Spare Ribs vs Baby Back Ribs: How Do They Differ?

From choosing the best part to cooking to perfection - we'll give the most important info about spare ribs vs baby back ribs
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Last updatedLast updated: August 22, 2021
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You don’t have to get yourself worked up if you struggle to tell the difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs. The confusion mostly stems from the cuts’ many similarities. Apart from being ribs, both of them are cut from a pig’s rib cage. However, they’re cut from different sections.

The differences between spare ribs and baby back ribs range from thickness to level of fat to flavor. With these factors, you can tell the differences between the two types of ribs although it’s not that simple. This article will put up spare ribs vs baby back ribs to help you learn the key differences that can help you distinguish between them.

Maybe you didn’t know, the spare rib and baby back rib’s meat contents are not the same. Their best styles of cooking even differ as you’ll soon find out. Join us on the ride as we delve into the world of two types of ribs.

What are baby back ribs?

As we mentioned before, baby back ribs are cut from a section of the rib cage. Specifically, they’re cut from the upper part of the rib cage. You might be wondering why the “baby”, the name came as a result of the ribs’ shorter size to the spare ribs. The baby back ribs are located above the spare ribs, just under the animal’s loin muscle, and are connected to its backbone.

Moreover, the baby back ribs weigh less and cook faster than spare ribs thanks to their tenderness and leanness. Some of them even come with a little amount of loin meat. Besides, the average rack of baby back ribs typically weighs between 1 – 2 pounds and contains 10 – 13 bones, making them just enough for two adults. The shortest bones of the baby back ribs are usually around 3 inches while the longest bones are typically about 6 inches.

How to choose the best?

Of course, not all baby back ribs on the market are great, there are things you have to look out for to ensure that you’re buying the best. Fresh ribs are deep pink and they possess marbling throughout. If you’re looking for the best baby back ribs, ensure that they have these qualities. When smoking the ribs, it’s the marbling that is rendered out.

What are spare ribs?

By now, you have a little insight into what spare ribs are. You know they come from the rib cage but what you probably don’t know is that they’re cut from the lower portion and below the baby back ribs. Specifically, they come from the animal’s breastbone and belly, running behind the shoulder.

Also, spare ribs are flatter and larger than baby back ribs. As we hinted earlier, they also weigh more than baby back ribs. They typically weigh around 3 pounds per rack. Plus their meat has more fat marbled through them, thus resulting in more flavorsome meat. In a similar manner to baby back ribs, spare ribs also include 11 to 13 bones according to Wikipedia.

How to choose the best?

The color of your spare ribs says a lot about the meat. The best spare ribs are darker red in color with porky, succulent meat. You can learn how to trim them properly with this video:

Difference between baby back vs spare ribs

The battle of baby back vs spare ribs and which is better is not an unpopular one and we have no doubt you have learned some of the differences between them. To enhance your knowledge of the two types of ribs, we will discuss their differences using some important parameters as you’ll see below:

Best cooking method

Like every other cut of pig, you either smoke the baby back ribs and spare ribs or grill them. Some even just heat them in the oven. While you can use both cooking methods for the two types of ribs, they have different methods that are best for them.

For example, smoking the baby back ribs is the best method for cooking the meat. As we mentioned before, it cooks much faster than the spare ribs, making it perfect for smoking. Your pellet smoker’s wood will also add to the flavor of the meat, leaving a very pleasant taste in your mouth. If you need the best wood to smoke ribs and you’re wondering what are the parameters for one, you don’t need to sweat it. Just look for a wood that offers your favorite flavor, whether spicy, smoky, or sweet.

Also, there’s the concern of finding the best pellet smoker. You’ll have to make a choice based on versatility, the presence of temperature control, and your preferred dimensions & weight.

Back to our earlier discussion, the best cooking method for the spare ribs is grilling. Since it is thicker, it’s best treated to a low and slow cooking method. All you need to do is acquire the best Z Grills to do the job. The brand is well known for creating versatile grills. If you’re having trouble finding the right model, help is here. According to most reviews, the most reliable model should be the Z Grills-700E, thanks to its performance-enhancing design, time-tested reliability, and exceptional ease of use.

Spare Ribs vs Baby Back Ribs: How Do They Differ?Meat content

When it comes to meat content, the Spare ribs are meatier than baby back ribs. Little wonder that the spare ribs are thicker than the back ribs. If you’re looking for more meat content, you should go for the former.

Flavor

Most people favor spare ribs to be more flavorful than baby back ribs. We also found that to be true after a tasting process. The spare ribs’ superiority here is mostly due to its marbling that makes it to be juicier.

Cooking time and temperatures

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork to be from 160° F to 145° F. However, if you cook spare ribs to 145° F, they may remain tough. Cooking up to 190° F – 200° F makes the meat juicier and more tender. This may take you about 4 to 5 hours.

The baby back ribs, on the other hand, can be cooked at 225° F for a cooking time of 5 hours or 250° F for a cooking time of 4 hours.

Storage period

Another factor that separates the two types of ribs is their storage period. While the spare ribs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, the baby back rib stays up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Prices

As we’ve hinted a few times in this article, baby back ribs cost more than spare ribs, mostly because of their soaring popularity and tenderness.

Best recipe for baby back ribs

Spare Ribs vs Baby Back Ribs: How Do They Differ?The best recipe for baby back ribs is Smoked Baby Back Ribs as we hinted earlier. The cooking method is smoking with your smoker. You’ll need 4 pounds of spare ribs.

Instructions

  • Heat your smoker to 250° F
  • Pick up the ribs (we recommend the American Kurobota Baby Back Ribs because they’re 100% purebred Berkshire poor with a dark pink color) and remove the silverskin from their back.
  • Then, get a tablespoon of rub and sprinkle the backside of the ribs. Wait for about 15 minutes and do the same on the top side of the ribs. Again, wait for 12 minutes.

Place the meat on your smoker and let them smoke for about 2.5 hours, spritzing them with apple cider every 45 minutes.

  • Put 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 4 slices of sugar on two different sheets of foil. Then place the ribs on top of the sugar and butter.
  • Fold up the sheets and seal tightly. Then, return them to the smoker with the bone facing up.
  • Continue smoking until they bend. An internal temperature of about 205° F is great. You can then remove the ribs from the foil and serve.

Nutrition Information

  • Calories: 533kcal
  • Protein: 28g
  • Carbohydrates: 29g
  • Fat: 35g
  • Saturated Fat: 16g
  • Sodium: 434mg
  • Cholesterol: 128mg
  • Potassium: 457mg
  • Sugar: 25g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Vitamin C: 1mg
  • Iron: 2mg
  • Calcium: 89mg

Best recipe for spare ribs

Spare Ribs vs Baby Back Ribs: How Do They Differ?Our favorite cooking method for spare ribs is grilling so we’re going to explain the recipe for cooking Grilled Spare Ribs. Just get your grill and two racks of baby back ribs ready.

Instructions

  • Prepare the spice rub by mixing cumin, paprika, pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, allspice, and brown sugar.
  • Get the spare ribs ready (here too, we recommend the American Kurobuta Spare Ribs which is 100% purebred Berkshire pork ribs; all-natural and bred without added hormones).
  • Sprinkle the rub over the ribs and rub it in. Wrap ribs in sheets of foil and refrigerate for one or two hours.
  • Set up your grill for indirect heat. Then, grill the meat, with the rib side down and the bones protruding slightly from the meat. You should be done in about 2 hours.
  • When the ribs are nearly down, brush them with barbecue sauce. You can also serve with extra sauce.

Nutrition Information

  • Calories: 943kcal
  • Carbohydrates 37.4g
  • Protein 58.4g
  • Fat 60.6g
  • Sodium 701.5mg
  • Cholesterol 240.5mg

Final Thoughts

After our comprehensive comparison of spare ribs vs baby back ribs, we can confidently affirm that they’re both excellent cuts. Although one may be more flavorful than the other, the other may also be more tender. There’s no clear winner between the two types of ribs; your choice should be based on your preference and budget. We hope that we have been able to help you learn the difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs.

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