Know Your Cut-Ribs

Spare Ribs

No matter how you are making ribs, they are some of the most delicious cuts of meat there is. There are several different kinds of ribs, with pork ribs being the most popular.

One thing beef and pork ribs have in common is their amount of connective tissue, which requires long and slow cooking. That can be accomplished using either dry- or moist-heat cooking methods. The key to success when cooking ribs is the low temperature and several hours of cooking time.

Pork Back Ribs:


Taking a look at the most popular ribs, you must start with the pork back ribs sometimes called baby back ribs. Pork back ribs come from high on the back of the hog where they meet the backbone. They are the ribs that are found in bone-in pork rib loin chops, but the loin has been removed to make a boneless pork loin, leaving just the rack of ribs.

Pork back ribs, like all ribs, require long cooking times and low temperatures. You can use dry or moist heat to cook the ribs. The ribs have a lot of cartilage or connective tissue which takes a long time to become tender and juicy.

Pork Spare Ribs:

Spare ribs are the lower section of ribs, extending around the belly to where they join the sternum. Because they come from the belly region, spare ribs are a bit fattier than pork back ribs. Spare ribs are generally flatter and come in racks of 11-13.


The meat from the spare ribs is a bit tougher because the muscles around them are involved with breathing so they are used a lot more. They also contain more cartilage than back ribs.

Like back ribs, long, slow braising or cooking in a smoker, grill or oven, will turn the meat tender and succulent.

Country Style Pork Ribs:


There are a few cuts of pork that tend to be sold as country-style ribs. Country-style ribs are pork rib chops taken from the front end of the loin near the shoulder. Country-style pork ribs consist of a narrow portion of the rib bone, with the attached meat, along with a narrow portion of feather bone with meat attached.

Sometimes country-style ribs are taken from the Boston Butt rather than the loin, in which case they consist of cross-sections of the shoulder blade bone. Occasionally sections from the sirloin end of the loin will be labeled country-style ribs.

Boneless country-style ribs are just long strips of loin muscle along with the meat from between rib bones.

Beef Back Ribs:

Similar to pork back ribs, beef back ribs come from the upper portion of the carcass. Beef back ribs are generally bone and fat with a bit of cartilage and a small amount of meat.

There is a good reason for the ribs being cut like this, however. Meatpackers and butchers do so because the meat is reserved for ribeye steaks and prime rib. It just so happens that those two cuts of meat are some of the most profitable per pound. Beef ribs are significantly less desirable than other cuts of meat so the intercostal meat, meat between the ribs, usually ends up like ground beef.

Beef Short Ribs:

Beef short ribs, like pork short ribs, come from the lower part of the ribcage where it meets the sternum. Beef short ribs are tough with plenty of connective tissue. Unlike beef back ribs, beef short ribs have plenty of meat on them because from an economic standpoint there is no other real use for the meat.

They are called short ribs because they are generally cut shorter, usually between three to four inches. This is done because a beef carcass is much larger than a pork carcass and if they were cut any larger they would be difficult to manage when cooking.

The most common way to prepare beef short ribs is to braise them, although people can and do smoke them on occasion.

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