Types Of Pork Ribs

Discussion in 'Pork' started by ronp, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have collected some info and edited it to the best of my abilty to clarify the types of Pork Ribs. If someone has a different idea please chime in. When I had the restaruant I only used Baby Backs and they were graded at 1 /34 pound and down.

    Overview. Pigs have 14 ribs. They are attached to the spine and are usually divied up into four popular cuts: Baby Back Ribs, Spare Ribs, St.Louis style, and Country Style ribs.

    Starting at the top are the baby backs, closest to the backbone, nestled beneath the loin muscle. They are curved, round, close together, and most of the meat is on top of the bones, cut from the loin muscle.
    As you move further from the spine, the bones get larger, flatter, straighter, and wider apart with more meat between them. There is more fat marbling in the meat as you go further from the spine and closer to the belly. The front ribs are connected to the breast bone with a number of small bones and cartilage known as the rib tips.

    Spare Ribs , 3 1/2 & down, 4 & over, etc. This is butcher talk for the weight of a slab of spareribs. A "3 1/2 & down" weighs 3.5 pounds or less untrimmed, with the tips attached. Most chefs prefer theirs 3 1/2 and down, from younger hogs.

    Back ribs (a.k.a. back ribs, a.k.a. baby backs, a.k.a. loin back ribs, a.k.a. loin ribs, a.k.a. Canadian back ribs). They are graded by weight the lighter the weight the smaller the pig . Back ribs are attached to the spine on one end and to the spare ribs on the other. They contain 8-14 bones per slab, and are less fatty than spares. A typical full slab has 11-13 bones. The slab is tapered at one end, with the shortest bones only about 3" and the longest about 6". Because they weigh less than spare ribs, they cook faster. They are usually curved like a hockey stick at the end where they meet the spine, (called the chine side). Depending on how the butcher removes the loin meat that is on the convex side of the baby backs, some can have up to 1/2" of delicate, lean loin meat on the top.

    Baby spare ribs. These are not the same as Baby Back Ribs. Nor do they necessarily come from young tender pigs. These are Spare Ribs made smaller by removing the Rib Tips. These are more properly called St. Louis Ribs but some butchers call them baby spare ribs to capitalize on the popularity of baby back ribs.

    Country-style ribs. Country-style ribs are not really ribs. They are cut from the front end of the loin near the shoulder (the shoulder is also known as the "butt" for some strange reason) and a tray in the grocery store can contain contain few, if any, ribs. In fact, if there are bones, they are often part of the shoulder blade. Country-style ribs are more like chops, more meaty and less fatty tham real ribs, and should be treated like chops, not ribs. There is no membrane on Country style ribs.

    Membrane.Spares, St.Louis, and back ribs. Each slab has a meat side and a bone side. The meat side is convex (curving towards you), and the bone side is concave (curving away from you). The bone side has a membrane called the pleura covering it. It can be leathery and almost unchewable when cooked, and it can prevent flavorings and smoke from penetrating. Many butchers remove the skin. If the membrane has not been removed when you bring home a slab, you should remove it yourself.

    Spare ribs (a.k.a. spares, a.k.a. side ribs).

    Spares come from further down the side than baby back ribs and there is more bone than meat in a slab of them. USDA says a slab must have at least 11 bones. They are also straighter and flatter than baby backs. The bones, connective tissue, and the fat make them very flavorful.

    Look at a slab of spare ribs and you will notice that along one edge the ends of bones are showing and you can see marrow This is where they were cut from the baby backs. The other end, with no bones sticking out, is a gristly flap from the sternum to the belly side, called Rib Tips.

    Spares are a little less expensive than baby back ribs because they have more bone. The price difference is also because demand for baby backs has grown significantly.

    St. Louis cut ribs (a.k.a. SLC a.k.a. barbecue cut, a.k.a. Kansas City cut). Lop the rib tips and the flap meat off a slab of Spare Ribs, and what remains is a flat rectangular slab called the St. Louis cut. Many experts like the taste of the St. Louis cut even better than the more expensive Baby Back Ribs because there is more meat between the bones, and it is better marbled.
    You can also trim your own if you want.

    I hope this helps dispel the differensces in pork ribs.

    Maybe some of our butchers can chime in also as things are labeled differently by region.
    arnie likes this.
  2. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks Ron, very nice tutorial on ribs...[​IMG]
  3. oneshot

    oneshot Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Great post on the difference in ribs Ron!!!!! Very helpful... [​IMG]
  4. warthog

    warthog Smoking Fanatic

    Thank You Ron for a excellent explanation on the various rib configurations.
    This will help many understand what they are looking at.
  5. eaglewing

    eaglewing Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Good Job Ron!!! [​IMG]
    arnie likes this.
  6. scpatterson

    scpatterson Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Now thats a post...Ron thanks for the info...Is there a way to save these on my USer CP?/? Would be nice to have a quick reference to things like this
  7. raceyb

    raceyb Smoking Fanatic

    I thought that was an excellent post of the types of ribs from a pig. However I have a couple of questions, or maybe I just need clarification.

    Country style ribs are indeed blade cut from the loin, however this cut tends to contain a lot of fat, more so then standard ribs from the side. Your article states that country style ribs are less fatty, which is correct?

    Country style ribs are best cooked slow and indirect, which means a smoker to me or braising on a grill. You state that they should be treated like chops rather then a rib. While they are not a true rib, they do benefit greatly from a slow smoked cook rather then a quick grilling because the meat is near the shoulder and can be tough. So which is right?

    Thanks for clarifying on this great post!!
  8. treegje

    treegje Master of the Pit

    I now have some more overview
    very useful, thanks[​IMG]
  9. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Since I always look at my meat I always hand pick and yes they can be fatty at times.

    Not sure what you mean about braising, since braising requires a liquid. Are you using a liquid and foiling on the grill or just indirect?

    I have done them on a grill indirect, smoked them 2- 2- 0 the 2 is braising, and just braised on the stove.

    Hope this helps to clarify it for you.

    Eaglewing, nice addition.
  10. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Ok thats helps ron I alway thought that baby backs were really spares trimmed to be baby backs but I stand corrected. So now it looks as if when I got bone in pork loins (cut in two) thats the baby back and some loin too then right.
  11. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Very "ribiting"... I mean riviting! [​IMG]

    Nice run down and explanation. Never really new what came from where, so it's kinda nice to know there is a differance, and what that differance is. [​IMG]
  12. raceyb

    raceyb Smoking Fanatic

    I sear mine over hot coals and then braise them in a foil pan that has beer and BBQ sauce added. This way the meat literally falls apart. If you treat it like a chop and grill it over direct heat, it will come out tough and chewy. Thats why I was questioning the treat em like a chop statement.

    I buy my country style ribs from several different stores and in the 20 years I have been cooking them, they are always fatty. I just assumed it was normal. Is that only here in my region? Cause in my experience, they always contain more fat then ribs but that is contracdictory to the information you provided so I asked.

    My country Style Ribs Qview from last weekend is here http://preview.tinyurl.com/ygnsfv6

    I just didn't feel like it merited a post here since it's not really smoking.
  13. rivet

    rivet Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Outstanding post, Ron! Thanks for taking the time to be so clear and helpful in deciphering what is to many folks a confusing and often frustrating situation.

    You've done an excellent job in clearly explaining the cuts and their typical appearance/performance as well as adding some of the "local/regional" names we see at the grocery store, which contributes to the end-user's confusion. I, personally would like to thank you especially for that. Often I'm confused by the new names for cuts of meat at the store that think I recognize but have never heard of.

    A definite sticky I think- for this fine thread- and definitely well-earned points!

  14. bassman

    bassman Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks for the post Ron! SC, to save it, highlight the body of the post, right click, click copy. Open your word processor and paste into your document. Save as (whatever you want to call it).
  15. scpatterson

    scpatterson Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    No way to save within the Forum, Maybe inside the user CP?? Good suggestion on the word Doc....
  16. chefrob

    chefrob Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    thx for posting some good info ron.......

    FWIW - i have grilled CSRs and have had them come out tender and juicy....just don't go over 165-170.
  17. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Pictures added.

    Baby Backs.

    Spare Ribs.


    St louis style Spares.


    Rib Tips cut from spares.


    Country style Ribs.



    I hope this helps someone.

    Good luck on your rib hunt.
  18. arnie

    arnie Smoking Fanatic

    Old post, but just what I was looking for
  19. bear55

    bear55 Master of the Pit

    An awesome post, great information!
  20. mr500

    mr500 Meat Mopper

    Where does "butt" come from......

    In pre-revolutionary New England and into the American Revolutionary War, some pork cuts (not those highly valued, or "high on the hog," like loin and ham) were packed into casks or barrels (also known as "butts") for storage and shipment. The way the hog shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known in other regions as "Boston butt".

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