Baby Back Vs. Spare Ribs: What’s The Difference?

While both the baby back ribs and spare ribs are delicious cuts, they differ. A comprehensive understanding of the two cuts will make it easy to choose the best type of ribs for preparing a special dish. So, what is the difference between baby back vs. spare ribs?

Baby back ribs are derived from the backbone part of a hog, underneath the region where the spine meets with the loin muscle. These ribs are best described as baby because they are likely the shortest ribs in a pig. The spare ribs, on the other hand, are obtained from the belly of the pig.

If you have to choose between baby back vs. spare ribs, you need detailed information about the two cuts to be in a better position to make the right choice.

baby back steak

Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs are also referred to as Canadian back ribs, loin, or back. The baby back ribs are obtained from the upper rib cage of a pig that is connected to the backbone under the loin muscles. Again, the term baby means that they are shorter than spare ribs and are likely the shortest as far as ribs in a hog are concerned.

On average baby back ribs contain 11-13 and weigh about 2 pounds. Additionally, they are more tender and lighter than the spare ribs, making them cook faster.

Spare Ribs

Spare ribs are obtained from the part of the rib cage below the baby back ribs. USDA recommends that a spare rib slab should have a minimum of 11 bones. Regarding weight, spare ribs tend to weigh more than baby ribs. They weigh about three pounds.

Baby Back vs. Spare Ribs: Main Differences

Whether cooking the ribs for yourself or friends and family, a good understanding of the main differences between the baby back and spare ribs will help ensure you get the most from the ribs. Apart from the parts of the pig where the two ribs are obtained from, there are several other differences that you need to know.

1. The Size

One of the major differences that you can easily notice through simple observation is the size.

A baby back rack always has a consistent weight of 2 pounds with 11-13 individual ribs. In other words, the size of baby back ribs is enough to satisfy one hungry person.

On the other hand, spare ribs are generally large as they weigh about 2.5 – 3 pounds, making them enough to satiate the hunger of two individuals. However, almost half of both ribs comprise bones and cartilage.

2. The Price

The price of the ribs is one of the critical factors that many consider when they go out to shop. Generally, the price tag of baby back ribs is normally higher than that of a spare rack. One explanation for this is that although the spare ribs are large, they are less tender when compared to the baby back. Additionally, the demand for baby back ribs is higher than the spare ones.

3. The Meat

If the spare ribs are larger than the baby back, why are the baby back ribs more expensive?

The answer lies in where each cut is obtained from. Where the meat is cut from determines the texture, flavor, and tenderness.

With the spare ribs, the meat is concentrated between the bones and not the top, unlike it is with the baby back ribs. Again, the spare ribs have more marbling than the spare ribs, meaning they have a great flavor. Marbling is responsible for making the meat juicier and more flavorful. Hence, spare ribs are more delicious than baby back ribs.

4. The Cooking Method

You can also compare baby back vs. spare ribs based on the cooking method. Baby back ribs are excellent for boiling, grilling, or barbecuing, while the spare ribs are best cooked through low and slow cooking. The location of the spare ribs makes them tougher, hence braising and slow cooking helps to make them tender.

5. Appearance

The appearance is also a major differentiating factor between the two popular ribs. Spare ribs are flat and rectangular compared to the curvy and short baby back ribs. The spare ribs also have an intensified network of marbling that renders them more flavorful than the baby back ribs.

Spare Ribs vs. Baby Back Ribs Which Is Better

The spare ribs and the baby back ribs are excellent cuts of meat. They are both packed with amazing flavors. Since we have different tastes and preferences, your choice might not necessarily be the best option for your friend.

However, baby back ribs take the lead when it comes to the texture. Again, baby back ribs are soft and more tender than the spare ribs, rendering them easy to cook and prepare. The marbling on the baby back ribs melts depending on the cooking method and enhances its flavor. Therefore, baby back ribs are more expensive than spare ribs.

Spare ribs are also great, even though they are derived from the section of a pig that renders them tougher. Nonetheless, they have a marbling advantage that makes them more flavorful than spare ribs. Furthermore, their price tag is more pocket friendly.

If you want mouthwatering ribs without spending much money, the spare ribs will be the best option. The baby back ribs are also tender and packed with intense flavor that can make you enjoy it the most.

What To Look Out For The Best Pork Ribs?

Whether you have decided to purchase the baby back ribs or the spare ribs, there are several factors that you will need to consider to ensure that you get value for your money. They include the following;

1. Good Meat Coverage

Almost half of the baby back and spare back ribs comprise bones and cartilage. Thus, you should opt for ribs with good meat coverage. Besides, ribs with the excessive bone are less tasty and may fall out during the cooking.

2. Visible Marbling And Fat

Another criterion that you can use to establish the quality of the ribs before buying is marbling and Fat. A cut with even marbling is significant because it helps elevate the general flavor of the ribs.

Large deposits of fats will break and leave a gap in the meatless rib.

3. Even Thickness

Effective cooking is critical for a flavorful dish. However, if the ribs do not have an even thickness, the chances are that you will experience some difficulties cooking them to perfection. Hence, settle for ribs with even Thickness for effective cooking.

4. The Color

Lastly, you must pay attention to the color of the meat. The color is a significant factor as it tells you not only the quality of the meat but also hints more about whether or not the meat is fresh. For the best results, choose ribs with a pink-red color. Ribs with dried-out edges or discolored slabs could be of a lower quality.

spare ribs

Can You Tell The Differences Spare Ribs Vs. Baby Back Ribs Through Observation?

If you are wondering whether or not you can tell the difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs through observation, the answer is yes. Visual differences between the two ribs can help you make the distinction.

The main visual difference between the two cuts is based on the meat’s texture and thickness.

Spare ribs are cut flat, leaving the rib a little bit exposed because they have more meat in between the bones. On the other hand, the baby back ribs have a portion of loin meat attached to the top of the ribs.

Final Thoughts

While both the baby back and the spare ribs have similar traits, your choice depends on various factors, including the price, the method of preparation, and taste and preference. The baby back ribs will be the best option if you want tender and flavorful ribs.

On the other hand, spare ribs are less expensive and delicious. Additionally, they are large enough to feed two grown people as opposed to the baby back ribs, which are enough to satiate one person’s hunger.