Properly cooked ribs are the most succulent, moist, delicious food.
Applying a layer of mustard to your ribs before applying your BBQ rub and smoking them in your electric smoker will have enhanced your rib’s flavor even more.
However, just like portable pellet grills and butcher blocks, ribs come in a variety of different shapes and sizes.
When I had just started my BBQ journey, I found myself stuck in the meat aisle trying to choose a specific type of ribs.
I did not know the difference between spareribs, St. Louis ribs, and Flanked-style ribs.
To help you avoid the same anxiety I faced surrounding ribs, I put together this rib guide to make your job that much easier.
Different Types Of Ribs
It doesn’t matter which BBQ restaurant you go to; there are bound to be ribs on the menu. After all, ribs are popular around the world.
Pork and beef ribs are the most popular types of ribs. However, there are also lamb ribs and venison ribs.
Types of Pork Ribs
While pork ribs are one of the fattier cuts of pork, pork ribs are less fatty than their beef counterparts. However, pork ribs do have a higher ratio of protein per serving.
Pork ribs are easier to prepare than other types of ribs.
Pork ribs are available year-round in most grocery stores and can be cooked on a kamado grill, offset smoker, or indoors in the oven.
Spareribs are the lowest portion of the ribs. They run from the belly to where they join with the sternum.
Spareribs are flattened and usually are 6-8 1/2 -inches in width. Each rack can include 11-13 ribs.
Compared to their counterparts, spareribs have a tougher texture. However, they contain smaller ratios of muscle and are broader than back ribs.
Cooking spareribs low and slow will leave them tender and delicious. Overall, spareribs are a great inexpensive and flavorful cut of pork.
Country Style Ribs
Essentially, country-style pork ribs are long strips of loin the loin muscle fibers. They come from the loin meat near the shoulder.
If the meat is an inch in thickness after being carved from the bone, it is a country-style rib. Country-style ribs include an enclosed rib joint, part of the backbone, as well, as the meat.
Country-style ribs may also be fabricated from the Boston butt and include a piece of the shoulder blade bone.
You may also see country-style ribs that have been carved from the meat spanning from the loin to the sirloin ends. Country-style ribs can also be marketed as resting on the bones.
Country-style ribs are best when cooked on the stovetop or in the oven in a liquid over low heat for several hours. You can also serve country-style with a gravy or BBQ sauce.
You can also pre-smoke country-style ribs in your electric smoker before finishing them on the stovetop or the oven.
Pre-smoking is the best way to infuse the meat with a smoky flavor and get the most tender and delicious ribs.
Baby Back Ribs
Back ribs, more commonly known as baby back ribs, are carved from the back of the animal where it meets the backbones.
A rack of back ribs has about 8-13 ribs which can be 3-6 inches in length.
Back ribs are also curved because they are a part of the backbone, which is shaped like an S.
Due to their shape and high-fat content, baby back ribs are fatty with white connective tissues running throughout the meat.
St. Louis Style Ribs
St. Louis ribs are not a type of rib per se; it’s more of a method of fabricating ribs. St Louis ribs are spareribs that have been trimmed to create a uniform shape.
St. Louis ribs come from the St. Louis area in the U.S hence the name St. Louis ribs. Each rack of St. Louis weighs 3 1/2 pounds or less.
St. Louis ribs are usually grilled; however, you can also smoke them in a smoker.
Types of Beef Ribs
Beef ribs are the perfect cut of beef for BBQ. Beef ribs are tender, meaty, and very forgiving.
However, beef ribs are the underdog and remain unknown to most people since they can be extremely tough and chewy when they are cooked incorrectly.
Furthermore, beef ribs are a large cut that’s inexpensive, so you do not need to worry about how much meat per person.
Depending on the type of beef rib, you could feed up to 15-20 people with a rack of beef ribs.
Beef Back Ribs
Beef back ribs are so meaty that they are called dinosaur ribs. They contain 4 bones and have a healthy portion of cartilage and meat.
Essentially, beef back ribs are the large bones remaining after the prime rib roast has been carved from the animal.
Beef back ribs are fabricated into individual ribs instead of a slab of ribs because of their large size. Even though beef back ribs shrink quite a bit when they are cooked, they are incredibly tender and delicious when cooked the right way.
Beef Short Ribs
Beef short ribs are the meatiest portion of the primal rib cut. Beef short ribs are carved from the plate primal.
They are also divided into English-style, Western-style, and Flanked style short ribs.
They contain large amounts of intramuscular fat. However, when they are cooked the right way, beef short ribs become a lean cut of beef.
So, if you want a beefy flavor without all of the fattiness, beef short ribs are the perfect cut.
Flanked Style Ribs
Flanked beef ribs are the part of the rib primal that remains when the loin and brisket have been fabricated.
Instead of cutting the ribs straight down between the ribs, flanked beef ribs are cut lengthwise across the ribs.
When it comes to weight, flanked beef ribs are smaller, but they can be prepared similarly to spareribs. The steer’s connective tissues are not as strong and tough.
Therefore, flanked beef ribs are more tender than spareribs because they are fabricated from younger steers.
Because of their proximity to popular muscles such as the loin, flanked beef ribs are pretty meaty, but they also contain a fair amount of bones.
Although there are several different types of lamb ribs, one type of rib in particular stands above the rest: lamb riblets.
Lamb riblets are fabricated from the breast portion of the animal.
They contain long, tapered bones with healthy portions of meat and fat.
Lamb riblets are usually very small and play staple roles in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Shopping for ribs can be quite overwhelming if you have no idea what you are shopping for.
Luckily, you won’t spend 30 minutes in the meat aisle trying to figure out what type of rib to buy.
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.