Ribs are delicious, whether they are grilled on the barbecue, baked in the oven, nothing tastes better than some juicy ribs. But, let’s say you want to cook a rack of ribs by yourself, instead of ordering them from a restaurant menu. First things first, you have to learn about the different types of ribs you can buy.
Ribs aren’t ‘just ribs’, they’re not all the same.
You’d be surprised at how different beef ribs can taste compared to pork ribs. Today we’re comparing beef ribs vs. pork ribs to learn the differences and the similarities— from the cut, size, taste, price, and best cooking method.
Everything You Need To Know About Pork Ribs
Pork ribs are one of the most common and popular kinds of ribs. And why wouldn’t they be? The method of cooking them can be incredibly versatile, as they taste excellent slow-cooked, or grilled and smoked. But it’s important to note that the cuts of meat greatly dictate their cooking method.
Cut Types of Pork Ribs
There are many different types of cuts when it comes to pork ribs. The two main ones include baby back ribs and spare ribs. The difference between the two is that these cuts originate from different parts of the pig.
- Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs aren’t from baby pigs, they are from the upper area of the rib cage and they’re closer to the spine. Due to their location, these ribs have a shorter bone. Hence, their name ‘baby back’. Baby ribs have leaner meat and they generally have low-fat content.
- Spare Ribs
Spare ribs are the cuts located lower and closer to the pig’s belly. Because of this, they are generally longer in length. This cut of meat makes for more tender ribs, as it has more fat, and it ultimately provides for a juicier texture.
- St Louis Style Ribs
The third cut of pork ribs would include the St Louise-style ribs. These are a variation of pork spareribs. They’re specifically cut into a rectangular shape. And their tips, odd bits of bone, or any unnecessary amounts of cartilage are removed. These cuts aren’t available everywhere, so you might have to chop them yourself!
It’s important to note that different cuts of pork greatly affect the flavor and texture of the meat.
Taste of Pork Ribs
Much like pork chops or any kind of pork meat, the flavor of pork ribs can be described as ‘mild’ — especially when compared to the strong flavor of beef. Pork ribs don’t have an inherently intense flavor on their own, this means that you can season them and ensure that they suit your taste buds.
Whether you roast them or cook them over wood chips, pork ribs tend to absorb any additional salty or sweet flavors, instead of overpowering it with a ‘porky’ taste.
Size of Pork Ribs
A rack of ribs can consist of 10 to 13 ribs. Depending on the cut and size of the pig, pork ribs can vary in lengths — between 3 to 6 inches. If you’re looking for smaller ribs that are easier to hold and eat, then pork ribs are the way to go.
The Best Cooking Method for Pork Ribs
In terms of cooking, there’s no ‘ultimate’ cooking method for pork ribs. However, rib experts will certainly point out that a sign of good ribs is when the meat ‘falls off the bone’. Whether, ribs are slow-cooked, barbecued, or oven-baked, you want the meat to just tear away from the rib bone. For this to happen, it is always important to maintain a low cooking temperature. Remember, “low and slow”. Below are a few of my quick steps to perfect pork ribs
First, you’ll want to prep your ribs. This includes removing excess fat or flaps of meat. Then marinade or brine your ribs, then it’s time for the smoker. The time and temperature can vary depending on your recipe, cut and preference, a typical rib cook takes around 5-7 hours, with temperature hovering between 220 to 250F.
Here we like to use stronger flavor wood for pork so go for hickory or mesquite, apple and cheery also work well for pork. A easy method that both beginners and seasoned pit master use is the 3-2-1 method, it super simply, 3 hours in the smoke unwrapped, 2 hours wrapped in the smoke, and 1 hour unwrapped at a hotter temperature. In your final hour is when you add any sauces
Pork is ready and safe to eat at 145F, however they will be more tender at around 195F
Fat Content of Pork Ribs
Between pork ribs and beef ribs, pork ones are certainly lower in fat. However, they are still considered ‘fattening’ as 4 ounces still total to 11.3 grams of fat and add up to 200 calories. If fat is your enemy, but you’d still like to enjoy pork ribs, baby back ribs are the way to go. This is because they are meatier and have less fat when compared to spare ribs.
In terms of price, pork will always be cheaper than beef. Why? There are many different factors. Pigs are easier to raise and breed because their feed is cheaper and they’re smaller in size. Hence, pork ribs are more affordable compared to beef ribs.
However, ribs are generally regarded as expensive cuts of meat, due to their sheer popularity and the fact that you’re purchasing a relatively small amount of meat — you’re paying for the bone too!
Everything You Need To Know About Beef Ribs
If you’re a fan of beef steak, you’ll love beef ribs. The meat texture and taste are similar, as in it’s chewy, tough, and has a ‘beefy’ taste.
With that being said, beef ribs can also have a softer meat texture, depending on how you cook it. Once braised or slow-cooked, the meat is sure to just slide off the bone.
Cut Types of Beef Ribs
Are beef short ribs and spare ribs the same? Yes, they are. And no, they’re not. Technically, they are the same piece of meat, but where they differ is how they are cut. Let’s discuss the difference between beef short ribs and spare ribs.
- Short Ribs
Beef short ribs are shorter in length compared to back ribs. They form the lower ribs and have more meat. Many argue that short ribs are more flavorful too.
- Beef Back Ribs
Beef back ribs have a longer rib bone and they have less meat and more fat in comparison to short ribs — which often makes them less desirable. This type of cut can also be referred to as beef spare ribs.
Taste of Beef Ribs
Beef ribs have a stronger smell and taste. Some people may find it a bit too over-powering and a little ‘gamey’. However, once marinated, spiced, and cooked appropriately, beef ribs should taste as delicious as a piece of steak. If you enjoy a ‘meatier’ tasting rib, then beef ribs are the ones for you!
Size of Beef Ribs
They’re certainly larger than the size of pork ribs. A typical rack of beef ribs consists of approximately 9 ribs. Once again, the length of a beef rib varies according to its specific cut. However, an average size would include a rib bone that is around 7 to 8 inches long.
Since cows are inherently larger than pigs, beef ribs are almost always larger than pork ones.
The Best Cooking Method for Beef Ribs
There are many different ways to cook beef ribs — smoked, oven-baked, grilled, braised, the options are endless! However, the best and most reliable cooking method would most likely point to the ‘3-2-1′ technique. Smoke them for 3 hours, wrap them in foil for 2 hours, then place them in sauce and grill them for the last hour.
Fat Content of Beef Ribs
When you place beef ribs alongside pork ones, it’s undeniable that the former will have a higher fat content. 4 ounces of beef ribs consist of 249.3 calories and 12.9 grams of fat. While this might be bad news for your waistline, the extra fat in beef means that it’s certainly naturally tastier than pork.
As mentioned earlier within this article, beef prices will always be higher than the price of pork meat. This is because raising and farming cattle requires more work compared to breeding pigs. The price of beef ribs has certainly increased over the years, due to their rise in popularity — especially around festive periods like Thanksgiving or Christmas. However, beef ribs remain as a more luxurious cut of meat, as they have more fat marbling — making them juicer than pork ribs.
Pork Ribs Vs. Beef Ribs – What is The Best Option?
The best option truly depends on what you want from your ribs. What’s your budget like? Are you looking for a healthier option? How would you like to cook your ribs? If you’re going after a particular taste, or you have a specific marinate that you like, pork ribs are a lot more customizable compared to beef ribs.
Pork has less of an odor and is overall less overpowering, which means that it’ll adapt to the taste of your seasoning a lot better. If you’re not fussy about the marination process, and you enjoy a more natural ‘meaty’ flavor, then beef ribs may prove to be the better option.
2 Delicious Beef Rib Recipes
There are thousands of yummy beef ribs recipes, we have scoured the web and found some of the best ones!
Cherry Cola Glazed Ribs
When you think ribs can’t get any better, someone goes and does a cherry cola glaze recipe. Its sweet and savory and all you could want in a succulent rib recipe. Want to have a go at it? See the recipe here
Coffee-Rubbed Short Rib
Coffee rubbed on beef?? Yes it delicious and strange but it seems to work. Try our favourite recipe here
2 Delicious Pork Rib Recipes
Can’t pick the best pork rib recipe? Don’t worry our professional taste testers have you covered!
Mango-Glazed Baby Back Ribs
Mango and pork? Don’t stress the flavor combination is incredible and you will be coming back to this recipes again and again! See the recipe here
Chocolate Chile BBQ Ribs
If Meathead over at Amazing Ribs comes out with a recipe we listen, this guy is a grilling genius, see him cover ribs with chocolate chili BBQ sauce here (drooling is allowed).
Hopefully we answered all your burning questions about pork and beef ribs. Now it time to put it into practice and try some of our favorite recipes
Author: Justin Cartington
Hi I’m Justin, I am one of the taste testers (hard job I know) here at Simply Meat Smoking! I have been grilling, smoking and cooking up a storm since I was young. I like use all types of fuel from charcoal to gas, wood and even electric!
When I not trying to perfect my coffee rub brisket I am hanging out with my family, well mainly acting like a big kid with my boys.