Guide to Ribs

Few grilled meats deliver the lip-smacking satisfaction of perfectly cooked ribs. But they can be intimidating if you don't know what kind to purchase and how to cook them. When you're ready to put ribs on the menu this summer, refer to this guide for choosing exactly what you want and the best way to prepare them.


  • Source:Cut from the belly of the pig. A full rack can have from 11 to 14 rib bones. The bones are larger and flatter than those of baby backs.
  • Characteristics:Meaty and full of flavor but with a great proportion of bone to meat. The fat melts during slow cooking, contributing to tenderness and taste. Many chefs prefer these ribs. They're usually less expensive than baby back ribs.
  • How to Cook:Good for slow grilling over low direct heat or indirect heat, or slow oven roasting.


  • Source:Pork chop ribs, cut from the top of the pig, next to the loin. They're smaller and shorter than spareribs. Although they're called baby back, they don't come from baby pigs.
  • Characteristics:Leaner and more tender than spareribs; considered by many to be the best ribs but also more expensive.
  • How to Cook:Good for direct heat grilling, longer indirect grilling or slow barbecuing and roasting. Because they're so lean, be careful they don't overcook and become dry.


  • Source:From the shoulder end of the loin; more similar to chops than ribs. They're often sold boneless. The pork shoulder is also cut into thick slabs and sold as country-style ribs.
  • Characteristics:Lots of thick meat and considered fatty, although they have less fat than some ribs. Can be cut into cubes for stews or kebabs and are a good value.
  • How to Cook:Perfect for slow heat cooking like braising, as well as slow, indirect grilling. Some cuts are lean enough to be cooked over direct heat.


  • Source:Beef back ribs are cut from the top loin portion of the animal, next to the rib-eye steak or standing rib roast.
  • Characteristics:These ribs are 6 to 8-inches long. Most of the meat lies between the bones. For better flavor, look for ribs that haven't been trimmed too close to the bone. They're often less expensive than pork ribs.
  • How to Cook:These ribs are usually cooked slowly over indirect heat until very tender, but are sometimes cooked over direct heat.


  • Source:While pork ribs dominate the barbecue scene in this country, beef short ribs are popular in other countries, particularly parts of Asia. They're cut from the ribs that extend toward the belly.
  • Characteristics:English-style, the most common, are sold bone-in and boneless. They're cut parallel to the rib bone and between each rib into large rectangular cubes. Flanken-style short ribs are cut across the bone rather than between the bones.
  • How to Cook:Use moist-heat methods like braising to dissolve the fat and membranes into tender, moist meat. The Korean method of cutting short ribs into accordion-style thin strips turns them into tender tasty bites.