Ask Chef Mike: Trimming Spare Ribs

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Q: I’ve been told there are various ways to trim Spare Ribs with a popular method called a “St. Louis cut.” How do I trim spare ribs to make them St. Louis style? —Peter
A: Hi Peter…

Thanks for your e-mail.

Pork ribs are sold in slabs usually having 11 to 14 bones, depending on how they were trimmed by the butcher. At the retail level, ribs are sold either whole or trimmed “St. Louis” style where the sternum, costal cartilage and skirt meat is trimmed off. It’s less expensive to buy whole slabs and trim them yourself… plus you’ll have lots of tasty tidbits for nibbling on!

Here’s how I trim a full slab of ribs to make St. Louis style:

Remove the ribs from the packaging and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels.

Trim off the rib tips (or knuckle bones) and sternum: Place the slab bone side up on a cutting board and feel for the end of the ribs with your fingertip. Using a very sharp boning knife cut just above the ends of the bones down the length of the slab.

Remove the skirt: The skirt is a small piece of meat on the bone side of the slab. Trim this off and save it for snacking.

Remove the silverskin: Remove the membrane from the bone side of the slab. Use a butter knife to pry up an edge of the membrane at the sternum end of the slab – the end with the longest bone. Grasp it with a paper towel and pull it off toward the other end of the slab.

There is a thin layer of membrane-like material beneath the silverskin you have just removed. Don’t try to remove this; it’s what holds the ribs and meat together.

Trim Up The Rack: With the membrane removed and trimming complete, scrape away any large deposits of fat hiding between the bones. Next, flip the slab over and cut off any large areas of fat on the meat side of the slab.

If you want, you can trim off the smaller ribs to make a more uniform slab but it’s not necessary.

There you have it… a slab of ribs trimmed St. Louis style.


Mike Stines is a professional chef and the Grilling and Gadgets Editor for the Burn! Blog. Mike holds a “Doctorate of Barbeque Philosophy” (Ph.B) degree from the Kansas City Barbeque society. His book—Mastering Barbecue (Ten Speed Press, 2005)—has been called the “go-to” book for BBQ knowledge.

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Grilling & BBQ Editor | Mike holds a “Doctorate of Barbeque Philosophy” (Ph.B.) degree from the Kansas City Barbeque Society. His book Mastering Barbecue has been called the “go-to” book for BBQ knowledge.