· Food For Thought
Not All Ribs Are Created Equal
For most of the North American population, 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.
The world of ribs is soooo 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 that is.
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 are tender and lean. There is meat between AND on top of the bones.
Price: Because there is high demand for baby back ribs, they tend to be more expensive than the other cuts. Supply and demand - economics 101 my friends.
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. Approx 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 after cooking.
Price: Less expensive than baby back ribs as a result of it's lower meat-to-bone ratio and the popularity of the baby backs.
Cooking: Due to the flatter shape, it's easier to brown this cut of ribs. Approx cooking time of 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
This part of the ribs have a lot of gristle and cartilage meaning very little meat. They are often removed from spareribs creating the St Louis cut so producing a better cut of meat. 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. They are often 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.
Price: Spareribs are the least expensive cut of pork ribs.
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 to 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' and that's 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. but require slow cooking to break down the tougher cut.
This is usually a square-ish chunk of beef that contains one rib bone. These are mostly used for braising and slow-cooking. This is the more popular cut of short ribs.
Barbecue style beef short ribs are cut across the rib and includes three rib bones and the meat between said bones. As their name alludes, these are best for smoking and grilling.