Food Tips,  Recipes

Warning, Don’t Push, Pull Instead, BBQ in St. Louis

We have seen some of the really great things of St.Louis, gooey butter cake, The Arch, The Hill yet we have yet to discuss two other very important areas to St. Louis lifestyle, and fortunately they good absolutely hand in hand. They are course barbecue and beer.  So lets take a look at these.


Barbecue, BBQ, bar-b-q no matter how you say it, the one thing you must say, it is so good. Many believe grilling is barbecue, simply it is not, grillings is, in essence, fast cooking over high heat, barbecue is the complete opposite, slow slow cooking with a very low heat source, the expression       is, slow and low. Barbecue is given as a slang for any outdoor gathering, although these parties generally are more grilling events than a barbecuing event as none is usually served except maybe in the South and yes St. Louis is considered the south, even though it is above the Mason Dixon line..

Barbecue didn’t actually begin in the south in fact, no one can really say where it began, perhaps with neanderthal man slowly roasting his meal of the day over the fire he just discovered as a use for flavoring that dinner. That course is the purpose of barbecue to use smoke from hard or fruit woods to place an essence within the meat. Marinated or not, rubbed with secret spice blends or commercially prepared ones the smoke is the most important ingredient in great barbecue (next to the item being smoked of course).  The making of beef jerky is barbecuing, smoked salmon,barbecuing, spit roasting, barbecuing, Hawaiian luau is a barbecue, pit cooking, barbecuing so there are many types of barbecuing it is the perfecting of it that makes it great.

Most barbecues that we know today has a wonderful history and the history is usually traceable to the new American’s that settled in an area. It may have been introduced to the Americas from the Caribbean or from Europeans from Germany and France, certainly native Americans had some kind of barbecuing already here upon the arrival of the Mayflower.

Barbecue has adapted to the taste of the area as the people moved in and out. North Carolina serves a different style than South Carolina, St. Louis differs from Kansas City even though they just a few miles from one another. Louisiana will swear theirs is better than that found in Texas and vice versa.  Spices from African influences, chilies from Latin America, tomatoes (once discovered they were not poisonous) mustard, molasses and pure cane sugar and even good ole Kentucky bourbon all found their way into the creation of barbecue. The Germans introduced slow smoking pickled meats served along with a spicy coleslaw and German potato salad. The French and or the Germans brought mustard. Civil war cooks were able to barbecue to feed the war weary.  Beef, chicken, pig sausages vegetables all are barbecue and barbecue can be you too, or at least within you.

The discussion of barbecue is best had as we arrive in the state or area so that is what we will do as we continue on our culinary journey. So we can look forward to much BBQ the foremost regions would be: Alabama,  Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, so clearly our cruise is going to be delicious.

If you love barbecue sauce, then certainly St. Louis is the city to visit, it has the unofficial label of the city where the most BBQ sauce is consumed. The sauce here is generally a tomato based sauce, somewhat  sweet, tangy containing spices and vinegar, but without the addition of liquid smoke (invented in Kansas City by a local pharmacist. Perhaps we should write on the history of some these stables we now use without a second thought, Worcestershire, Soy, Tabasco, A1 Sauce, HP Sauce etc. ) St. Louis ribs are of course named for the city, these larger ribs are spare ribs with the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed. The rib tips are favorites of restaurants and pubs  as appetizers and buffet offerings also slow smoked and slathered with BBQ sauce.

Another unique and delicious BBQ item that seems local to St. Louis (but with some searching can be found in Atlanta and Memphis on Beale St. ) is a dish called Crispy Snoots, the meat of a pigs snoot and cheeks, boiled, braised, fried or smoked then given a huge dose of sauce and served as a sandwich. Try them at Smoki Os on N. Broadway, here you can get both the tips and snoots on one plate, a BBQ treat for sure. Like all great BBQ houses many have house made sausages which are smoked and grilled, chicken cooked to perfection, brisket and of course the pulled pork.

Let’s get back to the ribs and try to explain the differences which seemly are confusing as to what one should get into the smoker.

First side ribs or spare ribs, are ribs, cut from the side or under belly of the hog with longer, wider bones and are fatty as they are found in the same area that bacon is cut from. They tend to be tougher than back ribs so require a longer cooking time to get them to be  tender.

St. Louis ribs are also side ribs, but have been cut down to five inches in length and have had the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed.

Back ribs, cut from the loin section of the hog where the muscle gets less stress and therefore the meat is more tender.  The area provides cuts such as the tenderloin, loin, center cut loin chops etc. Generally they are cut 3 to 6 inches long, are very tender and the “tail” or “tips” have been removed. This is a small 3 inch piece of meat and bone at the back end of the rib “rack” which contains small bones and or cartilage.  

Baby back, Canadian back ribs or Danish back ribs are exactly the same as back ribs, but given another name for marketing purposes. Danish back ribs are so named as they are imports of back ribs from Denmark, which supplies 10% of all Europe’s pork production.  Back ribs are not as popular in Europe as North America so the Danish found a welcoming market in North America. Canadian ribs, again are simply back ribs imported from Canada, because both Danish and Canadian are imported, frozen products they may be less expensive than fresh, but the quality should be good, keep in mind however “fresh is best”.

Boneless Back Ribs, some butchers are marketing a product called boneless back ribs, this is a deceptive marketing practice as the meat is simply loin meat taken from the trimming of the back rib. Do not buy and stop shopping at a market which lies to their customers.

Ribletes or Button Ribs, generally speaking a riblet are ribs which have been trimmed to 2 inches long they are not rib tips. They are a flat strip of meat with round bones, 1/4″ thick, 6″ long, 1 1/2″ wide, cut from the sides of the hog’s spine the rearmost rib.

Cooking your ribs: No matter what “style” of ribs you may want to explore there are certain hard and fast rules you cannot omit if you want a superior product. You will need:

A good slab of ribs, baby back ribs should have 13 ribs, some butchers and inferior restaurants will serve 8 count “cheater” racks, racks are any count less than the full slab. It is advisable to check and be sure you are getting what you are paying for, you can expect to see 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and full racks on menus and the menu price should  reflect the size, but for home buy full slabs. We St. Louis style ribs count 4-6 ribs per person when serving other main dishes (like BBQ chicken) and sides, 8 ribs if they are the star of the show.

You will need a good rib rub, a blend of herbs, spices, salt and sugar, I give you one that follows so look out below.

Fuel for the smoker, hardwood charcoal is best, (you can use your gas/charcoal grill to convert to a smoker) and soaked wood chunks for flavoring the ribs.

Two thermometers, a really good meat thermometer, it becomes you assurance when the ribs are perfectly done, no guess work with it, also a oven thermometer to place inside the smoker to be sure you are maintaining the ideal temperature there as well.

Barbecue sauce, of course, I will list a couple of mine, but why not create your own.

Prepare your smoker so that you will be able to add the charcoal and flavoring wood, you need to maintain a heat of 225F (1007C) for 6 hours. Use a charcoal chimney to light your smoker and never ever use liquid charcoal starter, it will give a horrible oily taste to your smoked food items.

Now you want the prepare the ribs, place them bone side up,  the membrane will allow the flavors from smoke and seasoning to flavor the ribs, but if left on will be like a piece of rubber on your meat as it cooks slowly in the smoker so it is important to remove it.  The membrane if on all ribs and need to be removed on St. Louis ribs, remove the thick piece of flap meat (you can smoke them as an additional treat.) Slide a small knife under the first bone and the membrane, gently lift the membrane now you should be able to pull the membrane right down the ribs removing it in one sheet if possible.

Now you need to make your rib rub and do exactly that, rub the spice into the ribs, both sides.

3 tablespoons kosher salt

4 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon each of onion powder, basil leaves, thyme leaves, oregano leaves, cayenne pepper

Blend it well together, I like to grind it fine in a coffee mill.

Place the rubbed ribs in the center of the smoker so that the air flows evenly around them, cook for two hours, remove and wrap in foil. Return to the smoker  and continue to cook for an additional 3 hours. Remove the wrap. Add more wood to the smoker and continue to cook for an additional 1 hour or until your meat thermometer reads at 190F. Be sure the thermometer is in the thickest part of the meat and not touching a bone.

Here is a chart for smoking most proteins:

Product                 Internal Temperature                    Cooking Temperature

Pork                     185-190 F                                             175-200 F

Brisket                  180-185 F                                             175-200 F

Ribs                      190-195 F                                             200-225 F

Chicken                175-180 F                                             250-275 F

Turkey                  165-175 F                                             250-275 F

It is important to learn the difference when your product is “done” and when it is “ready” some guidelines suggest a product is done when it reaches a temperature well below that of the serving or ready temperature. Government charts tell you the ribs are done at 145F but they will be tough and not edible, they are ready at the stated cooking temperature.  Ribs should never be fall off the bone tender (this means someone boiled or steamed the ribs)  if you cooked your ribs to the ready temperature the meat will come cleanly off the bone with a single bite, they will be moist and flavorful sometimes so good no sauce is required.

Speaking of sauce, you sauce your ribs only for the last 20 minutes of cooking, Most sauces contain a large amount of sugar, with a short cooking time it will caramelize on your food however over long  cooking time the sugar burns leaving a very unpleasant taste. So sauce only for the last 20 minutes of cooking and 1 final time just before serving.


2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 tablespoon each onion powder, garlic powder,  mild chili powder

1/2 teaspoon each of basil, thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, paprika


Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat. Stirring occasionally and simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce should be thin, but not watery. Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.


This sweeter than most St. Louis BBQ Sauce but it is so good.

2 cups                   500 ml                   chili sauce

3 cups                   750 ml                   catsup

1 cup                     250 ml                  brown sugar

2 cups                   500 ml                   7 UP® soft drink beverage (do not use diet)

2 tsp                      10 ml                    black pepper

1 tsp                      5 ml                      each of white pepper, garlic granules, onion powder

½ tsp                     3 ml                      cayenne pepper

1 tsp                      5 ml                      each of dried basil leaves, thyme leaves, oregano leaves

2 tbsp                    30 ml                    mustard

3 tbsp                    45 ml                    honey

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients thoroughly. Pour into a mixing bowl and reserve.

We really need to examine just a few more in the St. Louis BBQ what we haven’t examined yet is what is becoming more popular than the ribs themselves. Ribs are becoming a costly meal, especially when dining out, the answer to the ribs is going kind of boneless (less messy) that  is pulled pork. Why? To answer that we have to go way back in barbecue history.

The name barbecue is hidden in mystery (we will examine it further in a later writing) but what is not hidden is the use of the hog in barbecue cookery. Prior to the Civil War people of the south consumed an average of 5 pounds of pork per every 1 pound of beef, it was an inexpensive protein to consume, easy to raise and when you could not raise them you certainly find wild ones that could be hunted. However the meat is tough, so ways to tenderize to meat became important, long, slow cooking was the choice for those who wanted to consume the fresh meat, curing it was the way to go for storing the meat as refrigeration  was a non option.

The term “pulled pork” is most likely a term that originally meant party time, the Cajun, “cochon de lait, is a party in which a whole hog is slowly cooked, then when ready is placed on a serving table where the party goers could pick away at the delicious cooked meat throughout the day or night. The gathering itself  became known as a “Pork Pickin or a Pork Pull” and quickly became standard for church groups, rallies, or any event that the common man would attend. Along with the BBQ’d hog, “tater salad” corn on the cob, coleslaw, and “hush puppies” rounded out the cuisine of the Pork Pickin.

The hush puppy is simply a cornbread fritter that has become the a standard side dish served with any barbecue. The name is said to have come from men and women who daily gathered for an evening meal  at which the pork was served along with the fried cornbread. Bits of the fritters were supposedly tossed to the dogs that came with their owners to hush they’re barking. Another story is that Civil War soldiers would toss the fried bits to Confederate dogs again in quite the barking, these dogs quickly were labeled “hushpuppies.” So important are hushpuppies to southern cookery that a barbecue id considered incomplete without them.  The battered varies from cook to cook, of course, and before it is fried it can be cooked on a flat top or in a cast iron pan in pancake fashion giving it names like hoecakes, Johnny cakes, Journey cakes, or corn pone, in fact Americans first President, George Washington’s favorite breakfast is said to be hoecakes dripping with butter and honey.

Back to the making of pulled pork, the same rules apply as we stated in cooking ribs, most important is the need of a meat thermometer so that their exact temperature is reached.

Purchase a 10 or 11 pound Boston Butt and removed any thick layers of fat, but try to keep the trim to 1/4 inch thick, as this keeps the pork moist while cooking. Rinse it off well and dry it as much as possible.

Use a mixture of:

1 cup water

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 tablespoon liquid smoke

3 tablespoons paprika

1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon ground basil

1 tablespoon red pepper

2 teaspoons black pepper


Combine all ingredients.

With a meat injector, inject the mixture slowly into several areas of the roast, or just marinate at least 8 hours.

Rub it down with a very thin coating of Dijon Mustard.

Now, rub it down with a fairly heavy coating the same rub listed for the ribs.Place in the center of a preheated smoker with a fresh addition of your favorite wood piece. And when the temperature stabilizes at 200 to 220℉, place the roast, fat side up, smoke until the thermometer reads 180F, this may 10-14 hours but do not remove it until the reads correctly then it’s ready to come out of the smoker,  “Pull” the pork while the meat is hot. Add your own favorite BBQ sauce.℉, it’s ready to come out of the smoker,  “Pull” the pork while the meat is hot. Add your own favorite BBQ sauce..

Serve as a hot entree, as a sandwich topped with coleslaw in a fresh toasted hamburger bun or in any fashion you may enjoy.


2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup white sugar

1 large onion, diced

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup self-rising cornmeal

1/2 cup frozen peas or corn kernels

1 quart oil for frying


In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, sugar, and onion. Blend in flour and cornmeal.  Fold in the peas or corn.

Heat 2 inches of oil to 365 degrees F (185 degrees C). Drop batter by rounded teaspoonfuls in hot oil, and fry until golden brown. Cook in small batches to maintain oil temperature. Drain briefly on paper towels. Serve hot.


4 cups shredded cabbage

2 tablespoons grated white onions

1 cup carrot ( shredded or grated)

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

2/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine white pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds


Prepare the vegetables by slicing, shredding or grating very thin.

Toss the vegetable ingredients to mix well.

Prepare the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, mayonnaise, sugar, pepper , salt and poppy seeds.

Fold the dressing into the tossed vegetables and refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours.

May be made ahead. Toss occasionally to keep the dressing distributed over the vegetables.


8              8              large potatoes

1              1              head of garlic

¼ lb        115 g         bacon

1 tbsp    15 ml          safflower oil

2 tbsp    30 ml          vinegar

3              3              chopped green onions

5              5              diced radishes

2              2              diced celery stalks

1 cup     250 ml        Mayonnaise (follows)

1 tbsp    15 ml          mustard

3              3              chopped hard cooked eggs

1 tsp      5 ml            salt

½ tsp     3 ml            white pepper

Preheat the oven to 450F (220C).

Wash, prick with a fork and foil wrap the potatoes. Bake the potatoes and garlic until tender, (time depends upon the size of the potatoes). Cool to room temperature. Pare the potatoes and dice coarsely. Peel the garlic and mash.

Dice the bacon and fry until crisp. Drain the excess fat and reserve the meat.

Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the oil and vinegar. Stir in the onions, radishes and celery.

In a small mixing bowl, blend the Mayonnaise, mashed garlic, mustard, eggs, salt and pepper. Fold into the potatoes, along with the bacon. Serve as required.



½ tsp                     3 ml        prepared Dijon mustard

½ tsp                     3 ml        granulated sugar

1/8 tsp                  pinch       cayenne pepper

1                              1          egg yolk

1 tbsp                    15 ml      lemon juice

2/3 cup                 170 ml     olive oil

Blend the mustard, sugar and pepper together.

Beat in the egg yolk thoroughly, add the lemon juice blending completely. Beat in the oil a few drops at a time until the sauce is very thick.


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