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Pork Back Ribs v Pork Baby Back Ribs

Technically, from a butcher's perspective, is there a difference between the cut of ribs labeled "Baby Back" vs simply "Back" ribs?

This past weekend at the grocery, I picked up a package of ribs with a size appearance of baby backs, saw the words "pork" and "back" and that's what I came home with.

It wasn't until the next day as we were eating that I noticed how meaty these ribs were...... much more than any baby backs I'd ever had in the past. The rack was also very uniform in size from one end to the other. After dinner, still pondering the meatiness, I found the cyrovac wrap, and it simply read "pork back ribs". Googling has given me no answers. Did I just get some very meaty baby backs or are back ribs a whole different cut?

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  1. One and the same. Just a good rack. They can vary in weight/meatiness quite a bit. When there's so little meat on the bone, so you can actually see part of the bone, we call em shiners.

    1 Reply
    1. re: woodburner

      Interesting and thanks woodburner. I've eaten (out) and smoked countless racks of bb's and honestly don't recall having ever had any of this quality. On various levels, I'm not a fan of wally world, so very seldom shop there, have NEVER purchased meat there, but this deal was spur of the moment, I was there with a friend, so that's where these ribs came from...... hmmm ..........

    2. Different type breed of pigs..........I'm no expert, but I the size of the ribs may have to do with the country or origin the where the pigs were processed and butchered.. I always noticed Racks of Ribs from Canada seemed the largest and Danish Racks of Ribs were the smallest.......the latter due to a smaller hog.

      Whatever the reasons......back ribs or baby back ribs to me are marketing terms for meat cuts from pigs that have reached market weight. Piglets, in general, are not used to slaughter for rib racks, or other parts, to my knowledge.

      3 Replies
      1. re: fourunder

        Back or Baby Back ribs come from near the top of the rib cage. It's not marketing.

        1. re: tommy

          So, St Louis Ribs don't come only from pigs from St Louis?

      2. pork baby back ribs are not from baby pigs (piglets). Typically baby back ribs are cut off the same rib cage as the spare ribs (a slab of spare ribs is fairly flat).

        Spare ribs are from the chest of the pig (sternum) and baby back ribs (or back ribs) are cut from the back towards the spine (hence more curvature).

        1. Where on earth did the chatter of "piglets" come from. I would hope not from inference of the term "baby". omg....... and lol!

          2 Replies
          1. re: CocoaNut

            Baby pigs are often slaughtered for consumption. Suckling pig is generally a very small pig (a baby). But yes, baby back ribs are not from a baby pig, which is what one poster had mentioned.

            1. re: CocoaNut

              Your OP was asking about the diff between "baby back" v. "back ribs"

              Baby pigs are often referred to as piglets. Just clearing up that "baby back" does not refer to a piglet.

            2. I have a hard time using the trendy term "Baby Backs" these days...I call them what they are...Back or Loin back ribs ~~ Time was when true baby backs should weigh no more than 24 ounces (1 1/2 lbs) ~~ Then it was no more than 2 pounds...Now it's any back rib from a market size (250 + or -) hog except for maybe "sausage sows" ...I saw some recently tipping the scales at 5 pounds!!! ~~~ Almost impossible to find the smaller (less than 2 pounds) ribs due to no one is taking that size hog to market..It doesn't make economic sense for the US farmer....The Danish ribs are small, not much meat, and as Woodburner said, most of the ones I've seen are full of "shiners"
              When shopping for modern day "Baby Backs" I look for the smallest ones I can find.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Uncle Bob

                Thanks - makes sense to me. Wish I still had the packaging to check the weight, though I know I didn't get the heaviest nor the lightest. Overall, I was very happy with the end result - product meatiness, the rub, the dipping sauce AND my 4 hours of smoking.

                An aside to UB - the entire process was on the smoker..... no pre-simmer..... ;)

                1. re: CocoaNut

                  I have an actual butcher! and he cuts pork back ribs two ways. The traditional "baby back" rack that is approximately 13 bones and have a thin layer of meat and he cuts "center cut back ribs" that are 8 bones and have about a 2 inch thick layer of meat. Same ribs, just cut a bit differently. The eight bone rack weights about 2 - 2 1/2 pounds.

                  For the center cut, he suggests sweating them in a medium oven for about 1/2 hour to 45 mins and then finish on the grill. He claims this makes the meat more tender. I've never tried cooking them any other way, but they sure to come out good with this method.

                  1. re: janetms383

                    "Center Cut Baby Backs" ~~ Now that's what I call a Creative Marketing term! I bet they really are meaty, tasty and pricey too! Other than the term (to me), it's not really anything new. In the trade they are called "Cheater Racks" ~~

                2. re: Uncle Bob

                  Thanks for the info. I too have learned to use the smallest racks possible. I never have luck with ginormous racks (e.g. from Costco).

                3. Personally, I prefer spare ribs which I buy at the local supermarket. High end stores don't carry them - they only carry baby backs. We cook the spare ribs for 4 hours on indirect heat at 220 and they are awesome.
                  Also, I have a question: when I got my spare rib racks , there were extra pieces packaged with the ribs. I froze them separately planning to do something with them. But, what part of the port are they for purposes of picking a recipe? they aren't really ribs, they have no bones.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: JC2

                    Two options....

                    Chinese Style Rib Tips in Black Bean Sauce......or

                    Sunday Gravy.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Or pork and beans (assuming they are smoked)!

                  2. To be honest I think you got "American" baby back ribs. There is baby back ribs and back ribs. Then there is "American baby back ribs and American back ribs". My Mom is a Canadian butcher and she explained it best. American pigs are twice the size of Canadian pigs, Why? Because Americans believe size is better so they pump all their cattle with GMO"s. But Slow cooked CANADIAN baby back ribs are so tender and delicious. Kinda like eating Veal compared to Beef!!!

                    1. I buy these at Safeway. They have the traditional 13 ribs, and I understand that the "extra meaty" part comes from having more of the loin left on when cut. Avg. weights are from 3 - 3.5 lbs.