The main distinction between ribs is pork versus beef. Pork ribs are leaner with a mild flavor that works as a blank canvas for all kinds of flavors. The versatility and smaller size of pork ribs makes them a popular choice for home barbecuing.
Beef ribs are larger (earning them the nickname “dinosaur ribs”) with more meat and fat on the bone and a more prominent, meaty flavor. For this reason, beef ribs are typically prepared with a minimum of additional ingredients, allowing the taste and texture of the meat to shine.
Which ribs should you choose?
The type and cut of ribs you choose makes a big difference when it comes to flavor and cooking time. The cuts of pork ribs available at the butcher counter include:
Baby Back Ribs (sometimes called “back ribs” or “loin ribs”). This is the leanest, most tender, and, typically priciest cut of pork rib. The name baby back refers to their small size, which makes them the quickest cooking cut.
Spareribs. This longer, flatter cut is less tender than baby back, but has more meat between the bones. Spare ribs also have more fatty marbling, giving them more flavor and natural moisture.
St. Louis-style Spareribs. This popular cut is trimmed of excess bones and cartilage more than regular spare ribs, giving the rack a more uniform, rectangular shape.
Despite the name, this cut actually comes from the loin, not the ribs, making
them closer to bone-in pork chops. The meaty texture can withstand higher direct
heat without becoming tough and dry like other pork ribs.
Beef ribs are separated into two main cuts:
Short ribs. Prized for their rich, beefy flavor, short ribs are five small ribs that come from the chuck area of the cow, sold both bone-in and boneless. Cut from a thick muscle, short ribs require a long cook time to become tender, but the ultra-flavorful meat is worth the wait.
Back ribs. Cut from behind the shoulder, back ribs come from the same area as beef rib roast. You can think of these large ribs (typically 6-8 inches long) as prime rib with bones, though the muscle and cartilage content require a longer cooking time.
All ribs benefit from a low and slow cooking method to coax out maximum flavor and tenderness. Oven roasting at a low temperature, braising (using the oven, stovetop, slow cooker, or Instant Pot®), grilling over indirect heat, and smoking are all tasty options.
For pork ribs, we love the two-step method of roasting or braising then finishing on the backyard barbecue for craveable, smoky flavor.
Ready to get your ribs on? These tasty recipes are sure to be a hit, no bones about it.
Cherry Cola Spare Ribs
These smoky-sweet pork ribs will have everyone at the barbecue licking their fingers clean. The tangy glaze combines barbecue sauce and cola with fresh summer cherries.
Classic smokehouse flavor takes a shortcut in these fall-off-the-bone baby backs. Adding wood chips to the grill creates a smoky finish for fork-tender ribs that cook mess-free in the oven.
For a satisfying summer meal without a ton of work, fully cooked ribs from the deli paired with fruit and veggie slaw are a no-brainer. Cabbage slaw mix tossed with fresh pineapple and peanuts adds a bite of tropical crunch alongside fully cooked St. Louis-style spareribs that heat up in minutes on the grill.
These Thai-inspired pork ribs are certain to be a standout at your next cookout. Their umami-rich flavor comes from a fiery-sweet sauce made with cream of coconut, red curry paste, and sriracha.
The slow cooker makes it easy to coax rich taste and succulent texture from boneless beef short ribs. Cooking in a simple braising liquid of onions, garlic, red wine, and vinegar perfectly complements the ribs’ naturally robust beef flavor.
If you like your ribs dry rubbed and spicy, these peppery baby backs might become your new favorite. The oven-braised then quick-grilled rack gets its distinctive flavor from a healthy dose of black pepper cut with the sweetness of brown sugar and the mild spice of paprika and cumin.
These 45-minute ribs come together mostly hands-free using the Instant Pot®. A flavorful rub with chili powder and brown sugar adds spicy-sweet heat before a quick smoky finish on the grill and slathering of barbecue sauce.
The secret ingredient for these tangy, not-too-sweet baby backs is probably already in your pantry. The mild bitterness of orange marmalade combined with cider vinegar and a trio of spices adds rich, layered flavor to oven-roasted pork ribs finished on the grill.
These tasty ribs are inspired by a popular Korean barbecue dish called galbi. Hoisin, orange juice, and sesame oil add complex flavor to country-style pork ribs that cook hands-free in the slow cooker.
This low-carb meal-in-one packs a hearty punch of vitamins and protein. Melt-in-your-mouth slow cooked boneless beef short ribs pair perfectly with tender strands of spaghetti squash and sauteed spinach with butter and fresh lemon.