When most people think of pork ribs, they think of the classic slab of baby back ribs. But did you know that there are actually several different types of pork ribs?
Each type has its own distinct flavor and texture, so if you’re a fan of pork ribs, it’s worth learning about the different types out there.
The Different Types of Pork Ribs
Pork ribs are one of the most popular types of meat, and there are many different ways to cook them. The five cuts of pork ribs are:
Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs are the most common type of pork rib cut from the loin area of the pig near the spine.
They are curved and tend to be smaller in size than spareribs, usually measuring between 3 and 6 inches in length.
Baby back ribs have distinctly curved bone where it meets the spine and tends to be leaner and more tender compared to spare ribs.
They contain less fat, making them a popular choice for grilling or roasting. Baby back ribs usually take 3 to 4 hours to cook properly.
Learn what the difference is between back ribs vs. baby back ribs.
Spare ribs are cuts of pork ribs taken from the belly of the rib cage, below the section of the back ribs, and above the sternum.
They are flatter than back ribs and contain more bone than meat, but also have more fat on them, making them more tender.
Spare ribs are often cut 6 to 8 inches wide and feature 11 to 13 ribs in a full rack.
The meat from spare ribs is a bit tougher than that of back ribs due to the muscles around them being used more.
To make the meat tender and succulent, long, slow braising or cooking in a smoker, grill, or oven is recommended. They can also be cut into riblets.
Spare ribs are the longest cuts from the belly behind the shoulder and have the least amount of meat, but are still considered the most flavorful.
St. Louis Cut Ribs
St. Louis cut ribs are spare ribs that have been trimmed to create a more rectangular, uniform shape.
They are cut from the belly of the hog after the belly has been removed and include the rib bone, its attached meat, and a narrow portion of the backbone.
This trimming removes the cartilage and gristle-filled area, as well as the tapered end of the ribs.
The name of this rib cut comes from the meatpackers in St. Louis who started cutting their ribs this way in the mid-20th century.
St. Louis cut ribs are longer than baby back ribs but shorter than standard spare ribs. These ribs are highly desirable among competition pitmasters for their clean appearance and the amount of meat on the bones.
Pork Rib Tips
Pork ribs are the small bones and cartilage that connect the lower breast bone to the front ribs. They are cut from the lower ends of spare ribs when making St. Louis cuts.
Rib tips will typically be 8 to 12 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide when served, and are usually cut into 2-inch chunks.
Because of the high amount of cartilage, rib tips tend to be chewier compared to other types of pork rib cuts, but can still be delicious when cooked properly.
Country ribs are not actually ribs, but a cut of pork taken from the front end of the baby back near the shoulder. As opposed to real ribs, they have more meat and less bone.
The cut includes one or two rib bones, with the attached meat, a narrow portion of feather bone, and sometimes, a section from the sirloin end of the loin.
Country-style ribs are best cooked low and slow for the most tender results and are considered the meatiest of the rib cuts as there’s not much bone.
BBQ sauce is a popular sauce to lather on ribs, find out how to tell if BBQ sauce is bad.
How to Select Pork Ribs
Selecting pork ribs can be a difficult task, especially if you’re not familiar with the different types of pork ribs available.
To make sure you get the perfect ribs for your next family gathering or barbeque, here are step-by-step instructions and a comparison of the various types of pork ribs.
- Choose the Cut: Baby back, sparerib, and St. Louis cut are the most popular of the different types of pork ribs. Country-style ribs are from the shoulder (or blade) end of the loin. With these, you’ll find the most meat per bone and the least amount of fat.
- Examine the Meat: Look for meat that is deep pink, leaning toward red. The meat should be evenly distributed with even striations of fat rather than fatty pockets. Avoid ribs that have been frozen or “enhanced” with a sodium solution.
- Inspect the Bones: If you can see the rib bones clearly, choose another rack. This is called a “shiner,” meaning the meat has been cut too close to the bone and will likely fall off instead of cooking correctly.
- Get the Best Cut: The best place to get high-quality pork ribs is from your local butcher. Ask them to cut the ribs for you if the cut you want is not already in the case.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you get the best cut of pork ribs for your next barbeque or gathering. With the right type of rib and the right quality, you can create your own signature rib seasoning with confidence and a little experimentation.
Check out this post on how to tell when grilled baby back ribs are done.
What Are The Most Affordable Pork Ribs?
When it comes to pork ribs, the most affordable type is definitely spare ribs. They come from the pork belly area after the bacon has been removed, and they are usually sold in slabs at grocery stores.
When compared to the other types of pork ribs, many people buy spare ribs on a regular basis due to their affordability.
Baby back ribs are the most tender, but they are much more expensive than spare ribs.
Country-style ribs offer a meatier, leaner option, but they are also more expensive than spare ribs.
So, if you’re looking for the most affordable type of pork rib, spare ribs are definitely the way to go.
The most popular and most affordable meat on the grill with being burgers. Check out my how to grill burgers recipe and how to keep burgers from falling apart on the grill post!
What Kind Of Ribs Is The Meatiest?
When it comes to meatiness, country-style ribs are considered the meatiest due to their lack of bone. They are cut from the shoulder area, making each cut thicker and meatier than other types of ribs.
They have a lot of connective tissue and fat, making them great for barbecuing.
Other lean pork rib options include baby back ribs, spare ribs, and St. Louis cut ribs. Baby back ribs are the most tender due to their lack of fat and leaner meat, while spare ribs are the most affordable.
All types of pork ribs should have an even distribution of fat with no pockets, and the meat should be deep pink.
Ultimately, when choosing ribs, it’s best to consider what kind of flavors and seasonings you are looking for and how many people you are serving.