When those warm summer afternoons start showing up, there can be no doubt that barbecue is the first thing that springs to everyone’s mind.
Those delicious, smoky flavors, all the wonderful spices, and that soft tender meat is enough to send anyone into a head spin with any kind of ribs, especially these Tender Smoked Ribs.
At the center of this delectable feast will almost always be ribs. Ribs are enjoyed around the world as one seriously mouthwatering treat.
However, if you think that all ribs are the same, you couldn’t be more wrong. There are two main types of ribs that are the most commonly found in butcher shops and stores.
The first of these are the baby back ribs, also known as pork loin back ribs, back ribs, or loin ribs. Then, you have the spare ribs which are also known as breastbone-off pork spareribs. While both are incredibly delicious, there are many differences you’ll need to take into account.
Understanding the subtle nuances between the different types of ribs will be incredibly important in helping you make the best selection and cooking preparation for your next backyard barbecue.
Here’s what you need to know about these two types of ribs and how to prepare them starting today.
Baby Back Ribs (also known as pork loin ribs or back ribs)
Baby back ribs are a particular cut of meat that extends from where the rib meets the spine of the pig after the loin has been removed. They are commonly referred to as “baby” back ribs due to their shorter size.
At most, you can expect a baby back rib to reach about six inches and can be as small as three, depending on the size of the pig.
Baby back ribs are incredibly tender and much leaner than other cuts such as spare ribs. Depending on how the ribs have been butchered, you can even expect about half an inch of loin meat at the top of the rib.
Because of this, these ribs are significantly more expensive and you will have to buy more to feed a hungry crowd.
While these ribs are incredibly tender, it’s always important to keep in mind that their natural leanness can lead to them drying out quickly during the cooking process. For this reason, you’ll want to choose preparations that don’t lead to you overcooking the meat.
Spare ribs are the cut of meat that comes down from where the baby back ribs end all the way along the pig’s breastbone.
You’ll usually be able to find these ribs in more of a rectangular slab due to the popularity of St. Louis style spare ribs where the cartilage and hard breastbone have already been removed prior to sale.
These ribs are much flatter than baby back ribs and much less meat on top of the bones. With these ribs, the meat is generally found between the individual ribs themselves.
However, while they are much bonier, they are also much fattier, which means they are incredibly flavorful when cooked properly and will brown faster than baby backs ever would.
Keep in mind that a grown adult can easily make their way through a slab of ribs. They are much less expensive than baby back ribs, and so if you’re looking to cook for a good number of people, this might be the best way to go.
When cut in the St. Louis style, you can guarantee that the rack will easily fit right into your grill or barbecue. Removing the excess bone and cartilage will also help ensure that your ribs cook evenly and quickly, giving you nice, juicy meat to enjoy that’s full of flavor.
No matter what kind of rib cut you decide to go with, the real deciding factor in how delicious and delectable they turn out will be your cooking method.
Ribs will turn out mouth-watering and scrumptious whether you decide to smoke them, grill them, braise them, or even cook them in the oven. However, there’s no doubt that a great rack of grilled and barbecued ribs simply can’t be beaten.
Another important part of preparing a wonderful rack of ribs will be the spice rub and sauce you add to it. Ribs are designed to take on spices and sauces, which are the main reason they end up being so finger-licking good.
Salt and pepper are obvious staples that every good rib recipe will include, but you might also want to consider testing out some other options like smoked paprika to give them that added wood-fired flavor or even ground mustard which can add a brightness and an acidity that will work perfectly with your ribs no matter how you choose to cook them.
The most important thing with cooking great ribs will be your timing. Whether you’re cooking them out on the grill or in your oven, great ribs should always take a little bit of time.
With both baby backs and spare ribs, the low and slow process gives the meat and the fat the time it needs to break down and caramelize, giving you that overwhelming tenderness that you’re looking for in the perfect rack of ribs.
You can find one of my favorite rib recipes here which I like to call Raging River tender smoked ribs. The combination of one of my favorite rib rubs, Raging River by Dizzy Pig, is pair with the perfect cooking process to surely please any crowd for your next meal.
Ribs are one of the most well-known cuts of pork around the world, and being able to enjoy their juicy deliciousness the moment summer starts to peek around the corner is the best moment for all barbecue lovers.
Because of this, you want to make sure you really understand everything there is to know about your ribs, the different types, and how to prepare them.
However, no matter what kind of rib cut you choose to work with, knowing the best way to cook your ribs to your own personal tastes will be essential.
Make sure you keep these prep tips in mind and take the time to find that best kind of spice rub or sauce to cover them in that fits with where you’re planning to cook them so that you can have the most tender and scrumptious ribs of your life today.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
If you want more backyard tips including recipes, how-tos and more, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel
Monday 12th of July 2021
There are baby back ribs and back ribs....The BBR are from the very top, and cut shorter. The back ribs are longer.
Monday 13th of April 2020
why is your title called "Pork Loin Back Ribs vs. Baby Back Ribs (Is There a Difference?)" but then you go into the difference between BBR and Spare ribs? not even mentioning loin back ribs.?
Saturday 18th of April 2020
Hey Mike, sorry for the confusion. To better clarify for you baby back ribs are also known as either back ribs or loin ribs. They are all taken from the top of the rib cage between the spine and the spare ribs, which is right below the loin muscle. Baby back ribs and pork loin ribs will tend to have shorter curved bones than spare ribs in which they also are more meatier than spare ribs. Spare ribs on the other hand come from the side which is also why they are known as side ribs. Spare ribs are taken from the side all the way down to the belly side which tends to contain more bone than meat. With that being said, both are great eating when prepared properly. Hope this helps clarify things for you? Happy grilling!