Mostly about food, this blog is just a place for me to throw things that are of interest to me. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by an look around. This represents just some of the stops on the various pathways that this amateur home cook finds himself.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

How To: Trimming Spare Ribs the St. Louis way

Spare ribs are a very popular meat and are prepared in many ways across the country and around the world. For years, I always cooked them right out of the bag, and was happy, even though it meant dealing with the inedible sternum chunk of bone and gristle and the thin flap meat that was always overcooked.

Then I leaned about the "St. Louis" style ribs. It isn't a method of cooking, but instead is a method of preparing the rack of ribs for a more even cook and much better presentation. Not much goes to waste, and it tales little time to do for such a great reward.

Here's what we all pretty much start out with, a cryovac bag with a slab in it.
Here it is again, removed from the bag.
First step is to flip it over, and have a look at the flap meat. This is actually part of the diaphragm, and needs to be removed for looks and for even cooking.
Here I've started to cut the flap meat away.
And here it is, removed and set aside. Don't throw anything away just yet!
Still on the bone side of the ribs, you'll see the shiny membrane covering most of the back of the ribs. It needs to come off too, as it's really tough to chew through, and it prevents smoke and rub seasonings from getting through to the meat.

The best way to do this is with a butter knife - you don't need sharp, you need strong. Here I have worked the knife all the way through along a bone until it came out the other side.
The easiest way to pull it off is to free one end up, and then use a paper towel to grab the slippery devil and slowly pull it off. If you are lucky (or good), you might get it off all in one piece.
This membrane you can throw away. Here's a shot of the flap meat removed and the membrane removed as well.
In the above picture, if you look about a third of the way up from the bottom, you'll see a dark line running the length of the ribs, then turning 90 degrees up towards the tip of the knife. You will be removing this as well. You can find out just where to make this cut by flexing the ribs and feeling in this area - you can feel the joint where each rib bone ends and the cartilage begins - and that's where you separate them with a sharp knife.

Continue doing this down the ribs until you have separated them all. Once you get past the last (12th or 13th) rib, you make the perpendicular cut to separate the thin tail meat from the slab of ribs. Cutting off that end as well as the chine bone and catilege is what makes a St. Louis cut into a Kansas City cut (so I've been told). Remove all this meat and bone and set it aside, we'll get back to it. Here's what it looks like now.
Flip the rack back over, and search for and remove any globs of fat that don't need to be there. This varies from one slab to another. In this example, there is a big glob at the far right hand side. You don't have to get all the fat off, just the bigger pieces, as the rest will render out and keep the ribs juicy.
Now, set the ribs aside and go back to the meat you just trimmed off. On end will be all bone and gristle. Separate that part from the rest and remove ant meat form it you want to. This bony area is part of the chine bone (sternum), and isn't worth cooking on the smoker. Toss it out.

Take the rest of the large meat you trimmed off and remove any obvious areas of fat. What you are left with in trimming the rack of ribs is referred to as 'rib tips'. These can be saved and used in other dishes, or can be put on the smoker with the ribs. They will cook much faster, and so make nice 'chef's treats' for the cook! Here are all the pieces that were trimmed off this slab. I freeze them until I have a lot from several slabs and will use them for other dishes.
This really takes less time than you think, and the rewards are well worth it when you get to eat. Not only that, they look really professional when you serve them up!

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