If you’re diving into the world of barbecue, you might be wondering what the best types of ribs are. There are two popular styles of pork ribs–baby backs and spareribs. Of the sparerib cuts, the St. Louis-style is the most popular.
So which one suits your barbecue pit? Let’s look at the difference between St. Louis ribs vs baby back ribs and see which one is better.
Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs are the most popular type of rib cuts, and they are probably the ones that most people imagine.
Their name comes from where they are cut and has nothing to do with the age of the pig. Baby back ribs come from the upper portion of the rib rack near the backbone after the loin is removed.
Baby back rib racks are typically cut with the upper three to six inches of the rib cage. It will include between 8 and 13 ribs, making the entire cut a total of 1.5 to 2 pounds. They have a distinctive curve in the bone that comes from their location. Spareribs are more or less flat.
This cut is extremely popular, so prices are high. You’ll find baby backs cost more than any other rib cut–but they still aren’t very expensive when you consider the fantastic flavor and quality of the meat.
They tend to be leaner and more tender than other rib cuts. That’s one reason they are commonly found on restaurant menus–and why they are so popular, in general.
Cooking times for rib recipes vary depending on your style of cooking. The best results come from careful smoking of the ribs, ensuring that they don’t dry out during the long cooking time. A slightly faster option is to braise them and then finish them on a smoky grill.
However you do it, all ribs benefit from cooking for a long time at low temperatures. This provides plenty of time for the connective tissues to break down, tenderizing the meat and avoiding any toughness resulting from quick cooking. As a rough starting point, baby backs need at least 1.5 to 2 hours to cook at 300 degrees.
As always, cook to internal temperature for doneness–not time. Pork should always be cooked to 145 degrees internal temperature, regardless of the cooking method. But since ribs rely on being cooked long enough to be made extra tender, most chefs cook them somewhere between 180 and 195 degrees.
For more information please read this article on How to Cook Baby Back Ribs on a Weber Kettle.
St. Louis-Style Spareribs
Spareribs differ from baby backs in that they are cut from farther down the rib cage. St. Louis style describes a particular way of trimming the spareribs.
Spareribs remain after the baby backs have been trimmed off the upper portion of the ribs. The very bottom, near the sternum, is mostly bone and gristle, so that is discarded. The remaining cut is flat with the ribs running through it.
The St. Louis-style spareribs have a lot of the extra fat, bone, and cartilage cut off. The resulting slab of meat is leaner than a typical sparerib cut and is often used in cooking competitions when presentation matters.
The average St. Louis rib rack weighs 2.5 to 3 pounds. It’s a good choice if you’re hosting a party or need to feed a crowd.
Spare ribs are cheaper when compared to baby backs, but the St. Louis cut is more work for your butcher. That may mean that the cost is equitable to a similar weight of baby backs. If you’re looking to save a few dollars, you could go ahead and buy a standard sparerib rack and then trim it to St. Louis standard yourself.
Spareribs have more meat and more fat, and a larger portion of bone. If cooked correctly, that combination can create even more flavor than baby back ribs do. The meat is less tender than baby backs, but a lot of this has to do with your preparation. Being a larger cut with more meat, spareribs will need to cook longer to get the same fall-off-the-bone texture. St. Louis-style ribs need at least 2.5 to 3 hours to finish at 300 degrees.
When it comes to cooking spareribs, the key is to remember that they have more meat and more mass than baby backs. So if you are converting a recipe, take this into account. It’s also good to note that the flatter and more consistent size of the St. Louis rack makes it easier to grill since it will lie flat.
For more information please read this article on How to Smoke Ribs on a Weber Gas Grill
No matter which rib cut you choose, you really can’t go wrong. Cook it to temperature, give it enough time to cook, and don’t rush it, and all pork ribs will come out amazing.
St Louis Ribs vs Baby Back Ribs Frequently Asked Questions
When it comes to these ribs folks have lots of questions! Here are the answers to the questions that get asked the most.
Can you substitute one type of rib for the other?
Yes, you can substitute different cuts of rib meat in various recipes. Since spareribs weigh more and have more meat than baby backs, you’ll need to increase the recipe’s cooking time.
Are Country Style Ribs Spareribs?
Country style ribs are not true ribs and are usually cut from the pork shoulder. For more information please read the following articles:
- How to Smoke Country Style Ribs on a Weber Kettle
- How to Smoke Country Style Ribs on a Traeger Pellet Grill
Which has more meat, baby back or St. Louis?
St. Louis ribs have more meat than baby backs, but their meat is usually slightly tougher.
Are spare ribs tougher than baby back?
Yes, spare ribs have a reputation for being less tender and tougher compared to baby backs. But if they are allowed to cook for the appropriate length of time, they are still fall-off-the-bone satisfying and delicious.
What type of ribs are the best?
Most people like baby back ribs the best. They are tender, have a good amount of meat on them, and cook quicker than other styles of ribs. However, other cuts of ribs, like the St. Louis-style spareribs, can also produce excellent results.
What are the most popular ribs to eat?
The most popular rib cut is the pork baby back ribs. These come from the upper portion of the rib cage and contain the perfect amount of meat. They are tender and delicate, and when cooked right, they are infinitely satisfying.