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Different Types of Ribs Explained

These types of ribs offer a cut for every taste and cooking method.

Ribs are a beloved staple in many culinary traditions, from smoky barbecues to hearty stews. 

Different Types of Ribs Explained featuring Top View of Cooked, Bone-In Ribs with Barbecue Sauce on Parchment and a Cast Iron Grill

This comprehensive guide explores several types of ribs available, including everything from classic spare ribs to flanken-style ribs.

And even the lesser-known fish ribs! 

I’ll cover what makes each variety unique, what to look for when buying, and more! 

Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a weekend griller, there is one meaty cut for you. Let’s find your ideal type of rib! 

Types of Ribs

From land to sea, the rib universe is as diverse as it is delicious. 

Exploring these variations promises a culinary adventure that spans flavors, cultures, and cooking techniques.

Raw, Marbled Pork Spare Ribs on a Wooden Cutting Board with a Butcher's Knife, Thyme, and Red Peppercorns

1. Pork Spare Ribs

Pork spare ribs are flavorful, meaty, and a bit more bone than their other counterparts. 

This cut comes from the belly side near the rib cage.

These ribs have a generous amount of fat, which renders down beautifully when slow-cooked. 

It produces a succulent and flavorful bite ideal for smoking, braising, grilling, or stews. 

Their flat and long appearance is the chief characteristic of pork spare ribs. 

They’re a favorite for grill enthusiasts, especially when adorned with a shiny, sticky barbecue glaze.

Raw, Marbled Baby Back Ribs with Rosemary on a Wooden Cutting Board

2. Baby Back Ribs

Contrary to what their name might suggest, baby back ribs are not from baby pigs! 

After removing the loin, butchers cut the meat from where the rib meets the spine. 

This type of cut is called “baby” because they are shorter than spare ribs. 

Curved and meatier than spare ribs, these beauties boast a tender texture. 

Baby back ribs gain an irresistible pull-apart tenderness that’s hard to beat. They are ideal for smoking or grilling. 

Raw, Marbled St. Louis-Style  on a Wooden Cutting Board with Parsley, Spices in Bowls, and a Chopping Knife

3. St. Louis-Style Ribs

A variation of the spare rib, the St. Louis-Style Ribs are a barbecue pitmaster pride and joy. 

They remove the brisket bone, creating a rectangular, neat slab perfect for even cooking. 

This rib type is popular in the Midwest and is a staple in many barbecue competitions. 

St. Louis-style ribs are a go-to for those who love an even char and a straightforward eating experience. 

Close Up of a Pile of Raw, Marbled, Country-Style Ribs on a Baking Sheet

4. Country-Style Ribs

Don’t let the name fool you- country-style ribs are not precisely ribs in the traditional sense. 

These come from the blade end of the loin, close to the upper pork shoulder. 

They are meatier- their meat-to-bone ratio is more like pork chops. Typically, they contain no rib bones but have parts of the shoulder blade.  

Country-style ribs are perfect for those who like ribs but crave a meatier, boneless bite. 

Their substantial meat content makes them great for braising, grilling, or slow cooking.

4 Thick, Beautiful, Raw Short Ribs on Parchment with Salt, Peppercorns, and Parsley Artfully Styled Around the Parchment

5. Short Ribs

Short ribs stand out from the crowd with their beefy origin. They’re cut from the cow brisket, plate, or rib areas. 

These ribs are synonymous with a deep, rich flavor. People cherish short ribs for their marbled fat content. 

The marbling translates into a melt-in-the-mouth tenderness that pairs with hearty gravies and sauces when braised. 

Offering a robust beef flavor, they’re a favorite in cuisines worldwide. 

The cut is a classic- from the Korean ‘Galbi‘ to classic American braised short ribs.

Two Raw, Flanken-Style Ribs on A White Background

6. Flanken-Style Ribs

Flanken-style ribs feature prominently in Korean BBQ and Latin American cuisines. And they are a delight! 

These are beef short ribs sliced thin across the bone. The cut results in a strip of meat adorned by a series of small bone segments. 

Marinate them in a garlicky, soy-infused concoction, and you’ve got the makings for a Korean BBQ staple. 

Their thin profile means they cook quickly, perfect for a sizzle on a hot grill.

3 Raw Beef Back Ribs on a Wooden Cutting Board with Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper in the Foreground and Background

7. Beef Back Ribs

These are the beefy counterparts of pork’s baby back ribs. Butchers extract them from the upper rib section of a cow.

Beef back ribs have a lot of bone with meat covering on top. 

While they may not be as meat-laden as other cuts, they’re intensely flavorful, especially when roasted. 

These ribs are the secret weapon for many pit masters looking to serve meaty, fall-off-the-bone tender beef.

8. Lamb Riblets

Tired of pork and beef? Well, lamb riblets make a fantastic choice for those craving a change. 

Riblets are the smaller, flavor-packed sections of a full-sized lamb rib rack.

The lamb’s characteristic gamey taste shines even more with flavorful BBQ rubs

Whether roasted, grilled, or smoked, these riblets offer a tender and juicy bite.

Raw Tuna Ribs on a Serving Plate with Oil, Wasabi, Green Onion, and Other Seasonings

9. Tuna Ribs

Tuna ribs prove land animals aren’t the only ones with something delicious to offer!

They extract these ribs from large tunas. So, they have a distinct seafood flavor and meaty texture.

Try marinating and grilling them for the best results!

Tuna ribs are ideal for pescatarians and seafood lovers looking to tread in the rib territory.

Raw Pacu Fish Ribs on a Serving Plate with a Lime Wheel

10. Pacu Fish Ribs

Diving deeper into the aquatic rib realm, the Pacu fish is an unexpected contender. 

Pacu fish ribs are quite meaty and have a texture that could rival many traditional meats. 

And you can feel good about enjoying these ribs because Pacu fish are sustainably grown. 

Pacu ribs are best with simple seasonings, allowing the fish’s natural flavors to shine. Grill them for the most flavor! 

They’re a delightful twist on the rib narrative that intrigues and satisfies adventurous palates.

Which Type of Ribs Has the Most Meat?

Country-style ribs typically have the most meat. 

Butchers cut them from the blade end of the loin, close to the pork shoulder.

Unlike other rib cuts that are more bone-centric with meat in between, country-style ribs are boneless. 

But for bone-centric ribs, St. Louis-style ribs are one of the meatiest options.

What if you venture into the realm of beef cutsShort ribs are the meatiest beef ribs. 

The English-style cut offers a generous chunk of meat attached to a single bone. 

What to Look for When Buying Ribs?

When buying ribs, several factors ensure you get the best quality for your meal. 

Here’s a guide on what to look for:

Meat Quality

Color: For pork, look for a pink to reddish color. For beef, the meat should be a bright cherry red. Avoid any meat that looks gray or brown.

Marbling: Those little white flecks in the meat are crucial for flavor and tenderness.

Bone Quality & Structure

Ensure the bones are consistent in size for even cooking. 

Steer clear of rib slabs where the meat has been trimmed close the bone. The exposed bones could detach during the cooking process.

The bones should be cleanly cut, without splinters or shards.

Freshness

Always purchase fresh ribs. Avoid buying frozen or previously frozen ribs.

The meat should smell fresh and not have an off or sour odor.

If buying pre-packaged ribs, ensure the packaging is sealed tight. The package should have no excessive liquid or purge (meat juice).

Size & Cut

Depending on your cooking method, the size and cut of the rib matter. 

  • Flanken-style ribs are great for quick grilling.
  • Cuts like St. Louis-Style or Country-Style might be better for slow roasting or smoking.

Ask the Butcher

If in doubt, ask! Butchers can guide you to the best choice for your intended dish. They can also custom-cut the ribs for you.

Remember, the key to delicious ribs starts with the quality of the meat you select. 

Paying attention to these details sets the stage for a mouthwatering meal.

Different Types of Ribs Explained

There are many types of ribs out there. Baby back, short, spare, fish ribs, and more. So, how do you know what to look for? Use my handy guide to find out.

Ingredients

  • Pork Spare Ribs

  • Baby Back Ribs

  • St. Louis-Style Ribs

  • Country-Style Ribs

  • Short Ribs

  • Flanken-Style Ribs

  • Beef Back Ribs

  • Lamb Riblets

  • Tuna Ribs

  • Pacu Fish Ribs

Instructions

  • Select your favorite type of rib.
  • Or try a new one, today!
Types of Ribs

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Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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