There are generally 2 different styles of ribs... St. Louis Spares (or Spare Ribs) and Loin Backs (or baby back ribs)
In the MBN and Memphis in May competitions, you always use Loin-Back ribs - because it is simply what the judges expect. But in the Kansas City BBQ circuit, you always use St. Louis Spares.
The Loin-Back ribs tend to be smaller and don't have as much meat on them.. but the meat is really, really tender. Spare Ribs are meatier and have a higher fat content.
If I am cooking at home, I cook St. Louis Spares because I like the fat content - it really gives a good flavor to the meat when it is rendered out.
But when I cater parties, I always use baby back ribs, just because that is what people expect in the Memphis area.
I use the same exact cooking technique when cooking St. Louis and Loin Back ribs - there really is no difference in the recipe for these two ribs... but you probably need to add a little time to your Spare Ribs because they are bigger and tougher.
(This diagram comes curtosy of Meathead over at AmazingRibs.com. Very cool BBQ Site to check out)
When you are choosing a good Spare Rib, you want to look for one where you can see visible fat throughout.
This fat needs to be spaced evenly throughout the rack. You don't want any heavy deposits of fat in any one place - you want it evenly marbled because that even distribution throughout the rack is what is going to evenly flavor your meat.
A large fat deposit will render down and leave you with big chunks missing from your meat, you will be left with a large chuck of nothing but bone.
When choosing a good loin-back rib, I look for an even thickness in the rack. Ideally, the rack will be the same size on every end and the bones will be uniform. I don't want too much curvature in the bone and I want a good amount of even marbling.
Spare ribs are taken from the bottom of the ribs - on the side of the belly of the pig. This is why they are bigger, meatier and a little tougher cut of meat.
Loin-back ribs are taken from the top of the rib cage - close to the loin of the pig. This is why they are smaller and more tender cut of meat.
If you start with a good quality rib, you will end with a good quality product... so choosing the perfect rib is the very first step in BBQ success.
St. Louis Style Ribs
Loin Back Ribs
|Nickname||Spare Ribs||Baby Back Ribs|
|Contests||Kansas City||MBN and Memphis In May|
|Size||larger, meatier||smaller, more tender|
|Location on hog||located at the bottom of the ribs - close to the belly||located at the top of the ribs, close to the loin|
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