Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs are smaller and meatier than spareribs.

Shutterstock

Baby Back Ribs, St. Louis Ribs, and Just Plain Spareribs — What's the Difference?

Editor
Pork ribs come in a few different varieties

With summer fast approaching, you’ve most likely got barbecue — and ribs in particular — in mind. But not all ribs are created equal. While they’re all taken from the same part of the pig (the ribcage, obviously), the part of the ribs they’re taken from, and the way they’re cut, can have a major effect on the final product, as well as the final product’s name. Just to clear up any confusion, here’s a quick primer to the different types of pork ribs out there.

Baby Back Ribs
These ribs (top) are taken from the section closer to the back (as the name might imply), and tend to be rather small but very meaty and relatively low in fat.

Spareribs

Shutterstock

Spareribs
These come from the section closer to the belly, and while they’re larger than baby backs, they’re also much fattier, so they take very well to cooking that’s extremely low and slow.

It’s pretty simple: The rib cage is cut in half through the middle; the half closer to the spine are baby backs, and the half closer to the belly are spareribs. But it gets a little more complicated:

St. Louis-Style Ribs
St. Louis ribs start off as spareribs, but they’re trimmed down (the sternum, cartilage, and rib tips are removed) to a rectangular shape and more uniform appearance that’s easier to cook and eat. Most of the spareribs you see are St. Louis-cut.

Kansas City-Style Ribs
These are spareribs that are trimmed less closely than St. Louis ribs, with only bone removed and not cartilage.

Rib Tips
Rib tips are found at the very bottom of the rib cage, where the spare ribs meet the sternum. There’s no bone in them, just cartilage, so while there’s still plenty of meat to be had, they’re trimmed away when preparing St. Louis ribs.

Country-Style Ribs
This is actually a bit of a misnomer. Country-style ribs are cut from the end of the loin closest to the shoulder, and are very meaty and contain no rib bones, just parts of the shoulder blade (which is sometimes cut away).

McRib
Let’s not even go there. 

Related Links
America’s Best Ribs10 Easy Ways to Cook Amazing RibsSmoked Ribs: The BasicsThe Ultimate Guide to Ribs