For a large portion of North American people, when someone talks about ribs, the first thing that comes to mind are those delicious pork ribs slathered in smoky barbecue sauce that Kevin Spacey ate at Freddy's in House of Cards, but the world of ribs is so much broader than that.
Today we're breaking down the different types of ribs and the cooking methods that they best lend themselves to. Sit back, grab a napkin and get ready to go to school - the school of ribs.
Lesson #1: Pork Ribs
There are a variety of pork ribs. The differences include, anatomical differences, meatiness, price and how to cook them. Both cuts of pork ribs are best cooked using a low and slow approach, although you can braise 'em, grill 'em, smoke 'em, or (gasp) bake them in the oven. Pork ribs are really great for using with rubs and sauces.
Baby Back Ribs
No, they aren't from baby pigs. They are called baby back ribs because they are found near the spine and are shorter than spareribs.
Size: A rack of baby back ribs usually includes 10-13 curved ribs, about 3" - 6" long.
Meat: The meat on these ribs is tender and lean. There is meat between AND on top of the bones.
Cooking: As can be expected (if you're good at math or physics), baby back ribs cook quicker than St. Louis or Spareribs because they are smaller. Go figure. Approximate cooking time of 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
St. Louis Cut Ribs
These are also referred to as Kansas City ribs. They are the part of the rib between the baby backs and the rib tips. The process of trimming down the side ribs creates an evenly sized, rectangular slab.
Meat: The St. Louis style ribs contain more bone and fat. Though this means less meat, it also means they can be really flavourful when they're cooked right.
Cooking: Due to the flatter shape, it's easier to brown this cut of ribs. Approximate cooking time of 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
They are often removed from spareribs creating the St. Louis cut so producing a better cut of meat.
Meat: This part of the ribs have a lot of gristle and cartilage meaning very little meat.
Cooking: They're great for cutting up into smaller sections and put into saucy dishes. What they lack in meat, they make up in flavour.
Spareribs are a combination of St. Louis and rib tips. Spareribs aren't like spare tires. They aren't an extra set of ribs. Oftentimes, they're referred to as side ribs which makes a bit more sense. These ribs are most widely available compared to the other cuts.
Size: A rack of spareribs usually contains 10-13 ribs.
Meat: Spareribs are usually the least meaty, but most flavourful cut of ribs thanks largely in part to the higher fat content or 'marbling'. Marbling just sounds so much more appealing. The meat is mostly on the outer side of the rib bones rather than between the bones.
Cooking: Cook these as you would St. Louis style ribs. Some people will trim off the rib tips and cook them along side the rest and serve them as an appetizer before the St. Louis cut ribs, as they're ready a while in advance.
Lesson #2 : Beef Ribs
Unlike baby back pork ribs, back beef ribs are not as meaty, but they are very tender. They are attached to the rib-eye roast and as such, most of the meat is removed when the rib-eye is cut away.
Size: A slab of beef back ribs are usually 5-6 ribs wide measuring about 6"-8" long.
Meat: The meat is found between the bones. This meat is tender.
Short ribs is not a misnomer though based on their length it may appear to be. These ribs actually come from the 'short plate' which is where they get their name. They can also be cut from the area of the chuck roast. Cut from the shoulder, these ribs are usually a rectangular, uniform slab.
Meat: They are almost always marbled with veins of fat running through the meat. Beef short ribs have a deep, beefy flavour.
Cook: They may require slow cooking to break down the tougher cut.
This is usually a square-ish 2-4 inch chunk of beef cut parallel to the bone with one rib bone. This is the more popular cut of short ribs.
Cook: These are mostly used for braising and slow-cooking.
There you have it: two different meats with a variety of cuts and styles for each. The last step is to cook each of them for yourself and let us know how it went! You can tag us on Facebook or Instagram to show us your ribs!