Types of Pig Ribs

Different Types Of Pork Ribs- YOU HAVE TO TRY THEM ALL!!!

I actually did not know that there were different types of pork ribs when I first started cooking with outdoor grills and smokers. I just bought what I saw from the supermarket.

When I first tried out buying from local butchers with fresh goods, that is when I was asked which type of rib do I want and that was when I knew.

There are three main types of pork ribs that can be bought from any butcher shop. Some might even sell 4 types of pork ribs and they all have similarities and differences from each other.

There are differences where one offers more meat while the other has a more tender and fattier composition. The sizes are also different from each other so that can be telling.

Knowing the right type of pork ribs, and how they are trimmed, cut, and handled is important to make sure that they are cooked in the right way.

So in this post on pork rib cuts explained, there will be some very interesting facts and differences between these types of pork ribs as well as a simple recipe that beginners can do.

Anatomy of Pig RIBS

The rib cage of a pig runs almost the entire girth of its body. Depending on the breed of the pig, there are between 14 to 16 ribs on each side of the body of the pig.

Starting from the baby-back ribs, it is found on the top part of the ribs and actually connects with the spine of the animal. That is why some say that it is the more tender type of ribs.

Right below the baby-back ribs is the spare ribs which are basically found on the side of the rib cage. The spare ribs can be trimmed and made into St. Louis-Style ribs.

If you want a better picture so check this out to understand check out this amazing post from barbecuefaq for more info.

At the bottom near the stomach are the rib tips. They are found near the part where the bacon is cut from and have a decent amount of fats making them tasty and tender as well.

Country-style ribs are not actually ribs. Instead, they are cut in front of the baby-back ribs and are actually considered by some butchers as pork chops.

So these types of ribs are pretty close to each other with some even connecting but how do they differ from each other?

Different Types Of Pork Ribs

1. Baby-back Ribs

Sometimes referred to as loin, baby-back ribs are found at the top of the rib cage and are connected to the spine or backbone.

They are leaner and tend to be more tender compared to spare ribs. They are also smaller than spare hence the “baby” in its name and has nothing to do with the age of the pig.

The length of the bones in the ribs ranges from 3 inches on the shortest part to 6 inches on the longer parts. 

One distinct feature of the baby-back ribs is the bend on the top part nearing the backbone.

2. Spare Ribs

Right below the baby-back ribs is the spare ribs or spares. They are the largest type of pork ribs as they run the entire side of the pig from the top all the way to the breast bone.

If someone asks or talks about ribs without specifying which, they are most likely talking about spare ribs as it is the most popular type of pork ribs.

The top part of spare ribs has the marrow and the bone where the baby-back ribs are cut from. At the bottom, there is a slab of meat and cartilage that connects it to the next rib type.

Since the spare ribs have more fats in them, they are tastier than baby-back ribs.

3. Rib Tips

Rib tips are the small cartilage and gristle at the bottom of the spares. They are extra chewy because of the cartilage and are usually served by chopping them into smaller pieces.

This part of the ribs was once considered waste but now they are one of the delicacies that some people love to look for from the ribs of the pig.

Pork Rib Tips

Rib tips have a lot of marbling and fats so they are the most tender part of the rib cage. It is closest to the belly or the bacon so it only makes sense, plus the tenderness comes from the cartilage.

They are usually 8 to 12 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide and are served in 2-inch chops.

4. Country-style Pork Ribs

Country-style pork ribs are included in this post because of the name and not the actual part where they are cut from as country-style is not an actual rib.

This is not a really common misconception but the label or name might fool others. It has a more meat-to-bone ratio compared to the actual ribs cut from the pig.

Different types of Ribs
Image Credit- Flickr.com

The country-style ribs are cut near the shoulder part of the pig right in front of the baby-back ribs and are sometimes sold with either one or two bones in them.

Country-style ribs are cooked after brining them overnight and then cooked in a low and slow method or reverse sear for best results.

What About St. Louis-style Ribs?

While most of us would think of St. Louis-style as a form or method of cooking, it is actually still a part of the ribs and is found in the spares.

The rib tips are trimmed off of the spare ribs and what is left is the St. Louis-style ribs. The bones and overall shape of St. Louis ribs are more uniform compared to the other types of ribs.

Different types of pork ribs

So basically, St. Louis-style ribs are the spare ribs without the cartilage and gristle at the bottom as they are trimmed off to make a more regular shape on the rack of ribs.

How To Cook Pork Ribs


2 racks of trimmed spare ribs

3 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons of sweet paprika

1 cup of brown sugar

1 cup of beer

1 tablespoon of honey

1 tablespoon of brown mustard

1/2 cup of fajita seasoning

Step 1:

In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, fajita seasoning, and paprika. Mix them well and then rub the mixture on the ribs generously.

Place the seasoned ribs in a large baking pan, cover, and then let it rest in the fridge overnight.

Step 2: 

The next day, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. While waiting, get another bowl and then mix the Worcestershire sauce, beer, garlic, honey, and mustard.

Step 3:

Wrap the racks of ribs with aluminum foil, ensuring that the shiny side is always outside. Fold the edges of the aluminum foil and then divide the beer mixture into each packet,

Once the beer mixture is inside the foil, completely seal the aluminum foil by folding the sides.

Step 4:

Place the ribs in the preheated oven and then let them cook for about 4 hours. After 4 hours, remove the ribs and pour the drippings on a pan.

Set the racks of ribs aside on a baking sheet and set aside.

Step 5: 

Place the pan over the stove and let it simmer over medium-high heat. Allow it to simmer for 5 minutes or until it has slightly thickened.

Brush the simmered drippings on the ribs.

Step 6:

Preheat the broiler and place the glazed racks of ribs inside. Make sure that the ribs are 6 inches away from the heat source so they do not get burnt easily.

After 5 to 7 minutes, the glaze should have slightly caramelized and once it does, remove the ribs from the broiler.


Allow the ribs to rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes to tenderize them even more and make sure that the juices return back into the meat.

Cooking ribs might take longer in the oven but it can be done on the grill during a BBQ in the backyard. For even greater results, ribs can also be cooked by smoking to get a unique flavor.

Which Type Of Pork Ribs Are The Best?

The best and most popular are the St. Louis-style ribs that come from the spare ribs. They have just the right type of tenderness and are perfectly marbled for more flavors.

It is also presentable because the cartilage and gristle are trimmed off, making a more uniformed and regular-shaped cut.

As for the flavor, the spare ribs also have the advantage but this is more on the preference. That means that you might like the baby-back ribs more than the spare in terms of the taste.

Either way, the recipe can never go wrong with either of the 3 types of pork ribs so making the next ribs on the next barbecue in your backyard will be easy and result in a really great meal.

How To Buy The Right Kind Of Pork Ribs

Pork does not have the same standard or grading specifications as beef but by simply looking at the physical attributes of the pork, you can select a good cut of pork ribs.

The pork meat should have a color of either dark reddish pink or purplish-red color. A pale color means that the blood has been drained and there will not be too much meat flavor to the meat.

There should also be ample fats in the meat but not a big chunk. The large chunk of fat should be trimmed before buying it.

Pork ribs do not have that much meat, but selecting one with at least an inch of meat is perfect. This will further melt and reduce when cooked so the thicker, the better.   

Look for an even distribution of meat throughout the entire rack of ribs for a great bbq at home made from the most delicious pork ribs!

If you are interested you can check out some of the Ribs at Wild Fork Food as they have some great options at an affordable price.

Types of Beef Ribs
How to reheat Ribs
Best Wood for Smoking Ribs
Best Dry Rub For St. Louis Ribs or Any Ribs Recipe
2 1 1 Baby Back Ribs Recipe {Smoked Ribs RECIPE}
3-2-1 Method St. Louis Style Ribs On Grill
How Long To Let Ribs Rest?- How long is too long?

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