What Is the Distinction Between Baby Back Ribs and Spare Ribs?

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Do you have trouble distinguishing between baby back ribs and spare ribs?

While the cooking methods are often similar, there are a few major distinctions that will effect how you prepare these two varieties of ribs.

What is the Difference Between Baby Back Ribs and Spare Ribs?

The Difference Between Baby Back Ribs and Spare Ribs

These two famous cuts may seem identical, yet they vary in key ways.

Spare ribs are bigger and meatier than baby back ribs, and they have more bone and fat. Many individuals believe that spare ribs are the most flavorful.

Baby back ribs, on the other hand, are smaller, more curved, and the leanest and tenderest ribs available.

Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs, also known as back ribs, loin (back) ribs, or simply baby backs, originate from the upper rib cage. They are attached to the backbone slightly below the loin muscle and right above the spare ribs.

They are simple to detect since they are shorter than spare ribs, thus the term baby.

A typical slab of baby back ribs weighs around two pounds and has 11-13 bones. The slab will taper at one end and have a more noticeable curve where it joins the spine.

Baby back ribs are more tender and leaner than spareribs, and they cook quicker since they weigh less.

Because of their growing popularity in recent years, your slab of baby back ribs may arrive with a little piece of loin meat connected on top. Traditionally, loin meat was more costly, but as baby back ribs become more popular, butchers are leaving more loin meat on the ribs than in the past.

One large slab should be plenty for two people or one particularly hungry adult, with each rib ranging anywhere from three to six inches long.

However, since baby back ribs are smaller and more expensive than spare ribs, you may want to keep them for smaller parties and use spare ribs for serving a crowd.

Baby back rib recipes to try:

  • Hot & Fast Smoked Baby Back Ribs
  • Smoked Baby Back Ribs on a Pellet Grill

Spare Ribs

Spare ribs, also known as side ribs or spares, are sliced from the rib cage below the baby back ribs.

Look at your slab of spare ribs and you’ll notice where it was sliced from the baby backs the edge with exposed bones and marrow.

The other edge of your spares originates from your chest, replete with little gristle (referred to as rib tips), cartilage, and small bones.

A spare rib slab must include at least 11 bones, according to USDA regulations. They have less flesh on top than baby backs, but more meat between the bones and what’s called flap meat. This meaty flap used to be a component of the animal’s diaphragm.

Spare ribs are larger and flatter than baby backs, weighing roughly three pounds per slab on average. The meat has more fat marbled through it, and the combination of additional bones and connective tissue results in more flavorsome, richer tasting meat.

While your extra rack weighs more than your normal rack of infants, it has far more bone and cartilage. This makes them less expensive than baby backs, which have recently gained favor.

While a slab of spare ribs may seem to be a large amount, keep in mind that half or more of it is bone.

The 3-2-1 method is a common way to prepare spare ribs.

What about St. Louis ribs?

You now understand the distinction between spare ribs and baby back ribs. How about some St. Louis cut ribs?

St. Louis cut ribs, also known as Kansas City or BBQ cut ribs, are simply trimmed spare ribs.

You may sometimes hear them wrongly referred to as SLC spare ribs. However, since the gristly rib tips and a portion of the meat flap have been removed from St. Louis ribs, they are technically no longer spare ribs.

After removing the tips and flap, you’ll have a lovely, even rectangular, flat slab. As a result, SLC ribs are a popular option for competitive barbecue when appearance is important.

Making a St. Louis cut from spare ribs is a straightforward process. You’ll also get to roast the tips and flap this way. The resultant SLC slab is considerably more consistent, making it much simpler to prepare and consume; there is less cartilage and an even, regular shape.

Because of the popularity and high price of baby back ribs, some butchers are attempting to capitalize on this by labelling St. Louis cut ribs as baby spare ribs. Because baby spare ribs are merely a shorter variant of spare ribs, they are just another term for a St. Louis cut.

Buyer beware: if you’re seeking for baby back ribs, avoid this scam!

What to look for when buying ribs?

When searching for a slab of baby back ribs or spare ribs, keep the following points in mind:

  • Excellent flesh coverage You don’t want a shiner, or a rack with too exposed bones. Not only will the meat be less palatable, but the bones may come out while cooking.
  • Examine the rack for visible fat; even marbling provides uniform taste and distribution of meat. Large fat deposits will dissolve, leaving a gap and a meatless rib.
  • Even thickness for better, more uniform cooking all the way through.
  • Reject pink-red slabs that are discolored or have dried out edges.

Can you substitute between each type of rib?

Yes, you can typically change one sort of rib with another.

So, if you have a recipe that asks for spare ribs but you only have baby backs, don’t panic.

Just bear in mind that you may need to adjust the cooking time and, in certain situations, the cooking technique or temperature.

When swapping one kind of rib for another, keep the following in mind:

  • Spare ribs are bigger, have more bone, and will take longer to cook than baby back ribs, so plan accordingly.
  • Baby backs cook quicker than SLC ribs and spare ribs because they are smaller. They also have less bone and fat to avoid drying out.
  • Spare ribs are best cooked low and slow, while baby back ribs must be monitored often to avoid overcooking and drying out.
  • Because of their straighter, more consistent shape, SLC ribs are a better option for browning in a skillet on the stovetop.
  • Consider using baby backs or slicing your spare ribs into SLCs for easier-to-eat ribs.
  • If you want a strong meaty taste but your shop is short of spare ribs, try seasoning your less flavorful baby backs with a variety of rubs.

Wrapping it up 

That’s all there is to it! Both baby back and spare ribs are delectable options, but there are a few essential distinctions to consider.

Baby backs are smaller and more delicate than regular back loins.

Spare ribs, also known as side ribs, are bigger, tastier, and meatier than baby ribs, with more bone and fat.

Looking for a delicate, lean rack of ribs but don’t mind spending a little more? Choose baby backs. Spare ribs are a bigger rack with more taste but more bone and fat.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a preference? Please leave a remark below; we’d love to hear from you!


Which is better baby back ribs or spare ribs?

Spare ribs, also known as side ribs, are bigger, tastier, and meatier than baby ribs, with more bone and fat. Looking for a tender, lean rack of ribs and willing to spend a little more? Choose baby backs. Spare ribs are a bigger rack with more taste but more bone and fat.

What type of ribs are the best?

The meatiest and most delicious cut of ribs are St. Louis-style ribs. There is a lot of bone that produces a lot of fat, which gives them a lot of taste and softness.

Can you substitute baby back ribs for spare ribs?

Because both varieties are prepared in the same manner, you may swap baby back ribs for spare ribs and vice versa. Just keep in mind that since baby backs are smaller than spare ribs, you’ll need approximately twice as much to satisfy the same number of people.

What is baby back vs short vs spare ribs?

Spare ribs are taken from the belly region, while baby back ribs are removed from the loin, a muscle that runs down the pig’s back on each side of the spine. They’re curvier and shorter than spareribs (thus the nickname “baby”), and there’s a lot of lean flesh between and on top of the bones.

Why are spare ribs cheaper than baby back?

2 to 2 pounds, plenty for 2 individuals. Baby back ribs are soft and lean, but they are in more demand than St. Louis-style spareribs, therefore they are more expensive.Each baby back rib rack has 10 to 13 curved ribs that are 3 to 6 inches long and weigh around 1 12 pounds.

What cut of ribs has the most meat?

Country style ribs have a lot more meat on the bones than regular ribs. This incision will normally have one or two bones in it. Country style ribs are meatier and contain less bone than “real” ribs. This cut will benefit greatly from brining and then cooking low and slow, or reverse seared.

What kind of ribs do most restaurants use?

Spare ribs, often known as St. Louis style ribs, are classic ribs that originate from the side and rear of a pig. They are the least meaty pig ribs, but they are less expensive than baby backs, which are the most widely utilized rib in restaurants.

Which ribs are more tender?

Baby back ribs have less fat but are nonetheless sensitive since they come from close to the pig’s loins. Spare ribs are a little harder since they have more cartilage to break down, but they also contain a lot of marbling due to their closeness to the pig’s belly.

What are the meatiest pork ribs?

Ribs in the Country Style

This is the meatiest form of ribs, located in front of the baby back ribs, towards the shoulder blade.

Why are baby back ribs more expensive?

They may have roughly half an inch of loin meat connected to the top, depending on how they’re killed. Baby back ribs are tenderer and slimmer than spare ribs, although they are more costly.

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