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Which Rib Rules?

Posted on: July 4th, 2014

When we opened back in 1978, the pork Sparerib was King – but today the Baby Back Rib holds the crown. Why, and which rib truly reigns supreme? Lets take a closer look – and cook some ribs of course!

Classic spareribs cut into 2-3 bone sections and smoked on the Big Green Egg.

Baby Back Ribs
Cut the rib bones off of the pork chops and you’ve got Baby Back Ribs. They are short, simple and easy to navigate; and being from the loin their meat is very tender and juicy. There’s nothing not to like about Baby Backs, except that they cost about 50% more than Spareribs.

Baby Back Ribs in Tony’s BBQ Rub cooked on a cedar plank in a gas grill.

With the small baby back portion gone, the classic ‘Slab of’ Spareribs remains – essentially it’s the remainder of the rib cage. Half of it is very similar to baby backs (the St. Louis section) and the other half is a bonus with meaty skirt steaks over a wonderfully juicy framework of chewy cartilage and buttery meat that can keep us gnawers noshing for hours! Spareribs offer a variety of meat textures, offer crunchy cartilage and inter-cartilage meat to gnaw on and are a great value, especially when cooking for a crowd. Look for a future blog where we cut them Southern Style to make two new ribs; the St Louis Ribs and the Pork Riblets.

A two-rib section from the center of the Slab Sparerib.

Our butchers will cut your spareribs any way you like. For starters, I suggest simply cutting them into 2-3 rib sections so they’re easier to cook and serve. The other option is to let us cut them ‘Southern Style’ for long St. Louis Rib and tasty little Riblets – each is a totally different eating experience!  More in an upcoming blog

The classic Slab Sparerib with the ribs ‘cracked’.
The same slab of ribs cut into 2-3 rib sections.

Cooking Spareribs
Spareribs are essentially cooked the same as baby back ribs, they just take a little longer. Unless you consider yourself a Grill-master, I strongly suggest using the Par-bake method, it’s almost foolproof! The ribs are braised until they’re as tender as you like, then coated in Tony’s BBQ rub and finished browning and glazing over low to medium flame – recipe follows.

Classic Pork Spareribs on the Big Green Egg.


Tony’s house precooked Baby Back Ribs – just heat and serve.

Par Bake Method for Ribs

Oven braise until tender, then grill.








Tony’s BBQ Rubs and Sauces, professional grade BBQ.  Not pictured our new Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce

Indirect Grilling, Smoking and The Big Green Egg
Most Grillmasters aren’t happy until the entire county smells like hickory and ribs (thanks neighbor!). These methods take a lot more attention but they’re well worth it!

Indirect Grilling
Prepare a 250-300 degree charcoal or gas grill with all coals/flames to one side and hold. Season ribs generously with Tony’s BBQ Rub and cook with indirect heat away from the flames.  Times vary, estimate about 2 hours. Add wood chips from time to time.

The Big Green Egg or Smoker

Build/manage a hardwood fire for smoking (225-250° heat, no flame and very little smoke) season well with Tony’s BBQ Rub and smoke until tender, 190-195° internal, 2.5 hours or more. Note: Fire management is the key – it’s a guy thing and involves beer and lots of practice.
Cedar Plank Smoking
Cedar planks are great on gas grills and add a light sweet smoky flavor.  Get plenty of planks, soak well and be ready with a water mister if the edges flare up.

About ¾ done, I cook to 190-195° or start taste testings when the bones stick out from the meat.

Which Rib Rules?
This totally depends on you.  If you enjoy the varying textures or love gnawing on gristly cartilage, or just want to get more ribs for your money, I strongly suggest the sparerib.  If you are in a hurry and tend to focus only on the rib bones and like juicy ribs that are extra easy to eat, then go for the Baby Back Ribs. Better yet, do a side by side taste test of both at your next BBQ!

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