The Difference Types Beef Ribs, Lamb Ribs and Pork Ribs (Full Rib Resource)

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Is there anything better than tucking into a plate of your favorite ribs slathered in BBQ sauce? 

Baby back ribs are the most popular type of ribs to smoke. They contain a lot of meat and fat, making them ideal for smoking.

However, some people don’t know that baby back ribs are pork! In this article, I will show you all the different types of ribs, including beef, pork, and lamb.

There is a huge debate about pork ribs vs. beef ribs. So, I will break down each type of rib and give you a delicious method of cooking your ribs. 

I bet this gets your mouth watering!

pork ribs in the smoker
My pork ribs in the smoker

Types of Beef Ribs

There are three types of beef ribs; 
Baby back
Ribs flanked style ribs
Short ribs or also known as plate short ribs.

Beef ribs are one of the most popular types of rib. When properly cooked, well-marbled beef ribs are flavorful and irresistible

All of them have a rich flavor and are easy to cook.

Beef ribs are much larger than almost all other types. This should not be a surprise as they come to form a much larger animal.

They also have plenty of fat running through them and almost look like brisket. Love brisket? Check out my smoked brisket recipe in electric smoker.

1. Flanked Beef Ribs

Flanked-style ribs come from the shoulder of the cow.

They are a thinner cut of rib, usually a half-inch thick. They are cut along the length and across instead of between the ribs.

This means they contain a lot of meat and have a lot more bone than other rib styles.

Because of their smaller size, ribs are popular in Asian cooking but less common in the USA. 

How To Cook Flanked Beef Ribs

The placement of bones in the flanked-style ribs is different and needs to be cooked slightly differently for best results.

 I know, I know, I love smoked ribs the most, too, but trust me on this one. I suggest you braise flanked-style ribs instead of cooking low and slow.

2. Beef Back Ribs

Back beef ribs come from the ‘rib’ part of the animal, similar to pork baby back ribs. When you remove the ribeye roasts and steaks, you are left with the back rib.

Beef back ribs are far larger than other types of beef ribs, This is why they are more commonly known as ‘dinosaur ribs’.

You will get a decent amount of meat from them, and they are usually eaten in half racks instead of fulls racks.

Back ribs are best cooked slow and for several hours; they will become extremely tender.

Beef back ribs are also a good alternative to short ribs.

How To Cook Beef Back Ribs

Given their size, I recommend cooking them on a grill or the smoker. I love keeping it simple with dinosaur ribs. Put a simple dry rub of salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. You don’t want to. Overpower the rib’s flavor too much. 

  1. Preheat your smoker and add your favorite wood
  2. Place your ribs in the smoker for around 2 – 3 hours.
  3. At this point, you want to wrap the ribs in foil or heavy-duty paper.
  4. Pour in some of your favorite stock, water, beer (or anything else), and wrap tightly for 2 hours until tender and super juicy! 
  5. Then smoke unwrapped for a further hour at a slighter higher temperature

This is known as the 3-2-1 method of cooking ribs.

3. Short Ribs

Short ribs are also known as plate short ribs or beef short ribs.

They are another type of big ribs. Again, because of their size, they are usually eaten by the serving and not by the rack. When cooked properly, they are tender and melt in your mouth.

These ribs come from the 2nd to the 5th rib and the 6th to the 8th of the rib cage.

Short ribs are rectangular, full of fat and collagen, and loaded with meat, just like brisket. They have alternating layers of fat and meat.

How To Cook Short Ribs

You can braise, grill, or oven-roast beef short ribs. When over-roasting, cover them in a dry rub and bake slowly in a temperature oven.

Obviously, being a big meat smoker, I would suggest smoking your beef short ribs for the best results.

However, you can also grill your beef short rib or even cook sous vide for a whole day, finishing them on the grill.

Types of Lamb Ribs

1. Lamb Riblets

Lamb’s ribs are fleshy slabs of meat with lots of smaller bones.

They contain a lot of fat and are very flavorful. Personally, I think there is only one type of lamb rib worth mentioning: lamb riblets.

Lamb riblets come from the animal’s upper rib/breast area.

They are pretty small compared to beef and pork ribs, hence the name ‘riblets’.

Here in the USA, lamb ribs are;
Not a popular cut
It can be quite difficult to find true lamb ribs
There are lax USDA rules about the’ lamb’ classification.

If you are considering buying lamb riblets, I highly recommend talking to your local butcher first so you know exactly what you are getting. 

How To Cook Lamb Riblets

Because of their size, lamb riblets are very easy and versatile. You can roast, grill, braise, or sear them.

Roasting Lamb Riblets;
  • I recommend you season them with olive oil or rosemary.
  • preheat the oven to 180°F
  • Then, marinade the riblets for 6 to 8 hours so get the ribs beautifully tender and packed full of flavor.
  • Cook for 45 minutes at 180°F
  • Allow them to rest for 20 minutes, then enjoy!

Smoking Lamb Riblets
  • Remove the membrane
  • Give them a rub
  • Cook for 3 hours at 130°F
  • Baste with BBQ sauce
  • Then cook for another hour
  • Let them rest for 25 minutes, and then enjoy!

Types of Pork Ribs

There are five styles of pork ribs;
Baby Back Ribs
Country Ribs
Danish Ribs
Spare Ribs
St Louis Ribs

Pork ribs come from the ribcage of a domestic pig and are prevalent in both Asian and Western cuisines.

The types of pork ribs vary in the amount of fat, meat, bones, and cooking method.

Every pig has 14 ribs connected to the spine, which is where the four popular cuts are made.

1. Baby Back Pork Ribs

Baby back ribs are sometimes called the loin back or back ribs.

They are called ‘baby’ since they are smaller than other ribs, and ‘back’ because the bones where they are cut from are attached to the pig’s backbone. Baby back ribs are about 3 to 6 inches in length.

Loin back ribs have a slight curvature on them and are lean, meaty, and with just a little cartilage.

How To Cook Baby Back Pork Ribs

There are many ways to cook loin back ribs. Any good recipe should have the following steps:

  1. Inspect and trim the meat dangling from the sides.
  2. Slide only the tip of the knife over the bone and under the membrane to cut it.
  3. Season and rub your favorite BBQ rub
  4. Place it in a smoker or oven to cook low and slow.
  5. Midway through the cook and periodically after, slather in your favorite bbq sauce for the remainder of the cook. 

2. Country Style Pork Ribs

Country-style ribs are pork chops cut from a pig’s loin. They aren’t quite ribs, but many people think they are. Compared to regular pork, country-style ribs are meatier and super easy to cook. Y

You can get bone-in or boneless country-style ribs. The latter is a long strip of muscle laced with intercostal meat.

How To Cook Country Style Pork Ribs

Country-style pork ribs are not ribs. These need to be slowly cooked. I recommend you cook these ribs is over a fire for the best flavor. However, you can use a gas or charcoal grill to do the job if you prefer.

Country-style pork ribs go well with cider vinegar or your favorite vinegar-based BBQ sauces.

You can season them with salt and pepper but I would avoid too much additional flavor.

Want to make burnt ends from your country style ribs? See the recipe for country style burnt ends here.

3. Pork Spareribs

Pork spareribs come from near the breastbone of the pig.

They are also called spares or side ribs. If you hear anyone say ‘ribs’ without specifying the type, they are referring to this type of pork ribs.

Spareribs are straighter and flatter than baby back ribs. On one end, you would notice the bone marrow where they are cut from.

These ribs have more flavor than baby back ribs but are not as tender.

How To Cook Pork Spareribs

I highly recommend only smoking pork spare ribs. There is something about smoking them that just makes them that much better. 

For those of you who are not quite sure how to smoke pork spare ribs; here is a fantastic smoked spare rib recipe that you can master and then make your own

4. St. Louis Style Ribs

St. Louis-style ribs are cut from spareribs. They originated in the mid-twentieth century when St. Louis meatpackers started cutting their pork meat this way.

Many people even refer to them as trimmed-up spareribs as they have a neater and regular look.

St. Louis ribs are that they do not have gristle or cartilage at the bottom.

A typical St. Louis style rib is shorter than spare ribs but longer than baby back ribs.

How To Cook St. Louis Style Ribs?

Before you begin cooking, make sure you have a sharp knife.

First cut off the pointy ends of the ribs. Then, trim the flap of the meat at the back.

Next, remove the fat if you don’t want it. This will leave you with an aesthetically pleasing rib you can smoke, grill, braise or cook sous vide.

Now you know precisely what ribs are what, at your next cookout, you can impress friends and family with your meaty knowledge.

What are your favorite ribs to cook?

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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