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Beef Ribs vs. Pork Ribs – What’s the Difference?

Beef Ribs vs. Pork Ribs – What’s the Difference?

Ribs are smoky, delicious, and so juicy. However, ribs are often the subject of much contention.

In particular, the pork ribs vs. beef is an old but strong argument that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Some people believe pork ribs are superior to beef ribs. In contrast, others believe that it is based on preference and don’t see the need to pit these ribs against one another.

Nevertheless, let’s explore both types of ribs in-depth before making any decisions.

What Are Pork Ribs?

As the name suggests, pork ribs come from pigs.

Three different types of ribs come from pork ribs: spare ribs, St.Louis ribs, and back ribs, or baby back ribs.

Back ribs are fabricated from the loin portion of the animal. The loin sits in from of the back ribs.

Therefore, when the loin is carved away, the remaining portion of meat is the back ribs.

In contrast, spare ribs are fabricated from the belly of the pig. Specifically, they are the lower base of the ribs that are shaped like a triangle.

St. Louis ribs are actually a version of spare ribs. The only difference is they are trimmed to give them a triangular shape.

Ultimately even though some of the precious meat will be lost, St. Louis ribs are much easier to deal with.

Nevertheless, there are many ways to prepare pork ribs.

For example, you can roast them in the oven, grill them in your portable pellet grill, smoke them in an electric smoker, or cook them in a crockpot.

Typically, it takes 1-2 hours to cook pork ribs.

Although this sounds like a relatively small window, the ribs will become super tender as they cook.

In contrast, if you cook pork ribs too long, they can dry out and become tough.

What Are Beef Ribs?

Like pork ribs, there are also different cuts of beef ribs: back ribs and short ribs.

Back ribs are carved from the rib portion of the steer. 

They are the meat that remains after the ribeye steaks and ribeye roasts have been carved away.

Beef ribs resemble pork ribs, but back ribs don’t have as much meat because most of the meat is removed along with the ribeye.

On the other hand, short ribs are fabricated from the plate cut of the cow. They are near the base of the chest and are much meatier than back ribs.

Furthermore, short ribs transform into a tender, flavorful beef cut when cooked.

Short ribs cost more than pork ribs and beef back ribs. Interestingly enough, a whole rack of beef ribs is about 30 pounds on average.

However, only a mere 4 pounds of this rack are regarded as short ribs.

Therefore, short ribs are much more expensive since it yields a smaller amount.

Can Beef Ribs Be Cooked the Same as Pork Ribs?

Beef ribs can be prepared in the same way that pork ribs can. You can smoke them on your natural gas grill or pellet smoker for 1-2 hours.

Alternatively, you can also roast, braise or slow cook back ribs.

The only drawback of roasting or grilling beef back ribs, they will not be as tender as their pork counterparts.

When it comes to cooking ribs, short ribs are a different ball game.

Short ribs will be extremely tough and chewy if you prepare them like pork ribs or beef back ribs.

Short ribs should be treated like other tough cuts of beef such as pork shoulder and brisket.

Short ribs must be cooked at a low temperature for a long time. Therefore, braising is the best way to cook short ribs.

Braising gives the short ribs meat time to break down and transform into a tender cut of meat.

Beef Ribs vs. Pork Ribs

Clearly, beef ribs and pork ribs are very different. After all, the only thing they have in common is the name ‘rib.’

Let’s compare and contrast these two delicious types of ribs.


Both beef and pork ribs are affordable cuts of beef. However, the prices may differ based on where you live, the specific type of rib you are buying, and the quality of the ribs.

Case in point, a rack of pork ribs from a large retail grocery store would be cheaper than if you purchased them from an organic farm or specialty butcher shop.

There may be a $1-$2 difference per pound between pork ribs and beef ribs.

However, pork ribs have the edge over beef ribs since they are slightly cheaper when it comes to the price.

Size and Weight

Even though smoking pork ribs and beef ribs are pretty much the same, there is a significant size difference in size.

Beef ribs are noticeably bigger than ribs. Both beef back ribs and short ribs are larger than pork back ribs, spareribs, and St. Louis ribs.

In addition to this, short ribs have more meat than all pork ribs and beef back ribs.

Beef ribs can range in size from 8-12 inches in length. The average rack of beef back ribs has 7-8 ribs that weigh 3-4 pounds.

Beef ribs are also called dinosaur ribs because of their large size. Dinosaur ribs are usually short ribs.

Depending on the butcher’s discretion, an entire rack of beef ribs is in half. These ribs resemble pork ribs.

Due to their large size, beef ribs will take longer to cook. In contrast, pork ribs are much smaller than beef ribs.

The average rack of pork back ribs has 10-13 ribs and weighs 1 1/2-2 pounds. A rack of spareribs is 7-8 ribs and weighs 3-4 pounds.

Meat to Fat Proportions

In general, the meat to fat ratio will differ from pig to pig or cow to cow.

In addition to this, factors like the breed, size, and the specific cut will vary from animal to animal.

Nevertheless, there are still differences in the fat-to-meat ratio between beef and pork ribs.

Pork ribs are pretty lean, so there will have less fat. However, the fat increases the further you go down the rib cage.

For example, rib tips primarily consist of fat and bone.

Nevertheless, all pork ribs have a fair amount of bone which means they have less meat than their counterparts.

Because pigs are stocky animals, one would assume they would have a greater amount of fat and meat. However, beef ribs contain more fat and meat. 

In fact, beef ribs contain a hefty amount of marbling that makes them juicy and tender.

The intricate fat network also gives the beef ribs a robust, rich flavor.

The downside is that beef ribs are laden with connective tissues.

So, they will take longer to cook, and there is more work involved in cooking beef ribs than pork ribs.


The meat-to-fat ratio directly impacts the nutrition content of pork and beef ribs.

Beef ribs will keep you satiated longer because they have more meat.

Although you will gain a larger amount of protein and iron, beef ribs have more calories than pork ribs.

One serving (100 grams) of braised short beef ribs has 471 calories.

In terms of nutrients, each serving has 42 grams of fat, 94 grams of cholesterol, and 22 grams of protein.

A 3-ounce serving of beef back ribs has 286 calories. 80% of its calories are fat, while 19% of its calories are protein.

In contrast, pork ribs are much leaner and don’t contain as much fat.

So, they are considered the healthier option. A 4-ounce serving of pork back ribs contains 320 calories, including 26.74 grams of fat and 18.28 grams of protein.

A 4-ounce serving of spare ribs contains 210 calories, including 14 grams fat and 24 grams protein.

Which Is Better: Pork Ribs or Beef Ribs?

Beef ribs are much large and contain more fat than pork ribs.

However, because of their mild flavor and lean nature, pork ribs are much more versatile. 

In addition to this, pork ribs are easier to buy. Nevertheless, you can still purchase beef ribs from online meat vendors if it is not sold in your area.

Which type of rib is best all depends on your needs and your preference.

Which Is More Popular, Beef or Pork Ribs?

Pork ribs are by far the most popular ribs. Nonetheless, beef ribs also have a large fan base.

Both types of ribs require low and slow cooking since they have lots of connective tissues.

But you will not be disappointed when you bite into your beef or pork ribs.

Final Thoughts

Pork ribs vs. beef ribs is a famous debate that has been brewing in the BBQ world for quite some time.

As for which type of rib is superior, it depends on your needs and your preference.

To make your job much easier, I recommend firing up your propane smoker and cooking both types of ribs.

You will get to eat a lot of tender and juicy ribs, and you will find out which type of rib you like the best.

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