Different Types of Pork Ribs: Cuts Explained and Tips

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Pork ribs are an excellent source of protein and nutrients. They’re versatile, and the meat is tender and flavorful. There are a few different types of pork ribs, each with a different flavor profile. 

In this article, you will learn about five different pork rib cuts.

  1. Baby Back Ribs
  2. Spare Ribs
  3. St. Louis-style Ribs
  4. Rib Tips
  5. Country-Style Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs are taken from around the loin, the muscle that runs along the pig’s back. They’re curvier and shorter than spareribs, with lots of lean meat between and on top of the bones. Because they’re smaller, they’ll take less time to cook and come with a higher price tag.

Baby back ribs come from the upper loin section of the pig, near the spine, and are one of the most popular pork rib cuts. Sometimes these ribs are referred to as loin back ribs. 

These ribs have absolutely nothing to do with piglets. The term “baby” relates to their size, which is less than that of spare ribs. The term “back” refers to the fact that they are attached to the pig’s backbone.

Most people prefer this cut because of its tenderness and flavor. Baby back ribs are generally considered the most tender pork rib cut available. They’re also leaner than other pork ribs, which means less fat, calories, and cholesterol. 

Spare Ribs

Spareribs are cut from further down the side of the pig near the belly, reaching down toward the breastbone. They are longer and flatter than baby back ribs, allowing them to brown more evenly. These spareribs have fattier meat with more marbling between the top and bones.

St. Louis-style Ribs

St. Louis-style ribs are spare ribs, trimmed up a little more. It results in a more rectangular, uniform look to the rack of ribs. In the mid-20th century, the name came about when meatpackers from St. Louis started to cut their meat this way.

They have less meat than baby back ribs, but the flesh is fattier. You won’t often find this rib cut in your local big-box grocery store.

Rib Tips

Rib tips are the tiny bones and cartilage that connect the lower breast bone to the front ribs. They are cut from the lower ends of spareribs when cutting them into St. Louis ribs. Rib tips are usually 8 to 12 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide.

Country-Style Ribs

You’ve probably heard of country-style ribs as well. But, to be clear, these are not ribs at all. These are bone-in pork chops sliced from the front of the baby back ribs near the shoulder.

You can serve Country-style ribs with a one or two bone thickness and a large amount of pork loin meat attached, depending on the total size of the pig.

What Is the Best Type of Pork Ribs?

As with most types of meat, it is really up to you. Many different considerations can influence your decision. One of the most important factors is the cut’s flavor and appearance. 

For example, baby back ribs are leaner than St. Louis ribs. They have a lot less fat which means you’ll have less flavor. St. Louis ribs are rectangular, with more meat per bone than baby back ribs. Baby back ribs are usually curved, whereas St. Louis ribs have straighter lines.

How to Choose Different Types of Pork Ribs?

Pork doesn’t have the same kind of grading specifications as beef. When buying pork ribs at the grocery store, you should look for pinkish-red color with some good marbling or tiny flecks of fat. You also want to get ribs that are around an inch thick.

What Are the Most Tender Pork Ribs?

Generally, the most tender pork ribs are baby back ribs. These are the leanest and tend to have the best texture. St. Louis-style ribs are also thinner than spare ribs, but they don’t have the flavor of baby back ribs. 

What’s the Difference Between Spare Ribs and Baby Back Ribs?

Pork ribs come in two main varieties: baby back ribs and spare ribs.

Baby back ribs, sometimes referred to as back ribs, are the front portion of a rib cage on a pig. Flip a baby back on its side, and you’ll see a bone going down the center of it with cartilage connecting the bones on either side. It’s leaner than other ribs due to less fat, making it more tender when grilled or appropriately barbecued.

Spare ribs are sections from the upper portion of pork rib cages that hang down from either side of an animal’s spine under their armpits. They have thicker meat and more fat than baby back ribs, resulting in a juicier and tastier end product.

Which Is Superior: Baby Back Ribs or Spareribs?

Baby back ribs are leaner, more tender, less flavorful, and have a better texture.

How to Prepare Pork Ribs Before Grilling?

You can follow these instructions to prepare pork ribs before grilling.

How to Prepare Baby Back Ribs?

  1. Choose ribs with a generous amount of meat, ideally
  2. Remove any excess meat or fat from the bone side.
  3. Remove any tough sinew (silver skin) from the meaty side.
  4. Insert the tip of a meat thermometer or knife through the membrane and over a bone.
  5. Using a paper towel, pick up the membrane’s edge and pull it off.
  6. Lightly season the bone side of the ribs. Don’t forget about the edges!
  7. Season the ribs more heavily on the meaty side.

How to Prepare St. Louis-style Ribs?

  1. Your ribs should be “squared up.” It entails removing the sharp end of the ribs to make the rack rectangular.
  2. Flip the ribs so that the bone side is facing up. There will be a flap of meat. It is known as the skirt. Remove this. You can save this meat and cook it alongside the ribs. It will be ready approximately halfway through the cooking time.
  3. Look for any fattier protuberances and trim them.
  4. Remove the membrane as instructed in the preceding section.
  5. Feel where the bones end within the meat. Cut along this line to form an almost rectangular rack in line with the ends of the bones.
  6. The meaty section you removed is commonly referred to as pork brisket. Rib tips are another name for it. In any case, it can be cooked and eaten, so don’t throw it out!

What’s the Difference Between Grilled and Smoked Ribs?

Grilling and smoking are different methods. It’s essential to learn the differences to get the perfect result.

Grilled Ribs

Grilling is a cooking method that involves dry heat applied by a single burner, flame, or another heat source directly over the food being cooked. The heating element is usually built into an oven or a grill on your countertop or backyard. This element cooks meat in a small area without adding fats from the outside, making grilling more healthful than other methods of cooking meat such as deep frying.

When grilling, you should use oil with a high smoke point to achieve these results. 

A lower smoke point means more fat is consumed when cooking with this type of oil; If you want to reduce the amount of fat in your food, make sure the smoking temperature is not too high. The meat will be cooked through and juicy.

Smoked Ribs

Smoking is a way of cooking meat using smoke as a heat source. You should smoke meat between 225 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit to cook slowly and low.

Smoked dishes also have more complex flavors than grilled dishes because they are often combined with other ingredients during the smoking process. If you want to make the food even more flavorful, try adding some dry rub or marinade before putting it on the grill or smoker. 


With this article on pork rib cuts explained, you should understand what distinguishes different types of pork ribs and what to look for when purchasing ribs.