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Smoke St. Louis-Style Spare Ribs

Nashville pitmaster Pat Martin gives us his no-fail method 

Written by Erin Byers Murray

What differentiates St. Louis-style spare ribs from their traditional counterpart is the way they’re trimmed—they’re more consistent in size. Pat Martin of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, based in Nashville, treats them simply with dry rub, then smokes them on a kettle smoker for three to four hours. Each rack should weigh around two-and-a-half to three pounds and will feed two people, so buy accordingly. To prepare your kettle grill for indirect cooking, light lump charcoal in a chimney starter or in the bottom of the kettle grill itself. To control the temperature, open the vents wide to raise it and do the opposite to lower it. Avoid ever fully closing the top vent of your grill, as this will cause the smoke to get “stale” and will give your ribs a bitter, acrid taste. To test for doneness, Martin says that the meat will pull back from the tips of the bones at least half an inch. “You can also pick the ribs up using gloves and hold them horizontally from one end,” he says. “The ribs should droop in a natural arc when held this way. If they stick out straight, they are not done. If the rack feels like it will fall apart, it might be a little too done and needs to be removed immediately.” If you want to eat your ribs wet, brush them with barbecue sauce (he recommends Martin’s Sweet Dixie BBQ) about thirty minutes before they’re done, which will allow the sauce to caramelize.

Pat Martin’s St. Louis Spare Ribs 

Serves 2 people per rack

St. Louis spare ribs (1 rack per every 2 people)
¼ cup dry rub per rack (Martin uses his own Big Hoss Rub)
¼ cup barbecue sauce per rack (Martin uses his own Sweet Dixie Sauce; optional)
¼ cup rib rub per rack (Martin uses his own Dixie Rib Rub; optional)
Special equipment: Kettle grill; 25-pound bag charcoal; 10 pounds hickory chunks; barbecue gloves; charcoal chimney starter 

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