Ask anyone the best way to cook ribs and you’re likely to come up with quite a few different answers. Some swear by pork ribs, others by beef. Some like meaty spare ribs while others prefer smaller (really tender) baby back ribs. Some believe that the best way to prepare ribs is to cover them in a mixture of dried herbs and spices before smoking, while others baste the ribs in a tomato-based barbecue sauce as they smoke. Some even roast their ribs in an oven. Given all these choices, how do we determine which recipe is best?
We don’t; the key to great ribs is knowing what you like and how to prepare them. In order to do that, you’ll have to think about three basic things: the meat, the cut, and the recipe.
There are two basic cuts of ribs and, again, what you choose is based on your personal preference. Spare ribs (which, when trimmed, are also called St. Louis Style ribs) are located at the bottom of the rib cage, close to the belly of the animal. They are generally larger and meatier. When you’re choosing spare ribs, look for a rack that has visible fat throughout.
Baby back ribs, on the other hand, are located at the top of the rib cage, close to the animal’s loin, and are much smaller. Though they’re not as big as spare ribs, baby back ribs are known for being tenderer. Choose the best rack by looking for one that’s uniform in thickness and evenly marbled with fat.
Once you have your rack of ribs, it’s time to decide how to cook them. If your rack of ribs still has the papery membrane attached, peel it off and then season the meat. You can put a dry rub directly onto the surface of the ribs, baste them with sauce as they cook, or do both. Then, cook the ribs on a grill, in a smoker, by spit-roasting them, or in your oven, according to your recipe.
Are you ready to impress your friends and family with flavorful, fall-off-the-bone tender ribs? Here are 10 recipes to get you started.
Barbecue Championship Ribs
Beef Ribs with Sorghum Glaze
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.
Originally published on May 11, 2015