Craving for some home-cooked bone-in cuts of meat?
It is easy to imagine yourself gnawing on a rack of ribs, but choosing which type of ribs to get from the market can be a sticky situation.
The idea of a savory, mouth-watering barbecue coupled with the choice of a meat cut can leave you and your thoughts in a passionate debate.
We’re here to help you decide which cuts of meat to cook low and slow.
Read along for our discussions about meat ribs and their variations for a unique backyard cooking experience.
What are meat ribs?
Meat ribs are cuts of meat from the less-meaty, ribcage portion or loins of large domestic and game animals.
Your usual store-bought rib cuts come from cattle and swine, but you can also find meat ribs from lamb, deer, and other animals.
You can cook meat ribs by roasting, grilling, baking, braising, frying, or smoking.
If you haven’t noticed, most of the culinary styles pertain to slow cooking techniques. And two of them connect directly to barbecue.
Rib cuts became famous because of the large amount of flavor they hold compared to other meat cuts.
The tremendous meat flavor comes from its proximity to the bones, an area with bone marrow, collagens, fats, and connective tissues.
When rib cuts are cooking, the marrow and other juices ooze out and settle into the meat, making it both tasty and juicy.
Types of Ribs
You may have come across different types of rib cuts in your life but never cared about what types they are.
Here are all the popular variations in detail to give you the edge when it comes to selecting and preparing the best rack of ribs at home.
Beef ribs differ from pork ribs in bone size and the amount of meat on the bones.
Cows have longer ribs than pigs, and beef has more marbled fat running through the meat.
There are 13 pairs of ribs on a cow, and they cover a large portion of the beef carcass.
Beef ribs have more connective tissue around the bones, too, which is why they require more attention than pork ribs when cooking.
The popular short ribs come from the shoulder part of the ribs on a beef carcass.
It is a rectangular-shaped rack of ribs full of flavorful fat and collagen, making it great for slow-cooking, braising, smoking, or baking.
A rack of short ribs is cut along the direction of the bones.
Although it is called short ribs, it is longer, and it has more meat than any of the pork ribs.
Baby Back Beef Ribs
Also called dinosaur ribs, beef back ribs are enormous rib cuts usually leftover from a prime rib roast.
You could serve them in single rib portions because of their smaller size.
Despite the small amount of meat around each bone, they are flavorful and tender if you prepare them using the right cooking conditions.
Barbecue pitmasters recommend cooking baby back beef ribs in a classic charcoal smoker.
You can get flanked-style ribs from the same portion where you get the short ribs.
It is flanked-style because long slabs are cut perpendicular to several ribs.
Because of this cutting technique, a flanked-style rack of ribs contains more meat than short ribs.
Braising is the recommended cooking style for flanked-style ribs.
Pork ribs can be an excellent alternative for beef ribs because you can also make them tasty and mouth-watering with the right preparation techniques.
Both cuts of meat can be interchangeable despite the variations in flavor.
You can complement the milder, lighter pork flavor with sweet and tart ingredients, such as apple, cherry, garlic, and sage.
Since they come from smaller animals, different types of pork ribs contain smaller bones and less meat.
Country Style Pork Ribs
Country-style pork ribs can either come from the shoulder or loin of the pork carcass.
The tenderness of pork loin allows the possibility of quick-cooking a rack of ribs.
Pork ribs from the shoulder or blade are much tougher, which means the best way to prepare them is through slow-cooking.
Baby Back Ribs
Another quick-cooking type of bone-in pork meat is the baby back ribs.
Contrary to popular belief, baby back ribs do not need to come from a baby pig.
They are called baby back ribs because they come from a part of the ribs shorter than the spareribs.
This part is where the ribs meet the spine after removing the loin muscle.
The bone in pork spare ribs come from the larger ribs around the belly of a pork carcass.
Since bacon is very popular and comes from pork belly, the loin muscle around the large ribs is cut closest to the bone.
The small amount of meat left on spare ribs makes it somewhat inexpensive. Its meat is quite tough, and it requires low heat and slow cooking.
St. Louis Style Ribs
St. Louis style ribs are famous for their extensive use in barbecues.
They are a type of spare ribs cut to a near-perfect rectangular slab by removing the skirt and the rib tip.
Lamb ribs have a distinct flavor that pops out after slow grilling or braising.
Butchers cut lamb riblets from the breast because its fat content makes it the most flavorful part of the animal.
If you ever had the chance to hunt and cook deer, you would know that venison is very lean meat that requires a lot of moisture while slow-cooking.
Venison ribs have a robust flavor, but they require a lot of skill to cook perfectly.
What is the meatiest rib?
The meatiest rack of ribs comes from pork or beef.
Beef, being larger, takes a lot of consideration for size and amount of meat.
Pork ribs, on the other hand, have rib portions with wider spaces between the bones.
The meatiest type of bone-in pork meat is the country-style pork ribs.
What are the best types of ribs to buy?
To figure out the best types of ribs to buy, gauge your capacity to handle different meats and your access to specialized cooking equipment.
The tougher cuts of meat require slow cooking techniques using either a grill, a smoker, or an oven.
You can cook the more tender cuts in a simple iron skillet, but be prepared for the amount of smoke it will generate.
Whichever type of bone-in cuts of meat you get from the market, keep in mind that each is unique.
Cook ribs using the correct hot and fast or low and slow techniques appropriate for each type.
It doesn’t matter what recipe you are inventing so long as you produce a tender, flavorful rack of ribs.