smoked. Spare ribs generally take longer to cook, and baby backs are generally better suited to grilling than spares, although both types of ribs can be slow smoked or grilled.

The baby back is indeed a rib. It’s “country style ribs” that aren’t ribs.

THAT’s the one I’m complaining about.

Here’s a detailed chart. Spare ribs are the side rib. Baby backs are labeled “back ribs.” Country-style ribs would come from around the area marked as “Shoulder blade” and “Rib chop/rib roast.” They are bone-in loin cuts from the part of the pig nearest the shoulder.

Oh, and I’ve never in my life seen a baby back that’s meatier than a spare rib. That’s pretty much impossible, unless the spare comes from an emaciated pig and the baby back comes from a king-sized hog.