Ribs are a staple at barbecue restaurants across the country. Whether it’s Memphis, Chicago, Kansas City, Texas, the Carolinas and beyond, these cities all do barbecue differently, but they all have ribs on the menu.
It’s hard to believe that in the mid-1800s, ribs were considered a byproduct and were either discarded or given away by meatpacking plants. That is a far cry from today, where the demand for ribs is high, and with good reason. They’re delicious, fun to eat, and you can dress them up and cook them in a variety of different ways, flavored by a wide range of different things. But not all ribs are created equal. One of the first differences you may notice when it comes to beef ribs versus pork ribs is their size. In general, beef ribs will be bigger, and often take longer to cook compared to pork ribs in general. For most cuts of pork ribs, they will be reasonably lean and moderately meaty when compared to beef. Let’s take a closer look at the various types of both beef and pork ribs.
There are two main types of beef ribs – Back Ribs and Short Ribs. Beef back ribs are cut from the back of the cow in the dorsal area behind the shoulders. The meat can be braised or barbecued. Beef Short ribs (also known as plate short ribs) are a cut of meat from the lower part of the cow’s rib cage (the short plate) behind the brisket. Beef short ribs have a lot of fat content and marbling or connective tissue, so they’re a great choice for hands-off, low and slow cooking methods.
Beef ribs will have a much higher fat content and be closer to even portions of fat and meat. Compared to pork ribs, beef ribs have a strong, distinctive flavor that don’t need much additional seasoning other than salt and pepper. Alternatively, pork ribs have a taste that is not nearly as strong as beef and is sometimes described as oddly sweet. But pork ribs are a blank canvas and can pair well with a variety of different combinations of spices, rubs and bbq sauces.
There are four main types of pork ribs – Baby Back Ribs, Spare Ribs, St Louis-Style Spare Ribs and Country-Style Ribs. Baby back ribs are cut from the top section of the rib cage and are shorter than spare ribs (hence, the name “baby”) and are considered the leanest and most tender of the pork ribs.
Spare ribs have longer bones and less meat than baby backs. They are cut from the belly and are considered by some to have a richer flavor. St. Louis-Style spare ribs are spare ribs with the rib tips and brisket flap removed, giving them a uniform rectangular shape. The country-style rib is the meatiest of the ribs styles and is located in front of the baby back rib. Interestingly, this cut is not actually from the ribs and instead is more of a pork chop.
Making real barbecue takes time and dedication, and at Sysco we proudly sell our award-winning Butcher’s Block pork and Buckhead beef ribs to many of the greatest barbecue joints in the country.