Ribs 101


Ribs…. I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t like ribs. Whenever I have a BBQ with my family and friends, I always get asked, “Are you making ribs?”   They know it’s one of my specialties, and everyone loves them.

There are a great variety of ribs to choose from:  pork baby backs, spare ribs, country ribs, beef short ribs, beef back ribs, even lamb riblets for a great appetizer!

Pork Back Ribs

Pork back ribs are the most popular and the most tender; thus, the most expensive. There are thirteen ribs to a rack. The rack is shorter on one end because of the natural tapering of the animal’s rib cage. The baby backs start at the top of the animal closest to the spine. They have curved bones and are cut from the underside of the pork loin.

Pork Spare Ribs

The bones on the pork spare ribs get much larger and flatter as you move down the same thirteen ribs.  These ribs come from the animal’s belly and tend to be meatier and less tender. Spare ribs take longer than baby backs to cook. St. Louis style spare ribs have the brisket bone removed.  The brisket bones are known as rib tips, which are small chunky pieces.  They don’t have much meat but are packed with lots of flavor!

Pork Country Ribs

Pork country ribs are cut from the rib end of the pork loin. These three or four ribs that are next to the shoulder, are split down the center of the eye of the meat, leaving small rib bones with lots of meat.


There are two major beef cuts of ribs:  beef short ribs and beef back ribs. There are thirteen ribs on a steer - five on the chuck (shoulder), seven on the rib, and one on the short loin.

Beef Back Ribs

Beef back ribs come from the prime rib and are not very meaty.  When done right, they have great flavor. This cut of rib is not easy to find, unless, of course,  you know a great Butcher! Even then, you may need to special order.

Beef Short Ribs

Beef short ribs on the other hand, are readily available and are cut two different ways.  An English cut, is a three rib long bone.  The Flanken style is cross cut about one and a half inches thick. Both styles have a huge, hearty flavor, and are well worth the extra grilling effort.

When picking out your ribs, look for an even amount of meat over the ribs.  You don’t want a large amount of meat on one end and little to no meat on the other end.  The ribs should be a light color with even marbling across them.

If you find rib bones with no meat, they may fall out during the cooking process. Remember to remove the skin or membrane on the back of the back ribs and spare ribs prior to grilling.  

Whatever type of ribs you choose for your next BBQ I’m sure they will be delicious! Grill on!