It isn't uncommon to wonder or ask, are baby back ribs pork or beef? Both pigs and cows have back ribs so it can be confusing. However, due to the smaller size of the ribs that come from pigs, large beef back ribs are not called baby back ribs.
I have had someone ask me once if baby back ribs come from young baby pigs. I let them know that it was not true. The reason they are called baby back ribs is that they are shorter in relation to the bigger spareribs.
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Ribs are a thing of beauty. Prepping a rack of raw baby back ribs only takes a few minutes. Remove the membrane, season liberally with a fantastic dry rub, and get in the smoker. Let the meat cook low and slow and do its magic.
What are Baby Back Ribs?
Baby back ribs may also be referred to as back ribs, loin ribs, or Canadian back ribs. They are known for being the most tender and leanest of all the pork ribs. When cooked correctly, they become fall-off-the-bone amazing. Their smaller size means they take less time to cook. When we smoke them, it takes about 4 hours total. This makes ribs a great beginning recipe for those first learning to smoke meats.
Pork ribs come in three different cuts. They are the back ribs (aka baby back ribs), St. Louis ribs, and spare ribs. Baby back ribs are cut from the loin section. Once that is removed, it is where the rib meets the spine. Baby back ribs are curved and average between 4-6 inches long.
These shorter ribs are more tender and therefore more popular than pork spare ribs. This makes them often more expensive. They are often served in restaurants as a half or full rack. A full rack usually has between 10-13 ribs. A rack weighs between 1 ½ - 2 pounds and can feed 1-2 people.
Beef ribs also come in two different cuts – back ribs and short ribs. Beef back ribs (aka dinosaur ribs) come from the rib section of the cow. This is similar to pork back ribs; however, beef ribs from the back have very little meat. They are what is left when the boneless ribeye steaks and boneless ribeye roasts are removed from the bones.
Short ribs come from the “plate” part of the cow. These ribs are lower down on the chest and have more meat than back ribs. When they are cooked right, short ribs are very tender and flavorful. The full rack of beef ribs weighs about 30 pounds. Out of that 30 pounds, only 4 pounds are considered short ribs. Because the short ribs are such a small part, this cut tends to be priced higher than most other beef cuts.
More About Pork & Beef Ribs
Now that you know that baby back ribs are pork and not beef, you may wonder more about the different kinds of ribs that are out there. There are some great types of ribs out there, so try them all and find something new to love. Whether you want to slow cook, smoke, braise, or oven-roast some ribs make sure you know which cooking method works best on which kind of rib.
Quality Beef & Pork Ribs at Butcher Box
When baby back ribs are available through my Butcher Box, I add them to my order immediately. The heritage pork that Butcher Box offers in their subscription services is of the highest quality.