Ribs. They are synonymous with grilling and are a staple at BBQ contests and backyard cookouts alike. Besides pork ribs coming from a pig and beef ribs coming from a cow, what are the other differences between the two most common forms of ribs?
Pork ribs have three different cuts—back ribs, or baby back ribs, spareribs, and St. Louis. On the other side, beef ribs have only two different cuts, back ribs, and short ribs. With pork ribs, the back ribs will be the most lean and tender as they are cut from the loin area of the animal. Short ribs on the other hand are found at the belly or bottom half of the rib area of the pig, they are usually a long triangle shape and when they are trimmed and resemble more of a rectangle, this is when they are referred to as St. Louis ribs. These may be easier to handle and eat but there is a bit of meat loss from the trimming.
With beef ribs, the back ribs are what is left after the other cuts of meat have been taken out. They come from the rib section of the animal, and since they are more or less leftovers there isn’t as much meat on them as there are on some other types of ribs. Short ribs, on the other hand, are taken from the plate part of the cow, lower in the chest area and result in more meat that can be very flavorful and tender if cooked correctly.
While both types of ribs can be cooked by roasting, BBQ-ing, smoking or putting in a slow cooker, grilling back ribs of the beef variety will cause them to not be as tender as their pork counterpart. With beef short ribs you need to take special care in cooking, they should be cooked on a low heat for a long amount of time to reach optimal flavor and texture. Alternatively, braising these types of ribs is the best method if you want your ribs juicy and tender.
Size of the different types of ribs is actually a no brainer as the bigger the animal, the bigger the cuts of meat that you will get from that animal. Obviously, a pig’s ribs will be shorter and smaller than that of a cow. Pork ribs are usually leaner than those of beef and usually have more meat on them, but the strong flavor goes to the beef variety every time. While pork ribs may remind the eater of pork chops, the beef ribs are steak-esque.
Another big comparison is nutritional value. For a ¼ lb rack of ribs, you are looking at 230 calories for pork compared to 345 calories for beef. Beef ribs have 25g of fat versus pork ribs at 16g of fat and pork ribs give you 17g of protein compared to beef’s 29g.
Pork or beef? The choice is yours, but whatever you decide, don’t forget the rib candy!