Test Kitchen video tip: Trim and clean ribs like a professional

Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen director Noelle Carter shows how easy it is to trim your ribs. 

A while back, we ran a Culinary SOS recipe for the spice-braised pork ribs from Urban Tavern in San Francisco. The recipe calls for St. Louis-style pork ribs. If you’ve never heard of these before, St. Louis-style ribs are spareribs that have been trimmed to give them a clean, mock baby-back look.

You can have your butcher trim the ribs for you, but it’s just as easy to do at home (plus, you can cook up all the trimmings along with the ribs for some extra nibbles).

Check out the video above for tips on trimming and removing the silverskin, the leathery membrane on the underside of the ribs by the bones. Removing the silverskin is important to do before cooking the ribs, as it prevents seasonings and flavorings from penetrating into the meat. Left on, the silverskin tightens as it cooks to a thick and tough texture. You can find the recipe below.

Cooking is fun — at least it should be! No matter how long you’ve been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it’s a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, ranging from how to hold a chef’s knife for maximum control to using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you’d like me to explore, leave a comment or shoot me an email at



Total time: 4 1/2 hours, plus overnight refrigeration and cooling times | Serves 6 to 8

Note: Adapted from Urban Tavern. For St. Louis-style (or mock baby back) ribs, take a rack of spare ribs and trim the skirt meat along the underside of the rack, then remove the rib tips at the joint before removing the silverskin from the underside of the rack and trimming the edges to clean. Alternatively, ask your butcher to prepare the racks for you. The restaurant serves the ribs with fregola and seasonal vegetables.



1/2 cup fennel seeds
1/2 cup coriander seeds
2 tablespoons ginger powder
2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

1. In a medium saute pan heated over medium heat, toast the fennel and coriander seeds until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.

2. Grind the fennel and coriander seeds to a fine powder using a spice mill or coffee grinder, then combine with the ginger, nutmeg, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne powder to form a rub.

3. This makes a generous 1 cup rub, and you may not use all of it for the final recipe. Store the rub in an airtight jar or sealable plastic bag in a cool, dark place up to 4 to 6 weeks.



2 racks pork ribs, preferably St. Louis-style, silverskin removed
Spice rub
1 cup apple cider
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups diced apples, about 2 apples
2 1/4 cups diced onion, about 1 onion,
Scant 1 cup diced carrots, about 2 carrots
1 1/2 cups diced celery hearts, from about 1 bunch

1. Coat the rib racks generously on each side with the spice rub. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight to season.

2. The next day, in a large saucepan, bring the cider, chicken and beef broths and bay leaves to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.


3. Heat the oven to the broiler setting. Place the rib racks on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Broil the racks until browned on each side, about 2 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the heat of the broiler.

4. Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine the diced apples, onion, carrots and celery heart, and place the seared ribs on top (pour any drippings from the rimmed baking sheet over the ribs). Pour over the hot broth.

5. Cover the pan tightly, first with parchment paper, then a layer of plastic wrap, then with a layer of foil, creating as tight a seal as possible. Place the covered pan in the oven and braise the ribs for 3 hours.

6. Remove the pan from the oven and cool the ribs completely. Skim the fat from the pan and set the ribs aside. Strain the braising liquid (we had about 1 quart) into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the sauce by half.

7. To reheat the ribs, place the ribs in a roasting pan and pour the sauce over. Place the ribs in a 325-degree oven and heat until the ribs are warmed through before serving.

Each of 8 servings: 725 calories; 49 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 50 grams fat; 18 grams saturated fat; 191 mg. cholesterol; 10 grams sugar; 893 mg. sodium.