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When you say ribs, you are talking about different types of ribs like pork, beef, and lamb ribs. There are also less common ribs such as buffalo, elk, wild boar, and venison ribs. They all have their own charm but the spare-ribs are still the most popular. On this page you can read about the difference between the rib cuts.
Ribs are the meat cut that can take the most marinade, rubs and basting. Look at the Rub, Brine or Marinade page for more info.
Spare ribs are the most forgiving. They can be smoked with your favorite woodchips and will work quite well with almost any rib recipe. You only need three things for success: Time, Temperature and Moisture
Spare ribs come from the side or belly of the pig and are often sold with the breastbone attached which you can cut off yourself or ask the butcher to do it for you. There is a thin piece of meat that runs along the length of the ribs and is called the skirt. Some prefer to cut this strip of meat off and smoke it separately. Just bear in mind that this meat flap will be done in about two hours. Spare ribs have the least meat and the most fat of all pork ribs and still, they are considered the most flavorful. Mostly due to the amount of fat.
If you trim spare ribs further and have the breastbone removed as well as the cartilage and rib tips, it creates a rectangular shaped rack of ribs referred to as “St. Louis ribs”
If you leave the meat flap on then it makes “Kansas City ribs.”
Pork Back Ribs and Baby Back Ribs
Pork back ribs come from the back of the pig and contain, depending on where you buy the meat, a fair amount of loin meat attached to it.
One of the most favored rib types are the famous “baby backs.” These ribs are short, easy to hold, and meatier than spareribs. Many rib connoisseurs even claim they taste better.
A whole rack of back ribs weigh between 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 pounds. Baby back ribs are sometimes called riblets. These are increasingly popular due to their flavor and price.
Country-Style Ribs are cut from the shoulder end of the loin and have the highest meat-to-bone ratio with the least amount of fat. Often times, Country-Style Ribs are mistaken for pork chops. These pork ribs are perfect for those who want to use a knife and fork.
Beef Back Ribs
Back Ribs are the large bones left when a standing rib roast is cut to make a boneless rib eye roast. These ribs contain five or six bones per slab. Beef back ribs are not very meaty but it is very tender they do well in the smoker. Cut and serve two ribs per person.
Beef Short Ribs
Beef short ribs are cut from the bottom end of the rib cage called the “plate” or from the chuck area. Short Ribs contain a cross section of rib bones, with layers of lean meat and fat alternated throughout the ribs.
This meat is tough and can only be tenderized through a long, slow cooking process such as smoking. Trim all exterior fat of it for a better result. A full slab of short ribs is typically about 10 inches square, ranges from 3-5 inches thick, and contains three or four ribs, intercostal muscles and tendon.
Flanked-Style Ribs are from the same area of the cow and are very similar to short ribs. Cut lengthwise rather than between the ribs, Flanked-Style Ribs contain the most meat of short ribs.
Lamb ribs are not very popular in the United States, unlike in Europe and Asia where they are classed as a delicacy. Each weighs 16 to 20 ounces and contain very little meat. Lamb ribs should be trimmed of all exterior fat and, this can take an excessive amount of time. Lamb ribs usually go under the name lamp chop.
A lamb chop is cut perpendicularly to the spine, and usually contain a rib or riblet part of a vertebra and are served as an individual portion.
This leaves us with elk, wild boar and venison ribs. You will never find them in the shops. If you ever find some then do give them a try. They are worth it. You will mostly get them from hunters so it is difficult to determine the age of the animal. If you have a young animal you can think about direct grilling but to be on the safe side it is best to marinade and slow smoke for the best results. Elk can be very dry in comparison to boar but your best measure is the content of fat on the meat.