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Memphis BBQ joints which cut: st. louis or back loin?

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    Memphis BBQ joints which cut: st. louis or back loin?

    I'm in the Twin Cites (yup, it's snowing heavily here right now, April 10) and a new BBQ joint opened up near me claiming Memphis style ribs. They use back ribs and the result for me was like eating a pork chop. In general I've always preferred a St. Louis cut and that's what I smoke on my WSM. I just assumed ribs in Memphis were mostly St. Louis cuts, but after searching online I've only become confused. I've made multiple visits to Memphis over the years for BBQ (oh, and work) and enjoyed it.

    Last time I was in Memphis, I was visiting friends who relocated and I made it to Central and the Commissary. The ribs were excellent and they didn't seem like back ribs. OK, not like any of the back ribs I've ever had up here in Minnesota. BBQ is starting to heat up, pun intended, in the TC, but it has a ways to go.

    I read an old interview with the Central BBQ founder and the article said that, "Central uses loin back ribs, essentially baby backs except the terminology usually refers to larger than normal racks from the same cut."

    What does this mean? Is Central using part of the St. Louis cut? Is there a lot of marketing going on here or do some folks use a cut that has some of the St. Louis and some of the back? Specifically, in Memphis are back ribs the most prevalent cut in BBQ joints?

    I also understand that hogs vary by breed, size, etc. and that the difference could be about the amount of fat in the particular hog. One person's back might be super lean and the other's nice and fatty.

    I've been a member for a while, but never posted. I've learned a lot from the community and thanks for all your help. Sorry if I'm not doing this in the right place.


    #2
    The ribs I have enjoyed at The Rendezvous in downtown Memphis were baby backs (back loin). Not the super meaty ones. It is probably different because the place you ate at didn't prepare them in true Memphis style. The Rendezvous grills them over charcoal (a couple of feet above it), brushed with a mix of water/vinegar and coated with their own dry rub.

    Loin back ribs at Central BBQ are not the same as St. Louis cut. Totally different part of the overall rib, and lower on the side.

    This page explains the cuts pretty well: https://amazingribs.com/tested-recip...cuts-explained

    The term loin back versus baby back just means that they typically have more of the loin meat, which might be what you are considering to be more like a pork chop, as it is part of the pork loin. That said, I've cooked some meaty slabs from Sam's Club and Costco, that had more of that loin meat on them, and cannot say that they ever tasted the way I prepare a pork loin or loin chops.

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      #3
      Just curious, where is this place you are talking about? I am in the TC area as well.

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      • SteveMN
        SteveMN commented
        Editing a comment
        It's in St. Paul. They had a food truck and I think a takeout place previously. The restaurant just opened. It would be unfair of me to name it (but you'll figure it out) and offer any criticism of the restaurant except for that 1/2 rack of ribs that I ate. I'll go back and try the pulled pork and other stuff. My overwhelming preference for ribs is a rack that leaves my fingers smoky and covered in perfectly melted pork fat.

      #4
      All I can add is welcome to the Pit.

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        #5
        Me too. Welcome!

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          #6
          The ribs I’ve had at Central BBQ we’re baby backs. Normal amount of meat. And oh so delicious. It was my visit there that forever changed me from a wet-rib guy to a dry-rib guy!

          Comment


          • SteveMN
            SteveMN commented
            Editing a comment
            It was two years ago, but I just found the photo I took of the ribs at Central and now I'm hungry. Central's ribs were much larger than the ones I had in the TC and it looks like a different cut from what I had here. I'm sure they use ribs from a larger, fattier hog and they probably smoke more ribs in a year than all the BBQ joints in the Twin Cites combined.

          #7
          Baby backs from Central BBQ Memphis.
          Attached Files

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            #8
            Welcome to the pit from Southern Illinois!

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              #9
              Originally posted by SteveMN View Post
              I read an old interview with the Central BBQ founder and the article said that, "Central uses loin back ribs, essentially baby backs except the terminology usually refers to larger than normal racks from the same cut."

              What does this mean? Is Central using part of the St. Louis cut? Is there a lot of marketing going on here or do some folks use a cut that has some of the St. Louis and some of the back? Specifically, in Memphis are back ribs the most prevalent cut in BBQ joints?
              I think they are referring to baby backs that are cut with extra loin meat. This is what Smithfield calls their "Extra Meaty" style, and they're a favorite here. I don't know how well the difference in size will show up, but here's some from the other day hanging out in my PBCjr.

              Comment


                #10
                I know to upper midwesterners, it can be confusing, but St. Louis is not Memphis. It's a 5 hour drive, IIRC. Maybe 6, but it's a different state even.

                If they say back rib, it's a back rib. An SLC is the spare/belly rib. You can tell, as SLCs and Spares are generally pretty flat, while back ribs have a curve to them. It may be obscured by a hunk of loin meat on the back.

                The funny thing about cutting ribs is about what's adjacent to the rib effects how folks will cut or serve.

                Spares/SLCs are right next to the pork belly/bacon, which sells for more per pound than ribs. So, spares are generally cut pretty tight, to optimize the price yield on the carcass. No matter what folks thing about pork, they always love the bacon.

                Back ribs are against the loin. Loin is very lean, and in modern pigs that are pretty lean to start with, tends to get dry without the up to 12% injection of salt water the use to pump up the loins at the super market. Even then, I can often obtain pork loins at a BOGO deal at the super market. Back ribs command a higher price than loin, so you see "loin cut back ribs" with, basically a pork chop hanging off the back of the rib. Can get dried out with low and slow, as it's lean, but a good pitmaster to keep that from happening (or trim the rib down and cook the loin separately, as I do). At any rate, you're paying back rib price for loin, which offends me.

                Comment


                  #11
                  Thanks everyone for your help with my very first post. Same cuts, very different results. Just like the fact that Dwayne Johnson and I both have arms, but my arms don't look or act anything like his.

                  Comment


                    #12
                    Lifelong Memphian here. Mostly back ribs, but truly it's not the cut, it's the prep and the style. True Memphis style ribs to me are lots of dry rub. The sauce is sweet/ketchup based. That's one thing about the Rendevous, they cook pretty hot and fast and liberally mop with vinegar, but then cake the dry rub on. About 15 years ago, I thought the Rendevous had gotten too touristy..the ribs weren't really that good. BUT, I went right at opening one afternoon. Those ribs were incredible. Made me a fan again!

                    But honestly after having been to the Memphis in May BBQ contest many a time, the secret to good ribs, or any bbq is the 'love' the cook puts in. If you have some special way you trim your ribs, butts, brisket, go for it. Granp's secret sauce, slather it on. Now, there is definitely some bad Q out there. But, the great thing is you can find someone that makes it the way you like it, pretty easily, no matter where you are.

                    And I can take you to countless dives (places you might not think safe to eat at or enter) in Memphis that have BBQ that run circles around Corky's/Rendevous/Central BBQ. My saying is, the fancier the sign, the less tasty the Q. There was literally a little cinder block shack about 2 blocks away from my house, with the roof falling in owned by a black man in his 80s(at least). I had a bbq sandwich there one day, and thought, if someone marketed this (which would ruin it) you couldn't smoke enough meat to sell each day. Unfortunately, I guess he passed away. The building has been vacant and appears to finally have collapsed.

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