Ribs: Beef, Pork, Country-Style, Baby back, Spare, or Short

Dear Home Ec 101,

You mentioned ribs and I want to try to make some, but I get overwhelmed at the butcher shop. What ribs are best for what cooking style? Can you explain different types of ribs?

Signed,

New Age Girl

Heather says:

Absolutely, beef or pork depends solely on your preference, just keep in mind that beef ribs are larger and meatier-here’s where you say, “Duh, Heather cows are bigger than pigs.” To which I counter with, “You should see what people Google to land on Home-Ec 101,” I’m learning you cannot over-explain anything. Humor me.

Country style ribs may or may not contain bones and are cut from the blade end of the pork loin and personally I find the amount of fat makes these difficult to eat. I don’t advise serving these for a fancy occasion. Have plenty of napkins on hand, but do know that the fat helps keep the meat tender and moist. Country style ribs are most often braised.

Baby back ribs are cut from the center and blade portion of the pork loin and are quite lean. Generally you want to remember the idea of low and slow with baby back ribs for the most tender results. These ribs generally have a lot of connective tissue and heating too quickly will cause those proteins to denature and become tough, but slow heating can circumvents that process. Smoking or slow roasting baby back ribs is the way to go,  follow this up with a quick finish on the grill or under the broiler make these some of my favorites.

Spare ribs owe their name to how they used to be prepared, on a stick or spear, and over time and translations this became spare. Some people counter that theory with the idea that the name references the spare or extra meat on the belly side of the ribs. Do we care that much? I don’t. Spare ribs are cut from the lower portion of the ribs, just above the belly. Generally there is a little more fat on spare ribs which can yield more tender results.  Stick with the same preparation style as baby back ribs.

Here’s my favorite method: Memphis Style Dry Rubbed Pork Spareribs.

Rib tips are usually contain only cartilage (and meat) rather than bone and are cut from -wait for it- the tips of the ribs.

Short ribs are always beef ribs and generally a couple of inches thick, sometimes the meat is cut into chunks with only one rib per piece. Here’s a recipe for beer braised short ribs, it’s a little different from your usual tomato based bbq sauce. If that’s what you’re after, this is my favorite tomato based bbq sauce for beef ribs.

Finally, you may be saying, but everyone says I should boil my ribs.

Questions?

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

 

 



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