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Spare Ribs vs Baby Back Ribs: Is There a Difference?

Juicy, tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs are always a crowd pleaser. Everyone loves getting their hands sticky and their mouths messy, especially when it comes to a bbq feast. But the questions remain unanswered.

What set of pork ribs is the best? Should you go for country-style ribs? Or perhaps you should choose between spare ribs vs. baby back ribs.

If you’re wondering the same thing, you can sit back and relax because, in this blog, we’ve covered the difference between the two of the most famous racks of pork ribs. Want to know more? Keep on reading!

What are Spare Ribs?

Despite their name, spare ribs are not an additional set of ribs that pigs tend to grow. Instead, they go all the way from the pig’s back to its side, which is why most butchers call them ‘side ribs.’ These ribs are flat but still have plenty of bones and cartilage. Spare ribs are actually closer to the pig’s belly, unlike baby back ribs that are closer to the spine.

In addition, since spare ribs have more space to grow, they’re huge, with far more fat, meat, and bone. Plus, their meat is spaced out between the bones rather than being on top of them. This is usually known as flap meat.

Moreover, the USDA states that the minimum number of bones a rack of spare ribs should have is 11. This is a given with how big spare ribs are. On average, a single slab of spare ribs can weigh around three pounds.

What are Babyback Ribs?

Babyback ribs, or pork loin back ribs, are relatively lean. The reason they have meat on their bones is due to the meatier loin section. Babyback ribs also have a little bit of curve to them since they come from the spine of the pig. However, despite being lean, these ribs are more tender and require less cooking time. Usually, smoking or roasting ribs is the standard mode of cooking.

Babyback ribs are shorter than spare ribs, which makes them easy to identify. They sit right above the spare ribs, with one end tapering off. Furthermore, an average rack of baby back ribs has around 11 to 13 bones and weighs two pounds at most.

Spare Ribs vs. Baby Back Ribs: Biggest Differences

Once you grab the concept of spare ribs vs. baby back ribs, you’ll easily be able to identify what sets them apart. However, most of these differences boil down to minor dissimilarities, such as:

  • Size
    Babyback ribs are shorter in length, whereas spare ribs are larger. With the density of bones and meat on a single rack of ribs, spare ribs ultimately tend to outweigh baby back ribs.
  • Tender
    Since baby back ribs are closer to the spine and have an addition of loin meat, they’re far more tender than spare ribs. This is because the muscles near the spine aren’t used as much as the others. Even though spare ribs have plenty of fat marbling and connective tissue, pork loin ribs win on a tender scale.
  • Cook Time
    Whichever meat is more tender cooks faster, especially when you count the size. Given this, it’s obvious that baby back ribs cook faster than spare ribs. It doesn’t matter if you smoke, roast, grill, or bake them. They’ll still come up top. Moreover, spare ribs can quickly dry out if the cooking temperature is increased, but baby back ribs stay juicy and soft.
  • Meat-to-Bone Ratio
    Spare ribs have far more meat on them than baby back ribs. Since the latter rack is leaner, spare ribs make the most out of their meat-to-bone ratio, mainly due to the flap meat in the middle.

The Final Takeaway

All in all, when it comes to spare ribs vs. baby back ribs, the difference lies in their size, cook time, meat-to-bone ratio, and overall tenderness. Nonetheless, if you want ribs cooked to perfection, with meat that falls right off the bone, contact Jerry Lawler’s Memphis BBQ Company at (281)-864-5298 (Wallisville Road) or (832)-446-6557 (Jester Blvd. Suite) today!