The secret to the classic Saint-Louis rib sauce

You’ve probably heard a lot about the St. Louis style barbecue if you’re into grilling. Tender Belly describes St. Louis style ribs as being flatter than the usual style of pork ribs and having lots of bone. The trade-off, however, is that there’s a lot more fat in the St. Louis ribs, which gives the meat a lot of flavor. The flat shape of the ribs also makes them easy to color. It’s not just the meat that’s exclusive to St. Louis, but also the sauce. MasterClass summarizes St. Louis style barbecue sauce as having a tomato base and a sweet flavor, but compared to sauces such as Kansas City barbecue sauce, it is thinner and more vinegary.

According to Barbeque Bible, the sauce was invented in 1926 by a grocer named Louis Maull and has since become a regional favorite. But what makes St. Louis sauce so sweet? Although recipes may differ depending on where you look, MasterClass proclaims that the three ingredients in St. Louis barbecue sauce are brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and ketchup. It’s this combination of sweet and spiciness that helps give the sauce its signature flavor. Some recipes, like this one from Saporito Kitchen, even call for the addition of ground coffee and molasses to help bring out the rich, hot flavors you expect when digging into tender, droopy ribs.

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Edward L. Robinett