Ribs are one of the most delicious foods that you can feature at your next family barbecue or big dinner.
Succulent, flavorful, and easy to prepare, ribs are a perennial favorite for novice cooks and barbecue masters alike – they’re one of the most popular barbecue meats!
It can be confusing to know what ribs are best for your gathering since there are so many different types.
Fortunately, understanding what makes these eight different types of ribs unique and how to prepare them can help you rise to the occasion and wow your guests.
From big and bold beef ribs to delicate lamb riblets, there’s something for every taste.
Beef Back Ribs
Beef back ribs are one of the boldest and biggest cuts of rib meat out there.
They come from the place right behind the cow’s shoulders, and since they’re adjacent to coveted prime rib cuts, you can expect them to be savory, flavorful, and decadent.
These ribs are sizable, so they’re great for a hungry crowd of people and a welcome diversion from more traditional pork or baby back ribs.
Beef back ribs and barbecues are a match made in heaven. Cook them low and slow over a charcoal flame, seasoned heavily with a lot of dry rub spices for the best results.
Country Style Pork Ribs
If you don’t like a lot of fat on your ribs, consider trying country-style pork ribs.
These ribs tend to be fairly lean, thanks to their location on the pig’s loin. You’ll get a nice mixture of loin meat, plus a little bit of fat from the shoulder and traditional rib area as well.
Since they tend to be lower in fat content, country-style pork ribs are a little bit trickier to perfect.
You need to marinade them to bring out the flavor, plus break down any tough muscle for a savory, silky texture. The best way to do this is with acid, like apple cider vinegar.
Unlike beef back ribs, short ribs are smaller and a little chewier.
They come from the actual ribs of the cow and are more akin to chuck or brisket in taste and texture.
Short ribs tend to be smaller in length but still plenty meaty around the perimeter of the rib. If you love the saturated, pure beef taste, then short ribs are for you.
These meaty morsels work well on the barbecue, but you can also slow roast them in the oven and serve them up with root vegetables like carrots or potatoes.
Since their flavor is akin to chuck, they do well with pot roast-style accompaniments and sauces.
Spareribs are one of the most popular types of ribs, and they come from the pig’s belly area. Generally, you’ll get about ten or twelve spareribs in a cut.
While they’re similar in size to the short ribs, they have a different flavor and do best when you cook them low and slow to break up the tendon meat.
For the best results, bake, rather than grill, spareribs. A smooth marinade or a robust sauce will go a long way to making these ribs sing.
St. Louis Style Ribs
Although St. Louis style ribs are akin to spareribs in taste, they tend to be easier to cook thanks to their standard size.
Many people who think they’re enjoying spareribs are probably tucking into a plate of St. Louis-style ribs, especially if the ribs come in a rectangular pattern rather than several different-sized ribs.
St. Louis-style ribs tend to be fattier, so you don’t need to necessarily marinade them as long or cook them slowly.
Instead, you can pop them right on the barbecue with a zesty spiced rub for extra flavor.
Baby Back Ribs
An exceptionally popular style, baby back ribs tend to be leaner than short ribs and take well to all sorts of different types of marinades or rubs.
One of the best aspects of baby back ribs is that you can dress them up any way that you’d like.
The lean meat works well with robust barbecue sauces, and on the flip side, it shines when you use a delicate dry rub on it.
Baby back ribs and barbecue were simply made for each other, so pair your baby back ribs with a big helping of sides like macaroni and cheese, potatoes, or cornbread for a fantastic down-home feast.
Flanken Style Ribs
A more obscure but downright delicious style of ribs, Flanken style, is akin to beef short and spare ribs, with the only distinction being that they’re cut through the bone rather than in between.
The result is ribs that don’t have as much structural integrity as other varieties and have more of that “fall off the bone” goodness that a lot of people love.
The traditional way to serve these ribs is with root vegetables and savory fruits, like prunes.
The delicate sweetness of the prunes and the natural, earthy taste of root vegetables work well with the tender meat, giving you a treat that tastes both familiar and unexpected at the same time.
Lamb riblets are breastbone cuts with a high ratio of fat to meat.
They tend to be daintier than other types of ribs and are often served either as a rack or as riblet lollipops.
It’s very easy to overcook lamb, but thanks to the high-fat content of lamb riblets, you’re unlikely to have to cook them for very long.
Instead, give them a quick sear on the grill, or bake them at a low temperature with a marinade.
Mint is a natural companion for lamb, so serve your lamb riblets with some mint jelly for a unique and tasty spin on ribs.