Baby Back vs St Louis Ribs: What’s the Difference?


Next time you walk into your favorite BBQ joint and order a rack of ribs, your butcher will likely ask you about your preference between Baby Back vs. St Louis.

So do you know the difference?

It is not wrong that St. Louis ribs and Baby Back ribs have common elements and seem like similar things.

They look alike, their sizes are close, the processing procedure demands the same assets, and both types of ribs can be used for cooking in the same way. What makes them different?

Here’s the low down on both cuts of meat and how they are used in the smoking process.

What are Baby Back Ribs?

Baby back ribs come from a pig’s rib and are some of the most popular ribs you can buy at your local grocery store, barbecue joint, or restaurant. They are a tasty treat for many who have tried them.

Baby back ribs are lean and tender. They are meat strips cut from the joint between the rib and spine after the loin has been removed from the pig.

These rib chops are perfect for grilling, smoking, or even throwing on the rotisserie.

Some people think they are from a baby pig, but this is not true as baby pigs are not mature enough for pork harvesting. The “baby” in “baby back ribs” refers to their shorter length.

Depending on your butcher’s skills, baby back ribs will have about an inch of loin meat attached to the top. These ribs are tender and leaner than the longer spare ribs.

However, they are pricier compared to other ribs. One rack is about two pounds, and one-half of it is meat that would feed one hungry adult.

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How to Prepare Baby Back Ribs?

You can prepare baby back ribs in many ways, but most prefer different barbecue flavors. Not all baby back ribs flavors are the same, and you can choose one which meets your taste.

Some baby back ribs flavors add smoke and heat to bring out the tastiness, while other recipes go for the sweet taste. You can marinate baby back ribs with barbecue sauce to perfection, making the ribs come out very well.

You should have more than one towel sheet during the barbecuing process.

You should close the smoker and maintain the heat at 215 degrees Fahrenheit for about 3 hours until the baby back ribs are appropriately done.

However, if BBQ does not satisfy your buds, you have baby back ribs preparation alternatives.

You can use dry seasonings like pepper and brown sugar to coat the slab. You may add salt to taste and let the marinade sink in during the spice rub.

Finally, you can toast your baby back ribs in the oven and let them roast to your desired taste. However, you should use an oven bag that ensures the baby ribs maintain moisture.

Baby back ribs are suitable for preparing a one or two-person rib serving due to the little meat on the ribs. Moreover, it is easy to overcook due to its curvy appearance, making it impossible to attain an even browning.

The overcooking could be associated with less meat on the steak. It is a healthy choice as it does not have excess fats and cooks easily over other ribs.

You can serve the ribs with side dishes such as herbed potato salads, crispy corn, tomato coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, spicy jicama, and grapefruit. There are endless choices for ribs, and you should go for the healthy side dishes which accompany these highly marinated ribs.

What are St Louis Ribs?

St. Louis-style ribs look like baby back ribs, but they’re different in a few ways.

To begin with, St. Louis ribs start off as spareribs but have had the sternum, cartilage, and rib tips removed. They are trimmed down to a rectangular shape, making them far easier to cook and eat.

St. Louis ribs are cut from the hog’s belly after removing the pig’s belly. These ribs are juicer and are trimmed down by cutting away the hard breastbone and the chewy connective tissues.

These ribs are flat and easy to brown, and have a lot of bone, but the high amount of fats makes them juicy.

St Louis Ribs Preparation Process

If you wish to prepare the St. Louis ribs for your family, choose fresh spare ribs from your butcher and remove the membrane on the side of the rack. You can easily remove the membrane by peeling from the corner of the membrane using a dull knife that cuts between the membrane and the rib.

After removing the membrane, you can add robust flavors and leave them in the fridge overnight. You can remove the ribs from the refrigerator, sprinkle desired oils onto the ribs until they are tacky and wet, turn over the ribs, and repeat the process.

You can smoke it for 3 hours with the lid closed, transfer it to the cooking sheet, close it, and turn the temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are considering hosting a party, St. Louis ribs are your choice since they are meatier. The meat can serve more people leaving your guests feeling full. Moreover, it has more bones and a high-fat concentration, which makes it flavorful.

It is one of the party meals, and you can make it during holidays such as summer festivals and family meetings.

However, it would be best to accompany it with healthier side dishes such as salads and fruit servings since it is fattier than other ribs.

Differences Between Baby Back and St Louis Ribs

Baby Back RibsSt Louis Ribs
Baby back ribs are cut from the point the ribs meet the spine after the loin has been removed.

Although they are called baby back ribs, they do not imply they come from a baby pig.

These ribs are smaller than the spare ribs and are arched-shaped
St. Louis ribs are cut from the spare ribs harvested from the animal's belly after removing its belly.

The spareribs from the belly are trimmed down by cutting away the membranes and the breastbone giving it a rectangular shape.

St. Louis ribs are flatter than the baby ribs and become browner easily due to their shape. The arched-shaped baby back ribs might take some time to attain the browning due to uneven heat distribution

It has less bone mass and little amount of fat and is ideal for health-conscious meat consumers
.St. Louis ribs have more bone mass and a higher amount of fat, making them more flavorful. 

Baby back ribs cook within a shorter time than the St. Louis ribs as they are leaner, have slimmer bones, and fewer fats.

It might take about 3 hours to cook the baby back ribs completely
It could take about 6 hours to cook the St. Louis ribs.

Better for feeding fewer people due to their size
.The St. Louis ribs can feed more people due to their size and the amount of meat attached to the bones. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s Better: St Louis Ribs or Baby Back?

People’s preferences between the two ribs differ and could depend on the desired BBQ outcome. If you want juicy and flavorful meat for a large family or an occasion, we advise you to go for the St. Louis ribs.

The ribs are more flat, easy to brown and cook, and have large meat junks that will feed a large crowd.

However, if you want to enjoy your BBQ with your loved one, you would go for baby back ribs as they make a juicy meal. It has less meat, which can be the right serving for one or two people.

Do You Cook Spare Ribs and Baby Back Ribs the Same?

No, you cannot cook the spare ribs and the baby back ribs the same, as the spare ribs would need more time to cook as they are larger than the baby back ribs and could need low-heat cooking.

Baby ribs are shorter than the spare ribs by a few centimeters and have an inch of meat on them, while the spare ribs have large bones and more meat junk attached to them and cook in less time.

The secret is to add a flavorful marinade to both types of meat and adjust the smoking and BBQ time accordingly to get the perfect brewing and cooking.

What is One Serving of Baby Back Ribs?

One serving of baby back ribs is two pounds and can serve one hungry adult.

Can You Overcook Baby Back Ribs?

It is possible to overcook baby back ribs, especially if you don’t follow the correct cooking procedure. The issue with these ribs is the arched structure which does not result in an even browning; uneven browning might result in overcooking.

Moreover, the ribs have thin bones and little meat attached to the bones resulting in quick cooking. You can easily overcook the ribs if you are not careful about the cooking time.

Are Baby Back Ribs Healthy?

Baby ribs are healthy, especially since they are leaner than the St. Louis ribs. They have fats that make them unhealthy and have an inch of lean meat attached.

It is easy to get the right serving size and is the best meat for health-concerned people.

What Do You Eat With St Louis Ribs?

You can eat St. Louis ribs with slow-cooked collard greens, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, crispy corn fritters, grapefruit and mango salad, cornbread, fried green tomato, and fried pickles.

There are endless possible side dishes for St. Louis ribs, and you can choose one which meets your taste.

How Do You Tell When St Louis Ribs Are Done?

When preparing your St. Louis ribs at home, you should ensure they are well done, and it can be difficult as the ribs come in different weights and thicknesses. The open and closed oven could determine how long the ribs take to get done.

When done, your ribs would be ready, safe to eat but not ready yet. St. Louis cuts might take about six to seven hours, depending on the slab thickness.

BBQ ribs should not fall off the bone.

However, if you boil or steam your St. Louis ribs, they can fall off the bone since they absorb solvents during cooking. BBQ ribs will rip off the bones when you bite your teeth, but some might still have resistance and chews like a cooked steak.

At What Temperature is St Louis Ribs Done?

You should cook your ribs from 190 degrees Fahrenheit to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. There might not be a need to read the temperatures as the meat varies in size and thickness.

It might take about 5 hours to get the meat ready to cook within these temperature ranges.

Your meat should have brown crusty bark, and all the fats and collagens should melt completely.

However, you should check the state of the meat to ensure it is properly done before removing it from the oven.

Do St Louis-Style Ribs Have a Membrane?

Yes, the St. Louis ribs have a membrane that can hinder cooking, and you need to peel it off before marinating. You can use a blunt knife to cut through one edge of the steak and peel off the membrane carefully.

If the membrane breaks before you completely peel, you can cut it off with a blunt knife.

How Long Should I Smoke Baby Back Ribs?

Baby back ribs can be well cooked in 3 hours and 15 minutes in the right conditions. Maintaining the internal oven temperatures at 225 degrees Fahrenheit when cooking baby back ribs is wise, and avoiding opening the smoker until the time is up.

However, if you don’t have enough time, you can bake it in the oven in an oven bag, and it will be ready in less than an hour. You should not boil baby back ribs as you are not trying to create corned beef.

How Many Pounds of St Louis Ribs Per Person?

You won’t be able to eat just one. The St Louis Ribs are a cut above the rest, weighing between 2-3 pounds with plenty of meat per bone for your enjoyment. Give them about 4 or 5 ribs at most people’s dinner table, and you’re set for an evening full o’ rib deliciousness.

Baby Back Ribs vs Spare Ribs: What’s the Difference?

Baby back ribs are a great choice for those who want to avoid the occasional tough section of meat that can often be found in spare ribs. The loin area where these come from provides more surface area, which means there’ll likely still be plenty on top and between each bone after cooking.

Spare ribs are meat from the end of the baby back ribs. One side has exposed bone, and the other side is near the breast bone, where there are small bones and cartilage.

Why are Baby Back Ribs More Expensive?

Baby back ribs are more expensive because they are in high demand. There are not as many to go around, so people want them. When compared to spare ribs, baby back ribs are smaller and leaner. They have 11-13 ribs, enough for one person’s appetite.

Spare ribs have about twice as many pieces of meat, so two people can eat from one rack of spareribs.

What are the Meatiest Ribs?

Country-style pork ribs are the meatiest type of ribs. They come from the loin of the pig, near to the shoulder of where you would find carnitas and pulled pork. Country-style pork ribs have a higher ratio of meat to the bone than other ribs, so people use a knife and fork to eat them instead of their hands.

You can also buy boneless country-style ribs, just long sections of muscles found in the loin, along with intercostal meat.

What Type of Ribs is the Most Tender?

Baby back ribs are more expensive because they are the most tender. You can tender them by cooking them slowly with low heat for 2 to 2.5 hours at 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Some say you should boil your ribs before cooking, but this only makes your meat lose flavor.


Does the term baby back ribs and St. Louis ribs confuse you when you are at the butcher alone?

Many people don’t know the difference between the two. You are not alone, but baby back ribs are smaller ribs cut from the joint between the rib and spine after the loin has been removed from the pig.

On the other hand, St. Louis ribs are cut from the hog’s belly after removing the pig’s belly. We hope this baby back vs. St. Louis ribs comparison helps you know the difference and make the right decision next time you are at the butcher.

Bobby Johnson

When he's not writing about barbecue, you can find Bobby smoking meat for friends and family. He's been a backyard pitmaster for roughly half his life, and has worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands-on guide to teach them BBQ, but that's what Bobby hopes to do with Electric Smoker HQ. He wants to help people create amazing food that they can be proud of.