Beef Ribs vs. Pork Ribs: Which Are Better?

Smoked baby Back Ribs

Beef Ribs vs. Pork Ribs: Which Are Better?

Beef ribs and pork ribs; it doesn’t get any better than that. The best ribs are not only meaty and fall-off-the-bone tender, but they’re also fun to eat, and they’re versatile, too.

The thing is, there’s more than one type of rib, and each rib is better for particular cooking methods and recipes. Let’s just say knowing your ribs pays off. Let’s explore the difference between beef ribs and pork ribs. Let’s learn more about the types of beef ribs and how they compare to their pork counterparts.


Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

Most importantly, let’s learn how to cook ribs right. Let’s get started!

The Different Types of Beef Ribs

Steers have thirteen pairs of ribs for a total of 26 ribs. The first five pairs are near the cow’s neck in the chuck. The following seven ribs are found in the rib primal, and the last pair falls into the loin.

An average full rack contains between 10 and 13 ribs. The most important aspect of beef ribs is how they’re butchered; mainly, the two distinct types found in the market: the back ribs and the short ribs.

What Are Back Ribs and Short Ribs?

Back ribs come from the cow’s back, or dorsal area, mainly from the prime rib roast, extending back from the shoulders. The ribs help keep the prime rib roast and the rib-eye in place.

When these prime cuts are cut out, the remaining meat attached to the bones is the back rib cut. Most of the back ribs’ meat is between the bones. Back ribs are often 6-8-inches long, and their meat is relatively lean and soft.

How to Smoke Beef Back Ribs: Remove the membrane, season with a bold dry rub and then smoke at 225-250 for 7-9 hours until tender.

Smoked Beef Ribs

Short ribs come from the lower rib cage, near the plate. This part of the rib cage supports the short plate and brisket, so they contain more meat over the bones.

This is mainly a tough cut with lots of fat and connective tissue. Short ribs can be cut anywhere from 1 to 4-inches long, depending on their use.

Short ribs are sometimes cut thinly across the bone to create Flanken style ribs and you can even find boneless beef short ribs comprising the meat and fat layer that sits on top of the ribs.

How to Smoke Beef Short Ribs: Season the ribs with salt and pepper then smoke at 250F for six hours or until tender.

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

The Different Types of Pork Ribs

Pigs have between 15-17 rib pairs depending on the breed, and they’re commonly sold as a rack of 13-14 ribs. Like with beef, not all pork ribs are the same. Typically, butchers will divide the rib cage into baby back ribs, spare ribs, St. Louis cut ribs and rib tips.

There is also a cut of pork called Country Style Ribs but, while the meat is delicious, it is not a true rib.

What Are Baby Back Ribs, Spare Ribs and Rib Tips?

Baby back ribs come from full-grown pigs, from the pigs’ back or loin and are attached to the spine. Baby back ribs are regularly cut 3-6-inch long. Not dissimilar to the loin, these ribs offer lean, tender meat. Baby back ribs are also known as back ribs or loin ribs.

How to Smoke Baby Back Ribs: Remove the membrane, season with a dry rub and smoke with a mild wood for about five hours at 225F.

Smoked baby Back Ribs

Spare ribs (or spareribs) comprise most of the rib cage going around the pig. Only the tips are removed on both sides, which become the baby back ribs and the rib tips. Spare ribs are flatter and longer than baby back ribs, and they’re fattier, therefore more flavorful but firmer than baby backs.

St. Louis Cut ribs are spare ribs trimmed a bit more (they are shorter than regular spare ribs) for a more even presentation.  The trimmings from these ribs are often sold as Riblets.

How to Smoke Spare Ribs: Cook spare and St. Louis ribs in the same way as baby back ribs, although they might take up to 8 hours to be cooked through.

Rib tips come from the lowest part of the ribs, close to the breastbone. These tips contain cartilage, so they are chewy. Rib tips are often chopped into bite-sized bits and sautéed, smoked or stir-fried for delicious results.

Differences and Similarities Between Beef and Pork Ribs

Now that we know the types of beef ribs and pork ribs, let’s compare them side by side. Of course, beef and pork ribs are not substitutes for each other, just like a pork chop is not a rib-eye; every rib offers a unique experience.

• Beef ribs are more prominent than pork ribs. Often because the animals from which they come are of different sizes. Beef ribs usually take longer to cook.

• Beef ribs are often leaner and firmer than pork ribs, meaning they’re healthier. This is not always the case, though, as the animal’s breed and diet have a lot to do with its fat content.

• Beef ribs are more flavorful than the otherwise milder pork ribs; again, this might not be the case. Still, marinades and dry rubs are standard methods of adding flavor to pork ribs.

• Beef ribs are more expensive than pork ribs, especially beef short ribs and long back ribs, considered premium products for the high amount of fatty meat attached.

• All ribs are entirely different cuts with a distinct flavor and texture. They call for different cooking methods as well. In fact, beef and pork ribs have little in common.

Which Are the Best Ribs?

Talking about the best overall ribs, there’s no right or wrong answer. The best ribs are the ones you enjoy the most.
If you’re all about Texas grilling, chances are beef back ribs are your go-to ribs. For Korean cooking, short ribs might be a better alternative.

Baby back ribs are fantastic when smeared in barbecue sauce, and rib tips make lovely smoked one-biters. Every rib has its purpose. Besides, why choose?

Experiment with different types of ribs and recipes and see what you and your loved ones enjoy the most. There’s no doubt there’s one rib to please every taste and palate.

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