Types of Pork Ribs

Jason Webster
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The 4 Main Types of Pork Ribs Explained

Pork ribs refer to the meat cutting cut from the pig’s rib cage. The ribs are divided into tasty pieces such as loin ribs, spare ribs, snow ribs, back ribs, neck ribs, box ribs, baby back ribs, etc.

You can get most of this either fresh or smoked, cased or loose.

Whole spare ribs often require a little prep work to get started. The main cuts you’ll come across are:

  • Pork Ribs Pork Ribs
  • Full Baby Back Pork Ribs

These are perfect for slow cooking, smoking and grilling. The meat is attached to the ribs and the meat extends over the bone. Both the membrane and cartilage are frequently removed before sale.

Back Pork Ribs

Like full baby back ribs, back pork ribs are cut from the loin end of the ribs and place high for easy access to the meat. Because it is easier to maneuver around, back ribs are a favorite for barbecuing. However, you will need to lace these ribs with a moist rub basted with a little extra oil.

Pork Spare Ribs

These ribs are frequently removed from the belly side of the ribs, but they can also come from the loin, shoulder, or leg. They are bigger in size than pork ribs, leaving them often a lot easier to decide how to choose.

Baby Back Ribs

These are the meatier and more expensive ribs. They have between three and five vertebrae from the ribs and weigh around 1 pound each. These are the more indulgent ones that are good for special occasions or when you want to treat yourself.

Here's a guide to help you decide which type of baby back ribs is right for you:

  • Chinese: These are traditional (pork) ribs from the loin. The Chinese use them the most, and they are ideal for slow-grilling and marinating. The Chinese normally refer to baby back ribs as pork ribs. The Chinese version is the most tender, and it is low in fat.
  • Western: These are what most Americans eat. They refer to the baby back ribs as back or loin ribs. They are normally better suited for cooking over a faster heat.

The tasty use of pork is ideal for low-fat meals. You can eat them on their own, cook them in BBQ sauce, or use them to add flavor to other meats, which is common in the Chinese cooking. Baby back ribs cost fair money.

The amount of money spent depends on the size, quality, and fat content. Therefore, it is essential to know the right way to pick the right ones.

Spare Ribs

Depending on their size and preparation, pork ribs can be labeled as spare ribs and country style ribs.

Spare ribs are larger and meatier compared to country style ribs. They are usually cut from the lower part of the pig, close to the belly area. Spare ribs are divided into 3 to 5 sections with each section having its own set of bones.

They are then trimmed and the edges are cut diagonally or rounded on top and curved underneath.

For pork spare ribs, the top edge is usually trimmed with some meat left on it. Rib tips are also part of the spare ribs cut, but they are removed to reduce costs. The lower part of the rib cage known as the sternum or breastbone may also be removed to further decrease weight and length.

Country ribs, on the other hand, are smaller and narrower. They are also meatier and have straighter bone structure. They are closer to the shoulder and under the loin. They are cut across the bone and the ends of the ribs are trimmed in the same manner as spare ribs.

Country ribs are served with a lot more meat on the bone compared to spare ribs and you can always remove the excess meat before eating them.

Country ribs are less expensive because they have more meat and less bone compared to spare ribs.

St Louis Cut Ribs

St Louis cut ribs refers to ribs that are cut up so that they look like the letter “V”.

This is popular here in North Carolina. And in this state, I think they do it better than anyone else I have tried in other states.

What makes this cut so delicious is the fat that connects the two bones in the cut. This fat can really make the pork ribs even more moist and steamy. This is great when it’s freezing cold in the winter.

You can easily make these at home. You should also be careful when handling the ribs after cooking them, as they’re really easy to fall apart.

Rib tips

Cooking ribs from only the rib section of the hog is technically called spare ribs. The rib tips are from the lower rib area of the hog.

The rib tips can be cooked in the same way as spare ribs, You can add the meat from the rib tips to a pot of soup or stew or you can toss them in the smoker.

Rib tips are also tasty if cooked in a smoker with a bit of sauce.

The last thing to consider about rib tips is how to cut them.

If you boil them down to a bite sized snack, you'll need to take them off the bone and then slice them. Rib tips also need to be trimmed of any excess fat. A good way to cook the tips is to start them on a grill, then finish them in the oven while the kids are watching TV. Or you can pan-fry them in some olive oil. They can then be served with mashed potatoes and green beans.

What about country style ribs?

Country-style ribs, sometimes referred to as lollipop or spare ribs, are chunks of meat rather than full ribs. They are often easy to find in your local supermarket and are a great choice when you don’t feel like fussing with a whole spare rib.

A platter of country-style ribs makes an easy meal that’s full of flavor, but remember they’re bone-in and use your fingers to get the meat off the bone.

Country-style ribs are partially covered in fat that makes them juicy and delicious. They’re easier to find than St. Louis-style ribs, and often less expensive.

They are sometimes sold rolled and tied like full spare ribs, but can also be bought as a single chunk of meat. And as with large St. Louis-style ribs, you’ll want to remove the membrane that is encasing the meat before cooking.

Braising is one of my favorite ways to cook country-style ribs. The longer cooking time allows the meat to absorb the flavor of the sauce.

Other types of pork ribs

There are many different types of pork ribs. Here is an alphabetical list of some of the more popular kinds of ribs you may find available in grocery store.

Baby Back Ribs

These come from a cut right below the loin, which makes them smaller and more tender. They also connect into the loin which makes them easy to find. Pigs shoulder to the loin is where the baby back ribs come from.

Baby back ribs are very popular in the American South and particularly popular in BBQ ribs and sandwiches.

Back Ribs

Back ribs are a cut from the lower part of the rib cage. They are larger than baby back ribs and are more tender but also more expensive. Back ribs are more popular in Europe than they are in the US. They are still very popular in the American South though.

Cut Ribs

Cut ribs come from the top of the rib cage. They are larger and more coarse than back ribs but cheaper. They are popular in the European Union and in China where they are considered cheap chuck roast cuts.

Flanken Ribs

Flanken ribs come from the lower part of the pork spareribs cut, between the 8th and 9th rib. They are very flavorful.

Flank ribs are popular in American BBQ restaurants. These rib cuts are also popular in the Asian market.

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