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3-2-1 St. Louis-Style Ribs

3-2-1 St. Louis-Style Ribs
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The following recipe and photography is courtesy of Graham R. and his dog, Carl. For more of their delicious food ventures, visit them on Instagram @cookingwithcarrrl.

When it comes to BBQ, ribs are king! Burgers, brisket, chicken and sausage are all crowd pleasers, but if you’ve got a lip smackin’ rack of ribs at your barbecue, then you’ve got a party!

Today, I prepared a rack of spare ribs that were trimmed down into a St. Louis-style rack. Spare ribs come from the belly of the pig, meaning they are meatier and contain a lot more fat than their popular rival, baby back ribs. Both are delicious, but the fat content in spare ribs produces more flavor.

3-2-1 St. Louis-Style Ribs Ingredients

What’s a St. Louis-style rack of ribs, you ask? They are spare ribs that have the rib tips, cartilage and sternum removed. This makes the rack more uniform in shape, allowing for a more even cook and desirable presentation. Heinen’s carries pre-cut St. Louis-style racks, and they are amazing! Cut to perfection and wonderfully marbled, you can’t go wrong. If you are preparing your own, be sure to save the rib tips and cook those as well! They are a great treat for the chef!

To cook these ribs, I used the classic 3-2-1 method: 3 hours uncovered, 2 hours wrapped and 1 final hour uncovered. This style is very straight forward and can be done in the oven too, although I strongly recommend busting out the grill! This method ensures tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs, which is what we all crave.

3-2-1 St. Louis-Style Ribs

After you try these ribs, you’ll no longer want your baby backs back!

3-2-1 St. Louis-Style Ribs

3-2-1 St. Louis-Style Ribs


For the Ribs

  • 1 rack St. Louis-style ribs
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup beer, beef broth or soda (for moisture)

For the BBQ Rub

  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. dark chili powder
  • 2 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

For the Elliot Ness BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup sweet onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup Elliot Ness*
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. hot honey
  • 4 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika


For the Sauce and Spice Rub

  1. To make the rub, simply mix all of the spices together. For more sweetness, add an additional Tbsp. of brown sugar. I recommend making a double batch to keep in the spice rack.
  2. For the sauce, start by melting the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and season with 1/4 tsp. of salt. Cook for 10 minutes until the onions start to caramelize. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring often, until it reduces by more than half. Taste the sauce along the way. The longer it reduces, the stronger the flavor! Store in an airtight jar for up to a week.

*For more bite, add an additional 1/2 cup of beer and add 7 minutes to the cook time.

For the 3-2-1 Method

  1. Preheat the smoker or grill to 225˚F. For these ribs, I used a Pellet Smoker. These are becoming very popular due to their ease of use. They are great for busy households and anyone looking to get into barbecue.
  2. Remove the membrane on the backside of the ribs. Start at the side with the bigger bones and carefully slide a butter knife on top of the bone and underneath the membrane. Get a little piece up and grab it using a paper towel, then pull slowly, removing as much as you can. Removing the membrane allows the rub to penetrate the meat, which creates a more tender bite.
  3. Cover the ribs in the mustard. This will help the rub stick to the meat during the cooking process. Then, cover the ribs in the rub. Use all of it and get every inch of the ribs.
  4. Place on the smoker, grill or oven for 2 1/2 hours.
  5. Check the ribs after 2 1/2 hours. If the internal temperature is 165˚F, remove them. If not, allow them to complete their 3 hour tour.
  6. Carefully remove the ribs and place them on aluminum foil. Cover each side with brown sugar, honey and butter (1/2 Tbsp. slices). Fold the foil around the ribs so the juices can’t escape and add your liquid of choice. I went with Elliot Ness to compliment the sauce.
  7. Wrap the ribs tightly and return to the grill for 2 hours.
  8. After 2 hours, remove the ribs from the foil. Brush on 2 Tbsp. of sauce and return to the grill for an hour. The ribs are done when the probe of your thermometer goes into the ribs like butter. The temperature should be between 190-200˚F.
  9. Remove the ribs from the grill and wrap them in foil for at least 30 minutes prior to slicing. This resting time is critical and should not be skipped. All of the juices will seep back into the meat during this resting period.
  10. After 30 minutes, slice and enjoy!

3-2-1 St. Louis-Style Ribs

Graham Russell

By Graham Russell

Graham Russell is half of the outdoor cooking duo behind CookingWithCarrrl. A true pairing of Beauty (Carl) & the Beast (Graham) – CookingWithCarrrl combines humor with easy-to-follow charcoal grilled/smoked recipes that the family will be sure to devour. Cooking with charcoal can be intimidating, but we are here to show you any dog can learn a new trick. Graham currently resides in Northeast, Ohio with his wife, two daughters, and dog, Carl.

Recent Reviews

  1. Trying 3/2/1 method for the first time. Made them in the oven, and I am excited to see and try the results!

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