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Jun 17, 2009 12:35 PM

What's the difference in RIBS?

What is the difference when buying pork ribs- which is the best one to buy? Lables are all different- baby back, spare ribs, etc...

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  1. Not sure there is a best but I prefer spare ribs, more meat, although they take longer to smoke. Country ribs are not actually ribs but still good eatin'.

    Try to avoid the brine-injected cryovac ribs if possible.

    Take a look here:

    1. Baby backs are shaped like a long rectangle and are cut from the section of ribs closer to the spine. They are leaner, and cook faster and more consistently than spares, which is why they are more expensive.

      Spare ribs are cut lower on the ribs, closer to the belly. They are shaped kind of like Oklahoma. They are harder to cook than baby backs because they vary in thickness and have several different 'zones' of texture (fatty, meaty, cartilage-y, etc) but I think they taste much better if cooked right.

      2 Replies
      1. re: RealMenJulienne

        You can take spares and cut them St. Louis style. Cutting off the rib tips and the flap meat. This makes them more consistant and easier to cook. In a smoker they take around 5-6 hours at 225* in what is often called the 3-2-1 method. 3 hours uncovered, 2 hrs foiled then 1 hour uncovered to improve the texture of the outside after being in foil. I like baby backs but spares are meaty and when cooked correctly are fantastic.

        1. re: RealMenJulienne

          in my view, the best ribs for bbq are trimmed and squared off spare ribs--usually called "st. louis" ribs. the trimming limits some of the liabilities cited above without undoing the advantages. a slab of st louis ribs will cook pretty evenly--though likely will take a bit longer than back ribs.

        2. agree with everyone re: st. louis vs. baby back. cut off the skirt and brisket (or tips), and they will cook more evenly, and the final product is easier to eat, with a single bone running the length of the rib, rather than a bone running into cartilage and fat. smoke the tips along with the ribs, and then pull and throw into baked beans.

          3 Replies
          1. re: tommy


            If I am reading you correctly, then the rib tips trimmed off the spare ribs are what is called the brisket. I see pork brisket at a couple of small grocers around here and always wonder what it was. Didn't look like rib tips, but I need to go look again.



            1. re: danhole

              that's my understanding. now, whether or not what you saw labeled as "brisket" is the same thing remains to be seen. butchers and grocery stores are notorious for mislabeling meat. it's as if they have no idea what their product is.

              here is one of the best demonstrations and description of a pig that i've ever seen:


              depending on if they cut up the brisket or tips, they might look more like knuckles then anything.

              1. re: danhole

                here is a tutorial on trimming spares to st louis. The rib tips are referred to as brisket

                A couple more vids on trimming spares