Ribs are always going to be a crowd-pleaser, whatever the event. One of the reasons they’re great for all occasions is because you can experiment with different flavors, rubs, and marinades and they can be cooked in different ways to deliver delicious tasting results.
Dress them up with garnishes and accompany them with a range of side dishes, as ribs can pair beautifully with a number of different ingredients. Alternatively, keep them simple, and allow the rich, smoky, BBQ taste to shine through and show off your excellent cooking skills.
There are so many different types of ribs to try and so many different things you can do with them, so we’ve done diligent research and found a few of the best rib cuts that are great for all occasions. Impress your friends, and just hope there is a few spare ribs leftovers after!
Different Types of Ribs
A rib cut is a term used to describe meat from a number of different animal species. Grill them, bake them in the oven, smoke them, or fry them; you can cook ribs in several ways.
Pork is one of the most popular types of rib cut and beef is also common, but there are seven main types of ribs to choose from:
- Baby back ribs
- Spare ribs
- St. Louis style ribs
- Short ribs
- Flanked style ribs
- Lamb riblets
There are just as many different ways to cook ribs as there are types, and we’re not kidding when we say that you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad pick of the bunch.
The following types of ribs are all delicious, but you may find that some are better suited to certain occasions than others due to their flavor profiles or the cooking techniques involved.
Baby Back Ribs
Taken from the pig where the spine meets the rib, baby back ribs get their name because they’re small compared to spare ribs making them ideal when cooking for a group. Unlike their larger cousins, baby back ribs meat tends to be more tender due to being less fatty.
To prepare baby back ribs, you need to remove the membrane and flavor the meat with either a wet or a dry rub. Sweet, sticky, spicy flavors work best with this cut of meat, and although a bit of a laborious process, the results of your efforts will speak for themselves.
Whip a rack of these out at your next barbeque and you’ll be king or queen of the grill without question. In fact, the only question will be whether there are any more left!
The second pork-derived rib cut is spare ribs, which are taken from the under rather than the upper area of the pig’s belly. These are comparatively much bigger and they extend all around the stomach of the pig until they connect to the pig’s sternum.
Due to the high-fat content, spare ribs require a long, slow cook time in a heavily seasoned stock for the best results, but first, you’ll need to remove the membrane and trim excess fat.
St. Louis Style Ribs
Essentially a trimmed down, brisket-boneless version of the spare rib, St. Louis style ribs are known for being quite flat and hanging off quite a large bone. Usually, these types of ribs have their connective tissue removed, including the hard breastbone and chewy cartilage.
They’re similar to spare ribs in the way they are prepared, but you need to take greater effort to ensure that you have trimmed all cartilage and membrane from the ribs in order for the rendered fat to be released from the meat while it cooks.
Although they’re considered a cheaper cut of ribs, the juicier flavor and tender meat produced due to the additional fat means this is one of the best ribs for a BBQ gathering.
There are various different types of beef ribs, but short ribs are one of the best options for outdoor cooking or smoking despite previously being seen as a less desirable cut of beef.
A large amount of meat that resides on top of the bones means they take on a richer, more intense flavor with succulent, juicy results, yet they don’t really require anything more than a simple salt and pepper rub to taste incredible provided they’ve been cooked well.
Depending on the dish you’re making, you can prepare short ribs in a number of ways.
If you don’t opt for a flanked cut, which
we’ve detailed below, you can use a traditional English method to prepare the ribs by cutting them into smaller chunks. This makes it easier to braise the pieces before transferring them to a crockpot or slow cooker for totally tender meat.
Flanked Style Ribs
Although considered a less tender version, flanked style ribs are beefier and have a high fat content that makes them quick to dry out causing the skin to become tough if overcooked.
Cut across the rib bones instead of in between the bones, it’s best to use high heat when making flanked style ribs and to cook them over a higher heat for a shorter length of time compared to other cuts. They’re especially good after being marinated and grilled, or they make an excellent choice of meat for deeply and intensely flavored stews and stockpots.
Korean and barbecue flavors also lend themselves particularly well to this cut of ribs, excellent at taking on the tender, smoky tastes of the ingredients they’re paired with.
Sourced from the spare ribs of a lamb, the lesser-known lamb riblets which come from the same animal feature a thin layer of fat and are known as being a particularly meaty cut, which means they do well when cooked in different ways using various techniques.
For example, many people prefer to dry the meat whereas there are equally as many people who add moisture to the ribs in order to bring out a greater depth of flavor and to increase the tenderness of the meat.
Ingredients such as garlic, red wine, salt, and vinegar are all excellent flavor enhancers and will add an umami taste to your dish, making them a popular choice in Asian and middle eastern cuisines whereas they are less common here.
Compliments To The Chef
We hope that by reading this article you will have had your eyes opened to the huge potential that ribs have to completely transform an occasion from a low-key get-together to a gathering of friends and family to share a feast of delicious food, cooked by you.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to picking a type of rib cut to serve that extends far beyond your typical baby back and spare ribs. Furthermore, there are twice as many recipes for how to prepare them.
Remember to bring out the best of your showstopper dish by accompanying it with sides and garnishes that compliment your efforts without taking too much away from the natural taste of the meat. Another tip is to try and buy the best cut of ribs you possibly can, preferably from your local butcher for the freshest, tastiest results.
Oh, and one last thing – always remember to ensure that you’ve followed the recommended guidelines for the total required cooking time and to check that the meat is fully cooked through before you serve it. Otherwise, it’ll be the last occasion you’re asked to cater for!
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