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How to Trim Spare Ribs

Have you wanted to take a full rack of spare ribs and trim it down to a St. Louis cut? Well, let’s discuss what spare ribs are in the first place. Spare ribs are taken from the belly of the pig and are longer than their counterpart baby back ribs. As spare ribs are take from the belly the meat has been removed to make bacon and many other cured meats. As a result, there is less meat on spare ribs but more fat equating to better flavor. St. Louis style spare ribs have been cleaned up by removing the breastbone and excess cartilage. The St. Louis cut is perfectly rectangular in shape and is used for KCBS competitions. That is why trimming spare ribs is an important skill to learn when first starting out in the BBQ world. Now sit back, grab an ice cold beer, and enjoy this post for How to Trim Spare Ribs.

How to Trim Spare Ribs

As discussed above spare ribs fully intact look nothing like the St. Louis ribs you are used to seeing at KCBS competitions. The breastbone and excess cartilage are still in place making the rack of ribs bigger without uniform shape.   

How to Trim Spare Ribs

First step is to remove the skirt: Flip the ribs so the bone side is facing up towards you. The skirt is a strip of meat the runs along the membrane line on the bone side. If you do not trim this piece, it will take longer for this end to cook as it is twice as thick. Take a knife and run it under the skirt to remove. You can save this for stock if you want to. Once you have trimmed the skirt ensure ribs are even and if not trim more until they are.

Next step is to remove the membrane: Keeping the bone side up towards you, find the membrane. The membrane is a white film over the bone section of the rack. This membrane is a waterproof film and keeps out flavor from the rub and smoke. Take a butter knife, lift up the membrane on the 3rd bone in, then take a paper towel and get a good grip on the membrane. Pull straight up and away from the rack of ribs.

How to Trim Spare Ribs

Final step is to remove the rib tips: This is an area of meat above the ribs that contains cartilage and connective tissue. To find this area try to fold the ribs on to themselves lengthwise like closing a book. Ribs don’t bend but the rib tip section does and that is the part you want to cut off. It isn’t necessarily a straight line but remember if the section bends, it’s coming off. Just find that line separating the ribs from the rib tips and cut away until you have just the ribs remaining. Now you are ready to smoke the ribs. NOTE: you should keep the ribs tips and cook them separately as they are delicious and make for a nice “pitmaster” treat after the cook and before you serve your guests!

Finally you are left with a perfectly trimmed set of spare ribs ready to hit your smoker! 

How to Trim Spare Ribs

Here are some of my favorite spare rib recipes to use:

Big Green Egg Hot and Fast Spare Ribs

Smoked Korean Spare Ribs on the Big Green Egg

SuckleBusters Spare Ribs

St Louis Ribs Dizzy Pig Style

Big Green Egg Ribs and Chicken

How to Trim Spare Ribs

How to Trim Spare Ribs

The BBQ Buddha
Depending on where you get your ribs you may need to trim them before you smoke them. Some butcher shops will do this for you if you ask. Other shops may sell them already trimmed up. If you find yourself with a full rack of spareribs, here is the best way to prepare them for smoking.
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 hrs
Total Time 5 hrs 10 mins
Course Main
Cuisine American
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 full rack of spare ribs

Instructions
 

  • Remove the skirt: Flip the ribs so the bone side is facing up towards you. The skirt is a strip of meat the runs along the membrane line on the bone side. If you do not trim this piece, it will take longer for this end to cook as it is twice as thick. Take a knife and run it under the skirt to remove. You can save this for stock if you want to. Once you have trimmed the skirt ensure ribs are even and if not trim more until they are.
  • Remove the membrane: Keeping the bone side up towards you, find the membrane. The membrane is a white film over the bone section of the rack. This membrane is a waterproof film and keeps out flavor from the rub and smoke. Take a butter knife, lift up the membrane on the 3rd bone in, then take a paper towel and get a good grip on the membrane. Pull straight up and away from the rack of ribs.
  • Removing the rib tips: This is an area of meat above the ribs that contains cartilage and connective tissue. To find this area try to fold the ribs on to themselves lengthwise like closing a book. Ribs don’t bend but the rib tip section does and that is the part you want to cut off. It isn’t necessarily a straight line but remember if the section bends, it’s coming off. Just find that line separating the ribs from the rib tips and cut away until you have just the ribs remaining. Now you are ready to smoke the ribs.
Tried this recipe?Mention @the_bbq_buddha or tag #the_bbq_buddha!

 

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