I know everyone feels their ribs are the best. I have had Memphis ribs and dry rub is fine. I have had plenty of Kansas City Ribs and yes,I like Gates. I have had North Carolina ribs but don't believe mustard has any place on slabs. Houston's ribs have merit, they are very smoky but the sauce is not quite right for me.
We are from St. Louis and truly believe ours are the very best. Our sauce is both tangy and sweet-Maul's is a good bet. But we simply start with the bottled sauce. We then cook that sauce in a saucepan adding brown sugar, dried onions and fresh lemon juice. We reduce this sauce and that is what we use on our ribs. The sauce is just a condiment however. The ribs should be able to stand alone completely without sauce. We believe if they "need sauce" they are just not right.
The rib tips are removed from the slab of rib and that's what makes them St. Louis style at the grocery store. We season and cook the rib tips at the same time but never while they are still attached. The wood is hickory, forget the chips, get logs. Never use mesquite if you want the flavor of St. Louis ribs. The meat should be cooked in a barrel shaped pit, slow and low. These barrel smokers are laid vertically and sliced in half with hinges. They can now be purchased at Home Depot but when I was growing up, Dad had friends that made them for him.
Once the tips are cut away from the rest of the slab, its time to remove the membrane. Their is a thin tough plastic looking membrane on the back of the ribs. This must be removed with your fingers in order for your ribs to accept the seasoning and in order for them to cook until tender and accept the hickory smoke. You must pull hard.
The seasonings are always, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika. While the ribs are cooking, you will sprinkle the ribs with water mixed with white vinegar and the all of the same spices.
As in most delicious food, the secret is not so much the ingredients as the technique. Dad rubbed the seasonings into the meat with both hands. He massaged the ribs before cooking. If you are queasy about touching raw meat, you can not be truly great at bar b que ribs. Sorry. Too much salt spoils the whole deal and too little salt shows you don't have enough experience.
Vinegar helped the seasonings soak into the meat. He would leave the seasoned meat to rest for a while before taking them to the grill. The meat would only see the pit once the coals were white. In the fire with the charcoal, was a log of hickory wood.
That's when the magic happened, Dad's ribs were never done until the meat fell off the bone. He did not boil, parboil, or use any precooking method. The ribs were fully cooked in the barrel over a very low fire.
This low and slow process would beckon friends and family from far and wide. The aroma would draw the ever present flow of visitors to our house and keep them there, almost every summer weekend.
Now that I know how difficult it is to match the greatness of my father's ribs, I bow to his greatness. Now that you know his secrets, you too can be great. Once condition though, when you master these ribs, I ask that you share a slab with me. God Bless You!