If you ask any barbeque enthusiast, what their favorite meat cuts are, there is a good chance that pork ribs will be part of their list. They are the most popular with grillers, but beef ribs are popular too. But what makes pork ribs so exceptional is how they are satisfying and succulent. They have a taste that can get your taste buds craving for more, thanks to their flavor and tenderness. But how can a beginner identify the different types? Well, read on and discover the different types there are.
Spare ribs vs baby back – Basics
You cannot understand the different types without getting to know the anatomy of a pig. It is easy to get confused about where certain parts are located but do not fret about it. One pig has about 12 to 16 ribs on each side of the body depending on the breed. There are about five types including the rib tips, spare ribs, baby back ribs, St. Louis style ribs, and Country Style ribs.
Types of pork ribs Tips
The rib tips are the chunks of meat located below the spare ribs. These parts do not have any bones but instead, they have cartilage. Rib tips are cut from the spare when creating the St Louis Style cut.
How to Identify Rib Tips
- They are usually 1 to 3 inches wide and 8 to 12 inches long
- They are made of fat and cartilage and are extra chewy
How to Prepare Rib Tips
The best way to get the most succulent results is through slow and low cooking. They can act as appetizers while you continue cooking the other parts. Simply put the tips in indirect fire, apply some seasoning, and leave them for an hour or two.
Spare ribs vs back ribs
You have probably heard of these. They are found at the further downside of the pig’s body and go all the way to the breastbone. In short, they come from the underside of the pig. Some people refer to them as spares or side ribs.
How to Identify Spare Ribs
- Since they come from the belly region, the spare ribs tend to be slightly fattier
- They are flatter than baby back ribs
- They are usually 6 to 8 inches wide with about 11 to 13
- You can view the bone and marrow since this is where they were cut
- They contain more cartilage and their meat is a bit tougher
- Some people praise the spare ribs for a richer taste than back ribs vs side ribs
How to Prepare Spare Ribs
You can prepare spare ribs with slow, low cooking or braising in a grill, smoker, or oven. The cooking process can take about 5 to 6 hours to allow the fat to melt and leave a tender and tastier rib.
Baby Back Ribs
These ribs are the ones at the highest point of the pig’s back. They are directly connected to the animal’s backbone. These baby back ribs have nothing to do with piglets. They get their “baby” name from their small size, which is way smaller than the spare ribs. The name “back” is simply because they are joined with the backbone, hence, the name. These ribs are cut from the loin, which is part of the muscle that is on either side of the spine. That is why they are sometimes referred to as “loin back ribs”.
How to Identify Baby Back Ribs
- These ribs meet the pig’s spine, which is the reason for the curve at the top, something you cannot find on spare ribs.
- They measure 3 to 6 inches long
- They are smaller than spare ribs
- They are also shorter and curvier than spare ribs
- They also have lots of lean meat on top and between the bones
- Racks of ribs usually have 8 to 13 ribs
Preparation of Baby Back Ribs
These are slightly different from the spare ribs in both looks and cooking. They will require slow and low cooking using either dry or moist heat. But you might want to first trim any dangling meat on the sides before grilling or smoking. And don’t forget to season both sides with your preferred seasoning rub and cook for as long as you desire to get that heavenly taste.
St Louis Style Ribs
The St Louis Style ribs are simply part of the rib cage and located at the center of the pig’s anatomy. They are like a spare rib without the tip. However, it is how they are cut that makes them so special. They get their name from the St Louis meatpackers who discovered this cut in the mid-twentieth century. This type is tidy, which makes it the best choice for cookouts.
How to Identify St Louis Style Ribs
- These have small bones at the bottom and no cartilages at all
- The rib bones are straight and look nice
- They are longer than baby backs but slightly shorter than a spare rib
- You will not easily find St Louis ribs in supermarkets since they are more of a specialty cut
St louis vs baby back ribs
Getting them may not be possible but you can get the full spare ribs to rack and trim for yourself. Simply remove the flap of meat and the brisket bone in the rack. This will leave you with a nice and more convenient rack you handle easily.
Country Style Ribs
These are from the loin area near the shoulder at the front end. They are not ribs but a bone-in chop from the baby back front. One special thing about them is how they have a lot of meat attached to them. They have a narrow feather bone with meat attached. You will probably need a fork to eat Country Style Ribs.
How to Prepare Country Style Ribs
Since it has more meat, you will have to cook this cut slower, at low heat, and for a longer period. A nice idea is to use a smoker to get that succulent and delightful flavor. You can also use an oven for this but you will have to leave it in there for a while. And for a melt in your mouth sensation, you can try leaving them in a simple sugar/water solution with preferred spices overnight. Moreover, let your butcher get these pieces right for you if you are a beginner.
Other Types of pork Ribs
The above five are the most common types among rib aficionados, but there are still other types. They include:
- Riblets: These are made by cutting a full rib rack into tiny pieces. This might make them perfect for kids.
- Kansas City Style Ribs: These are similar to the St. Louis version but are less trimmed than them.
- Button Ribs: These are thin meat strips cut from the side of a pig’s spine.
Baby back vs spare ribs – Techniques/Tips to Improve
Picking the right types of ribs is not impossible and does not need any expertise. Instead, with only a few tips, you can select the right ones for barbecuing for your family or guests. Do not worry as there are tons of guidelines you can use to choose only fresh and succulent meat.
Do Not Be Afraid of Pinkish Pork Ribs
When choosing the best types of pork ribs, it is normal to see some of them with pinkish-red color. This is normal and it is not something to worry about. It might be a good idea to go for ones with a pinkish-red color with some fat. However, stay away from any with a pale color or if the fat has dark spots.
Be Cautious of Enhanced Pork Ribs
Some supermarkets tend to add a solution of salt and water, flavoring, and other enhancements. Such suppliers believe that their customers want their pork to have an improved taste in addition to the natural pork flavor. Some pork enthusiasts describe the taste of such ribs to be artificial and nowhere close to the authentic taste. Unknowingly, you might end up adding salt to the ribs while cooking and then the meat ends up being salty.
This will lead you to think where you went wrong when all you added was just a pinch or two. So know what types of pork ribs you are buying and you can even ask the seller if there are any enhancements in the meat. Understanding the product before buying will be the basis of whether to add any seasoning or to cut back on it.
Know How Many Slabs You Need
Ribs are sold in slabs and it is vital to know how many will be enough. For instance, one slab of pork spare-ribs contains at least 11 bones. This might seem like more meat for all your guests, but remember half or more of it is bones. Moreover, a slab of spare-ribs may be enough for two adults or even just one hungry person.
Pork Ribs can be Stored in the Fridge for About 3 Days
If you want the original and delightful taste, then cook the ribs as soon as you purchase them. Otherwise, you can store them for up to three days and not any longer than that. However, if you want to store the ribs for a longer period, put them in the freezer where they can stay fresh for approximately 6 months. Remember to give a baby back rib cut that is frozen not less than 12 hours to thaw.
Let the Butcher Help Where Necessary
There are certain parts you will have to remove before cooking like the silver skin. If you are unsure of what to do, then let the butcher help you.
Marinate and Pre-cook the Ribs
For a heavenly flavor, first, marinate the ribs for several hours before smoking or grilling. Make sure to marinate the ribs in the fridge and not at room temperature. If you like, you can pre-cook the ribs first before placing them on the grill.
Use the Right Tools
When grilling pork ribs, it is wise to use the appropriate tools to avoid any accidents. This involves tools like tongs for flipping. Avoid using forks as it can let some of the essences escape.
Types of ribs – Common Problems
You are likely to encounter some common problems either during cutting the ribs or preparation especially if you are just a newbie. Any small mistake can spoil your rib cut or alter the taste. Therefore, consider these problems and their solutions for the best results.
Not easy to fall off the Bone
If you are experiencing this issue, then the problem might be the rib is undercooked. Cook the meat with low heat and slowly. The meat will always tell you when it is ready but pick a time when to start checking on it. Also, add braising liquid to help bring the meat to the perfect fall off condition.
Undercooked or Overcooked Ribs
It is good to have a thermometer next to you when grilling or smoking a back rib cut, rib tips, or any types of ribs; however, this might not be the only solution. To avoid undercooking or overcooking the ribs, have an idea about how the texture should look and feel when properly done. The meat should pull back exposing about an inch of the rib bone.
A Membrane that is Not Removed
If you want a super tender rib, then consider removing the membrane. This is a thin inedible layer, which can toughen up your meat. To prevent this, flip the slab upside down, then carefully cut it with a knife and use your hands to remove the membrane.
Beef ribs vs pork ribs – Analysis of Best Practices in the Industry
- Deliver high-quality products fit for human consumption
- Set aside different pens for nursing pigs, for piglets, and boars
- A vet is a requirement in pig farming to prevent or treat illnesses
- Health inspections are necessary if you intend to sell your products
Baby back ribs vs spare ribs – Tools You Can Use
If you wish to prepare pork ribs like a pro, then there are several tools you must have. These tools should allow you to have perfect and neat rib cuts without any issues.
- Tongs: For flipping the ribs when grilling
- Fork: Only to help you move the ribs with the tongs
- Knife: To remove the membrane and any hanging meat
- Smoker or Grill: For smoking or grilling your ribs to the desired flavor
- Rib rack: For easier heat circulation
- Butcher’s knife
- Grill gloves
- A drip pan
Are baby back ribs pork or beef – FAQ
What are the 3 types of ribs?
There are over five different types but the most common are the St. Louis ribs, baby back ribs, and spare ribs. St Louis style ribs are reputable among experts and you can get them from a full spare rib.
What type of pork ribs are the best?
For a succulent and exceptional taste, you may want something with meat chunks and fat. Spare ribs and St. Louis ribs fit this category with the latter great for nice cuts or presentation.
Are baby back ribs from pork or beef?
They are also referred to as pork back ribs. These are removed from the high part where the ribs meet the backbone.