Trim Spare Ribs, or Not?


Joe L

TVWBB Member
As a relative newbie to BBQ, I find that just when I think I know what I'm doing, something comes along to make me wonder just what I do know.

The other day I was reading a thread here about commercial rubs and saw a lot of positive comments about the Texas BBQ Rub. So, I went to the Texas BBQ Rub website to learn more. On the website, they say "Revealed Here, Barbecue Cooking Secrets, BBQ Tips, and BBQ Recipes... You Can Use Tonight!". So, I signed up to get the secrets. They email them to you.

The latest tip email I received says don't waste time trimming spare ribs into the St. Louis cut. The tip says to cook the whole spare ribs because some of the best tasting meat is down in the knuckles of the rib.

I do know that most of the popular BBQ joints here in Tampa serve only spares and do not trim them at all. The BBQ restaurants that I see on TV shows (e.g., Barbecue America) don't trim their spares, and those restaurants are lauded as some of the best in their areas.

From the comments I've seen on this forum in the short time that I've been here, I would guess that most of the folks here that cook spares trim them to St. Louis style, but my guess could be wrong. On Saturday I cooked three racks of spare ribs St. Louis style, and I thought they were easier to eat. My family who seem to prefer baby backs couldn't tell the St. Louis style spares from baby backs.

Anyone here prefer spares untrimmed or have any comments on this subject? I realize that it may just come down to personal preference, but if there's anything I'm missing on this subject, I'd like to know.

Paul G.

TVWBB Emerald Member
I do spares almost always when I cook ribs and I favor trimming. I would want to either pull the membranne or at a minimum, score it. I believe the final presentation is alo much better when trimmed to St Louis. The skirt and tail portion of the rib can be cooked seperately and finish in about 1 1/2 hours. They make a great lunch or snak.


Rich Langer

Joe, if you come to my house for ribs, they will be St Louis style ribs - and the beans will be flavored with the smoked trimmings that the cook didn't eat.

Dollar for Dollar, spares trimmed to St. Louis style and the trimmings used are a better value than baby backs and are easier to eat than untrimmed spares.

Restos don't want to pay someone to put in the time to trim the spares.

If you get spares, be sure and do something with the membrane on the back - I pull it off, others just slash it between ribs


Paul H

TVWBB Gold Member
I sort of agree with Paul. I suppose trimming would help keep the ribs apart if I was using rib racks and for appearance.If you have limited space on your rack the trimmed ribs might help you squeeze more on if you were going to lay them flat. I guess it's really cookers preference.

Jeff S

I personally like mine trimmed and if I ask the butcher nicely, he usually will do all of the trimming except the membrane and the skirt. It does make a nicer presentation and they are easier to eat. Again, could be a mental thing with me!

Craig Castille

TVWBB Wizard
I do the same as Rich, meaning trim and use the scraps in other things or just eat by themselves.

Usually the scraps go into something else once smoked.

Robert T.

TVWBB Super Fan
Quick question. Does anyone have a link that shows how to trim the ribs in this way?

Thanks in advance.


adam clyde

I trim depending on my company. If it's all close company who doesn't care about a little messiness (or a lot) then I don't trim. I like that extra meat in the "knuckle" as you refer to it.

If I'm going for presentation or mixed company, then I'll trim.

Mark Etheridge

TVWBB Super Fan
Count me in for trimming spares also. I try not to cut into the bone though so the scraps are boneless. If I had a better pair of kitchen shears I might, though. I trim the skirt meat off and remove the membrane as well.

I cut my spares in half so they will fit in the WSM with ease on my rib rack. I can get 3 slabs on the rack that way. Ribs go on top and trimmings go on the bottom. When I do six slabs I put the trimmings on my kettle (talk about alot of meat

Spares are alot more work than BBs but they are the best value. Y'all did give me a new idea on what to do with the trimmings and I thank you.


TVWBB Super Fan
Do they call it blocking the ribs? I may do it for presentation. But i don't think the taste matters. If I block I still cook the scraps for tasters.

Lee Morris

I usually trim mine to St Louis style beforehand, but I was wondering about cooking the spares whole and then making the St Louis cut.

Seems to me that you could get a good even cook of a large chunk of meat that way and then still have the more user friendly St Louis cut hit the plate of your family / guests.

Anyone done this before?

Mike F.

TVWBB Super Fan
Joe, I always trim St. Louis style and also trim the skirt and membrane. I think it makes a better presentation, IMO. I save the trimmings for spaghetti sauce, beans, or whatever.

I pull the membrane and try to trim some of the bigger lumps of fat. I have to go with Adam on the question of St Louis style or not, just a matter of company and how messy they want to get.

I like the tips as a snack, but I also like the extra meat on the finshed rib. So I´m 50/50 on this.

D Reinknecht

TVWBB Member
I too agree with Adam. It depends on the company and the mood of the day. At a minimum I take off the skirt and the membrane, but may just trim a little knuckle off the top. I haven't noticed anybody eat the ribs complain one way or another about trimmed or not trimmed. If your supplying the Q and the beverage..cooks choice.

Bryan B

Is it normal to cut into the bone when trimming spares into the STL cut?

I watched a video on youtube for how to trim and I did it last night. I think it did it right, but separating what I believe is called the "brisket bone" or "breast bone" was somewhat difficult.

I have a very sharp chef's knfie, but I had to apply pretty significant pressure to get through the bone in some spots.

Is there any risk with cutting through pork bone? Could it cause tiny pieces of bone to show up in the finished product?


TVWBB Olympian
Which video did you watch?
Chris A has a good " How to " here.
If you find the right spot you're just cutting through the cartilage which makes a slight snapping noise but shouldn't be that difficult.
Save those rib tips and smoke along side the trimmed ones for a mid day snack.:wsm:


Bryan B

Which video did you watch?
Chris A has a good " How to " here.
If you find the right spot you're just cutting through the cartilage which makes a slight snapping noise but shouldn't be that difficult.
Save those rib tips and smoke along side the trimmed ones for a mid day snack.:wsm:


I watched one by charbroil on youtube initially. I've since watched Chris's video today, but I had already trimmed them last night.

It was the first time I did it and I waited till about 9:00 which is late for me on a week night, so I may've rushed it a bit.

Do you think there is any risk in cutting through the bone? I see now that it is not ideal. Just not sure if I should be worried about tiny pieces of bone showing up in the meat somewhere.