Rib Rundown: Pork Ribs

Brooke Newberry
(Photo: )

American barbecue pork ribs are probably what comes to mind first when you think “ribs.”  Pork ribs are most popular in the minds of the average American barbecuer. Whether your share is coming from fatty spare ribs or the tender baby backs, they’re sure to be a slow-cooked mess of sauce and seasoning.

 Pork ribs can be tenderer than beef, are smaller in size, are a bit milder and can be treated as more of a sauce canvas. Here’s a quick rib-down on the pork ribs you’ll run into at the market and how to cook ’em.


Cut from the belly section after the part used for bacon has been removed. Meaty, fatty, and rich with marbling between the bones – these are the wonderfully stuck-in-your-teeth-kind. Cook them slow-and-low, and eat them bathed with the sauce of your choice.  Less expensive than Baby Back ribs, and best suited for smoking.

Baby Back Ribs aka Back Ribs:

These are less fatty than spareribs, very moist, tender, and lean. They’re best grilled at a slow pace over medium heat, and they cook a little faster than spareribs. Also, no, they do not come from baby pigs – they are just shorter bones than spare ribs.

These are what raw pork Baby Back Ribs, up close and personal:

Country-Style Ribs:

Country-style ribs are actually cuts from the end of the shoulder blade and are more like pork chops than actual ribs. Meaty and fatty, these should be cooked like chops- not ribs.  In the store, a pack of these will often just contain a few actual bones, if any at all. Braise and slow-barbecue these.


Shopper Tip: Avoid buying packages or slabs with overexposed bones, known as “shiners.” You want the meat to cover the length of the bone.  Also,  make sure you have enough: a slab will contain anywhere from 11-14 ribs.  Plan to serve 3-4 ribs for every person, so buy about 4 slabs for every 10 people.


Check out pork ribs’ competition: beef ribs

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