Fall Off The Bone St Louis Style Ribs

Fall off the Bone St Louis style spare ribs can be daunting if you’ve never done it before, but if you follow the steps, you will deliver, every time, the most tender, mouth-watering ribs that you and your family and friends have ever tasted.

A racks of St Louis Style Ribs on a cutting board

Why You’ll Love These Ribs

The ribs are so tender. You can shake the rib, and the meat will come off the bone. The rub is slightly sweet with a bit of heat at the end.

There is the slightest ‘pull’ when you bite into it. This is how we like our ribs.

Now, I will preface this with this disclaimer: there are several ways of making delicious ribs.

You can smoke them, do them in the oven, cook ’em low and slow, and use various rubs that will all deliver various flavors and levels of tenderness. This is our favorite.

A st. louis style rib on a plate with potato salad
These pork ribs will amaze you.

So, if you enjoy a different flavor profile, feel free to use this as a ‘primer’ to come up with your own perfect rack of ribs.

Furthermore, if you are looking for a rib that isn’t QUITE falling off the bone, check out our other St Louis-style ribs.

These do not require wrapping. They’re still super tender but offer a clean bite with just a tad of tug. You can see that St. Louis style ribs recipe here.

If you’re wondering what to serve with these tender and delicious ribs you can try some of our favorites such as grilled corn on the cob, macaroni salad, and bbq baked beans.

What Others Have Said About These Ribs

Don’t take our word for it. Here’s just a sampling of what others have said about these crazy tender and delicious ribs:

“The wife said they were better than Chilis, better than hers and this was the first time i ever made st louis ribs. Thank you for being you, and sharing!”

“These are hands down the best ribs we’ve ever eaten. The instructions are bang on! Thanks so much for sharing we are eating them all the way up in Saskatchewan, Canada!”

“I am 60 years old and NEVER in my entire life have I had better, more juicy, fall off the bone ribs in ANY restaurant or bar-b-que!!!!!!!”

“Thanks for this. I was raised barbecuing, weekly, open pit. I’ve always struggled with pork ribs and this process delivered. Delicious.”

How To Make Fall Off The Bone St. Louis Style Ribs

Removing The Membrane

The first thing you want to do is remove the membrane (called the peritoneum) from the back of the ribs.

Unlike connective tissue that will render out during cooking, this membrane will remain chewy and tough and makes for an unenjoyable pork rib experience.

Typically, with pork spare ribs (which St. Louis Style are, just trimmed down), the membrane will still be on the ribs. I have found that pork baby back ribs, the membrane will have already been removed.

This is really a strong personal preference, but I have found that it’s better to remove it. I highly recommend it.

Just get a corner and rip it right off. This will allow your rub to penetrate the rib and get some more smoke.

If you have trouble, grab a spoon to get under it initially, then use a paper towel to hold on to it.

St Louis Style Ribs - the membrane being pulled of the ribs.

Once you have the membrane off, you want to apply your rub.

Applying The Rub To The Ribs

Holy smokes, there are tons of rubs out there. You can make your own, buy a rub … any number of options are available to you.

I have provided my ‘secret’ rub here. Feel free to use it; you won’t be sorry. This rub works well for St Louis Style ribs, baby back ribs, pork shoulders … pretty much anything. Keep it handy.

The Rub Ingredients

  • White Sugar – Adds a touch of sweetness to the ribs
  • Dark Brown Sugar – Additional sweetness plus aids in caramelization
  • Smoked Paprika – A base ingredient for a good Memphis-style rub
  • Garlic Powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • Oregano – Adds an earthiness to the rub
  • Cayenne Pepper – A touch of heat. If you want them spicer, add a touch more. Milder, omit.
  • Cumin – Adds some good smokiness.
  • Black Pepper
  • Dry Mustard – A traditional barbecue rub ingredient. Aids in tenderizing.

Just mix the rub ingredients together in a small bowl, and it’s ready to go.

Apply the rub liberally to both sides of the ribs.

Allow the ribs to rest with the rub for 2 hours to 24 hours. Refrigerate if needed, and cover them with plastic wrap if you do.

Most rubs contain a good amount of salt. This dry rub will begin to work on the meat, drawing out the moisture, then reabsorbing it into the meat, taking that delicious rub into it.

Pro tip / science

The salt in the rub (or dry brine) passes into the meat, forcing the protein to bind with the meat’s moisture more tightly. This means that during the cooking process, the meat is prevented from shrinking and squeezing out water. This equates to a much juicier rib.

The longer you can let your ribs rest, the more flavor you can get into your meat. I usually do mine overnight.

Planning The Cook

When you’re ready to start this party, it’s time to prepare your grill/smoker. I cook my ribs for approximately 5 hours, from 225 to 250 degrees.

Two to two and one-half hours to smoke, one and a half to two hours wrapped, then about 30 minutes over some heat to crisp them up.

Pulling them on and off, doing this and that takes about 5 hours. So plan accordingly.

I use charcoal for my heat and hickory or pecan for my smoke. Pull the ribs out of the fridge about an hour before you plan on putting them on (if you refrigerate them).

note

I have used several methods regarding my smoke chips. I have soaked the chips and then applied them to the charcoal directly. I have also added dry chips to a bowl made of heavy-duty aluminum foil and placed them on the coals.

Both work great, but the dry method will burn pretty quickly, and you will need to watch your grill to ensure that smoke is always coming out.

There will be moisture from the dry rub doing its thing with the ribs, depending on how long you rested them. If you have some gloves, you might want to wear them. No worries, though … it washes off.

Apply another generous amount of rub on both sides. Then place the ribs in your smoker/grill.

Smoking The Ribs

Maintaining a temperature of 225-250 degrees, smoke your St Louis Style ribs for about 2 hours using indirect heat (not over the heat source).

Using a 50/50 mix of water and apple cider vinegar (or apple juice), spritz the ribs about every 30-45 minutes to keep them moist.

St Louis Style Ribs on the grill.

Looks good, doesn’t it? Well, this is just stage one.

Pull your ribs off the grill/smoker. Tear off two large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil and place them on the counter. Put your ribs onto the tin foil.

Apply honey and three to four tabs of butter to one side of the rib, flip the ribs, and apply some more honey and butter. Seal up the ribs nice and tight as they’re going back on the grill.

St Louis Style Ribs topped with butter and honey.
These ribs look good enough to eat right now .. but wait!

note

However you wrap these ribs up, you want the meat side down when you return them to the grill, so make sure when you wrap them up, your seal is on top, the meat side down on the grill.

Put the ribs back on the grill for about another hour and a half. Maintain your temperature at 225-250 degrees. This will tenderize your ribs big time as well as stop the smoking process.

Take them off the grill and remove the foil. There will be a fair amount of juice, so be ready for that.

You should notice that the rib meat has pulled away from the ends of the bones and the internal temperature should be around 195 degrees or so.

note

Anything around 195 degrees F and up will give you a nice and tender rib. You run the ribs up to 200-205 degrees F, and you will definitely get that fall-off-the-bone experience.

Return to the grill and place over heat. We want to get some char on these ribs. It might be necessary for you to apply another amount of charcoal.

At this step, I usually add some more charcoal as I love some char to my ribs. Depending on the heat, I usually give them about 5 minutes on each side.

I then apply a generous amount of BBQ sauce to each side of the ribs and cook them for about 10 minutes further on each side, letting the heat caramelize the sauce onto the ribs.

Use your favorite barbecue sauce, or give our bourbon chipotle barbecue sauce recipe a try.

You should get some nice sticky ribs with the sauce and that honey.

St Louis Style Ribs on a wooden cutting board.
They are so tender I lost a bone taking them off the smoker!

Pull them off and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.

Closeup of smoked St Louis Style Ribs .
Sticky sweet and spicy goodness!

Cut the ribs into individual portions and serve with your favorite sides. You WILL BE the hero of the day, I swear it!

St Louis Style Ribs on a plate with potato salad.
Look at that smoke ring!

We always seem to go with a potato salad and deviled eggs with our ribs.

Closeup of the St Louis Style Ribs on a plate with potato salad.
Melt in your mouth tender and delicious ribs!

You can watch the video for the full process. The best part is the cutting, where you can plainly see how tender these ribs are.

Even with a sharp knife, the meat wants to come off the bone at the slightest pressure of the blade. My wife even said that they “might be too tender.” What???

So, give it a whirl. If you do it, let us know how it went, we would love to hear about it. After this, St Louis Style ribs will be your go-to hero off the grill!

This video is one of my first, so please don’t judge too harshly. I will get better.

A Note On The 3-2-1 Method

If you’ve done some reading on preparing ribs, you probably came across the 3-2-1 method of preparing ribs.

If you haven’t, let me explain quickly. The 3-2-1 method is smoking (or cooking) the ribs low and slow (225-250 degrees F) for three hours, wrapping them and cooking them for 2 hours, then unwrapping them and cooking them for one additional hour.

After countless racks of smoking ribs, I don’t subscribe to this method. Neither do others with a more-than-middling affinity for the backyard barbecue.

The meat becomes too tender, and it loses the rib meat consistency. It becomes braised pork. This recipe follows a 5-hour cook at the maximum and still produces that fall-off-the-bone experience.

My wife likes more tug on her ribs (which means I am pulling them at 190 degrees F), while I prefer this method (pulling them around 198-200).

And there is a difference in tenderness with even these small fluctuations in temperature.

With that said, the best rib is the one you like the most. This is just additional information so you can knock your winning ribs out of the park.

Tips And Variations

  • Cook to temperature, not time. This is a great guide, but humidity, temperature, and other factors can affect the cook. Check the internal temperature when unwrapping. When they are at 195 degrees F, they’re ready to be put on for that final 30 minutes to an hour for fall-off-the-bone ribs.
  • Use your favorite rubs and barbecue sauce. If you use our rub, I suggest a Memphis-style barbecue sauce. Better yet, try our bourbon chipotle barbecue sauce!
  • This method works great with pork baby back ribs and pork spare ribs, too.

FAQ

What makes rib meat fall off the bone?

A low-and-slow cook that allows all the connective tissue to break down and become super tender. The internal temperature should be at 195 degrees Fahrenheit to start producing that super tender rib.

At what temperature can I pull the ribs?

Ribs are safe to eat at 145 degrees Fahrenheit but will be tough and chewy. 180 degrees will start to produce a more tender rib as the collagen, fat, and connective tissue breaks down. At 195-205 degrees, you will have a juicy, tender fall off the bone rib.

How long does it take for ribs to fall off the bone?

It’s not really the time but the internal temperature of the ribs and your method of cooking. An internal temperature of 195 degrees Fahrenheit will give you fall off the bone ribs. This can be accomplished as quickly as 2 1/2 hours to 6 hours, depending on the temperature of your cooking method.

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A racks of St Louis Style Ribs on a cutting board

Fall Off The Bone St Louis Style Ribs Recipe

St Louis Style Ribs – Perfect every time. You will not fail with this technique. Become the grill master at your home!
4.87 from 50 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Barbeque, BBQ, Grilling
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 684kcal
Author: Brad Harris

Ingredients
 

  • 1 Rack St Louis Style ribs
  • 6-8 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 Tablespoons Honey
  • 8 Oz BBQ Sauce

Rub Ingredients

  • C White Sugar
  • C Dark Brown Sugar
  • ½ C Smoked Paprika
  • ¼ C Garlic Powder
  • C Kosher Salt
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard

Instructions

  • Remove membrane from back of ribs.
    1 Rack St Louis Style ribs
  • Apply a liberal amount of rub to ribs.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap, let rest for 2 to 24 hours.
  • After rest, remove plastic wrap and add more rub liberally.
  • Start the smoker/grill.
  • Get grill/smoker to stable temperature (225 to 250 degrees).
  • Add smoking wood chips.
  • Put ribs on, meat side up.
  • Cook for 2 to 2 and one-half hours, spritzing every 30-45 minutes with a 50/50 mix of water and apple cider vinager( or apple juice).
  • Remove ribs from grill.
  • Lay ribs onto heavy-duty tin foil, add honey and butter equally to each side.
    6-8 Tablespoons butter, 4 Tablespoons Honey
  • Seal ribs in tin foil, place back on the grill for 1 to 1 and one-half hour.
  • Remove ribs from grill, remove ribs from tin foil.
  • Add more heat to grill, if needed.
  • Place ribs back on the grill over heat for app 5 minutes each side.
  • Cover in BBQ sauce.
    8 Oz BBQ Sauce
  • Cook each side for app 10 minutes, allowing the sauce to caramelize.
  • Remove from grill, set aside for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Cut into individual portions.

Notes

Smoke to temperature, not time. All racks of ribs and temperatures of pits vary.

Nutrition

Calories: 684kcal | Carbohydrates: 111g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 10199mg | Potassium: 763mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 89g | Vitamin A: 7527IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 110mg | Iron: 5mg

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54 Comments

  1. just made these and they are the BEST tasting ribs I’ve ever had – aboslutely perfect. thanks so much.5 stars

  2. These ribs are amazing! We have made them twice with St Luis ribs and guests have requested these instead of turkey for Thanksgiving. If I have a rack of St Luis and baby back, can I cook them together with the same instructions and times?5 stars

    1. For ‘fall-off-the-bone’, I would recommend aluminum foil to keep all that moisture trapped, which allows the ribs to really break down, almost braising them in their own juices.

  3. I tried this recipe on the 4th of July and let me tell you, it was the best ribs I’ve ever had. That was the 1st thing to go. And I cooked 2 full racks. Everyone is already wanting to know when I’ll be cooking more. Thanks for a great recipe. This is my new favorite rib recipe.5 stars

    1. Thanks, Angel! We appreciate that so much. Check back a bit later. We are doing another rib recipe using a mop versus wrapping. You might want to give that one a go as well. It rocks!

  4. This is my go to recipe for ribs. Delicious every time. I usually bake in the oven because I don’t want to fire up the smoker. Great recipe.5 stars

  5. I have made some very good ribs but these are now my favorite. Even my husband said they were the best ribs he has ever tasted! Thank you!

    I’ll definitely be checking out your web site for other ideas.5 stars

  6. I’m always one who adapts recipes. I followed the method on this one for temperature and time while using our Camp Chef pellet smoker. It was perfect! The ribs were tender without being mushy. The bark and smoke ring were outstanding! This will be my go to method for ribs!!! Thanks!5 stars

  7. How do you do this recipe if you don’t have a smoker? We just got rid of our old one and all I have is an electric grill and a standard kitchen oven.

    1. Emily, I am not quite sure if your grill is a ‘george foreman’ type or has an electric starter / propane grill. As it is, we only smoke using outside equipment. I would not feel comfortable offering advice on how to do this inside. Sorry 🙁

    2. I don’t have a smoker or a grill. At 70 I decided my large grill was too big for the 2 of us. I made the rub (without the Cayenne). Rubbed it on and put in fridge for 24 hours. Took out a couple of hours before putting in the oven at @275° for 4 hours. Used my homemade BBQ Sauce for the broiler. They were fantastic and fall off the bone.5 stars

  8. Awesome recipe, fantastic ribs. I’ve cooked it several times now here in New Zealand and it is a winner everytime. Thanks for posting it up.

    I cook them in a gas grill with a smokai smoking device and it works a treat.5 stars

  9. for the last step when bbq sauce is applied what temp is recomended ?
    new to smoking , i think 250 is our max . perhaps i should put on bbq for last step just not sure of temp

    1. You just want to put the sauce on there at the end and let it carmelize. The ribs will be done at this point.

  10. Thanks for this. I was raised barbecuing, weekly, open pit. I’ve always struggled with pork ribs and this process delivered. Delicious.5 stars

  11. The rub is excellent, and instructions are perfect. Only caution I would broadcast is with a small rack, it is done in barely 2 hrs. on a gas grill. The grill kept it at temp, and I used a smoker box with cherry chips. For the final foil bake, I transferred to my oven. It worked very well. The honey-butter is superb. Thank you!

  12. Can you cook these in the oven if you don’t have a grill? And if so, what temperature do I cook them and for how long?

    1. Hey Julie,

      Unfortunately, we have never made ribs in the oven. I know some people do, but I just can’t bring myself to do it that way. Hope you can find a good recipe for ribs in the oven!

  13. I am 60 years old and NEVER in my entire life have I had better, more juicy, fall off the bone ribs in ANY restaurant or bar-b-que!!!!!!! I did do a little variation on the rub to save some time. I used Holy Smokes (Badia) rub, and sprinkled a little Sazon Perfecta Seasoning from Save-a-lot grocery.

    I did melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a measuring cup and melted in the microwave for 45 seconds and added 1/4 cup honey, I brushed it on the ribs and the chicken I was smoking before I wrapped in the foil.

    When it came time to put the wrapped ribs back in the smoker, I was having a bit of trouble stabilizing the temperature at 225 to 250, so I just stuck them in the oven so the temp would be right.

    I had 16 people over and EVERYONE raved about my ribs. Again, I have never in my life had such juicy, fall off the bone ribs as yours. THANK YOU FOR THE PERFECT RECIPE, I will NEVER change.5 stars

    1. That’s great, Mark! I am glad you enjoyed them. Beautiful time to fire up that grill, too! We just started up ourselves here. We’ll be doing some baby back ribs here in the next month or so, check back!

      Take care!

  14. These are hands down the best ribs we’ve ever eaten. The instructions are bang on! Thanks so much for sharing we are eating them all the way up in Saskatchewan, Canada!5 stars

    1. Thank YOU so much, Julie! We certainly do appreciate it. We like them too, and pretty much keep to the same method every time. Experimentation is fun, but sometimes you just want some good ribs! 🙂

  15. The white elephant in the room you never addressed, and I don’t blame you, is how do you turn a regular kettle charcoal grill into a low’n’slow smoker?

    You can’t really. I keep failing and I’m a great griller!
    Regular indirect method, with charcoal, starts way too hot. You have to add at intervals. Try it lump and you’ll never see 250.
    I tried the “snake” method, but after 5 hours I still had to finish them in the oven. I tried the “minion” method and that escalated to high heat.
    I am not alone on the interwebs…many many charcoal grill-convert-to-smoker fail stories like mine. I watch the videos, I take notes, I read the how-to stories, but I can’t sustain 250 for 4-5 hours in a 22.5″ charcoal kettle.
    So I guess my question is, how did you do it?
    If you addressed this in the video then I apologize in advance. There is no video link for me, and that might be my fault for my ad-blocks.

    1. Hey Brent,

      Smoking low and slow with a kettle grill does raise the difficulty level compared to other grills/smokers, to be sure. but very do-able. I am not sure how you start your grill, I use a chimney. When I do a chimney for the kettle (for smoking), I don’t do a full chimney, just a bit over half. I will then close all my grates and choke down that fire until it’s in the 250-degree range. Then I will start the smoking. If you’re around 275 that’s ok too .. just get it down as quickly as possible.

      Keep adjusting your vents to keep that temp in range. You will be adjusting a lot, and often. You will need to add more charcoal as well. I do relight a half chimney as needed and add it, choking it back down and readjusting all over again.

      If your temp shoots up for a few minutes, it’s not the end of the world as long as the bulk of the cook remains in that sweet zone of 225-250 degrees.

      But, with a kettle, there is no method I know of firing the fuel and leaving it for the entire cook. Nope, takes a lot of trips outside.

    2. Not really that important to stay on the 225-250 range. I smoke hot n fast at 275-310 and my ribs are perfect every time. Lots of competition teams cook this way. The key is looking for the pullback. Once it hits 1/4 inch and the bark is where you want it, pull those bad boys off and wrap in butcher paper instead of foil. Back on the heat and when the meat gets probe tender take em off.

      If you’re looking for a damn good smoker that wont break the bank, check out the pit barrel cooker. Great for those who want to take it up a notch from backyard grilling.5 stars

        1. You sure?

          You said this above:
          Note: However you wrap these ribs up, you want the meat side down when you return them to the grill so make sure when you wrap them up your seal is on top, the meat side down on the grill.

          1. Hey Nigel. So I looked back at my previous reply and totally misspoke. Meat side down, that’s what we do. I am sure they will get tender meat side up as well, but allowing that meat to almost braise in its own juices with guarantee a fall of the bone experience.

    3. My best success in the briquettes to smoker method have been this: snake technique (2 rows of coals run in a line, each briquette leaning on the briquette before it, with another row on top in the middle doing the same. Then put wood chips all along that). I get about 2 hours good smoke out of that.
      After I wrap in foil at the 2 hr mark, I move them to the oven at 235. There’s no more need foe smoke at this point, hence the foil. I give them 90 minutes like that, then unwrapped over blazing coals for 5 min per side.
      Just did them like this tonight. They were amazing. Just holding to the bone until I pulled lightly, and super tender and juicy.5 stars

  16. your rub recipe was excellent! The wife who only likes dry rub said so. i had to cook them for 3 hours at 300 in my oven because of the storm and they fell off the bone and tasted awesome, the butter and honey i think was key to the flavor. The wife said they were better than Chilis, better than hers and this was the first time i ever made st louis ribs. Thank you for being you, and sharing!
    Mike5 stars

    1. Man, that’s great Mike! We’re so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for letting us know.

      The storms got us this year too. There’s always the 4th!!

    2. Hi Mike, when you cooked yours in the oven, did you leave them wrapped in foil the whole time or just after doing the butter? Thanks!

  17. What kind of bbq sauce would you recommend? With all the choices out there I feel like that could make or break how they turn out. Also, do you ever leave them with using any bbq sauce and just crisp up the dry rub?5 stars

    1. Hey Matt,

      Wow … that’s a really good question. For us, we’re very very content eating them without sauce. The dry rub that we use packs tons of flavor. My wife would almost think it a crime to put sauce on them. Occasionally, though, I do like the punch of a sauce that I will just dip my rib into as I see fit. But as far as sauces go .. what do you like? I like a spicy sweet sauce and I find that “Sweet Baby Ray’s” Honey Chipotle brings it pretty nicely. We also enjoy whipping up some Alabama White a fair number of times. It pairs REALLY well with smoked meat. You can check that recipe out here -> https://dontsweattherecipe.com/alabama-white-bbq-sauce/ <-- This is highly recommended and it's SO easy to make. White BBQ sauce ... weird, right? Just give it a whirl sometime, it really is good! In the end, it's all about what you like. Sweet, spicy, peppery ... so many to choose from. Off the shelf, I'd go with Sweet Baby Ray's .. plenty of flavors to choose from. But I would whip up that Alabama White at least once to give it a try, though.

      1. I have watched a couple other videos on smoking ribs. I have noticed that some use a squirt bottle to spray onto the ribs while they’re not wrapped. My question…. is there any recommendations on a recipe to use for that process to give it better flavor? I know I can’t be just water… lol.

        1. Hey Robert. Yeah, the squirt bottle is usually filled with a mix of apple cider vinegar and water. The spray is to keep the ribs moist as they smoke. I do this as well. I fill my water bottle and add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to it to give the ribs a touch of tang.

    1. Hey John, refrigerate your ribs if you need to, but try to have them at room temperature when you’re putting them on the grill. So, if you’re only doing a couple of hours with the rub, no big deal if you leave them out. If you do it overnight toss them in a fridge and pull them out a couple of hours before you’re ready to start smoking. Thanks for pointing that out, I edited the post to make that more clear.

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