Summer is coming and that means it’s barbecue season—and there’s no better time to finally figure out the difference between baby back and spareribs than the present. Pork ribs go by many names, depending on the region. Baby back ribs, also known as back ribs, loin ribs, or Canadian back ribs, are shorter than spareribs and a full slab has between 11 and 13 bones. Baby back ribs are connected to the backbone and nestled beneath the loin muscle—they get their name from the fact that they’re the most tender and leanest ribs. They’re sometimes called Canadian ribs because Canadian bacon is made from the same loin mean that’s connected to the ribs. (If you want to learn more than you bargained for about different cuts of pork, check out this very detailed and informative diagram.)
Spareribs, also known as St. Louis cut ribs or Kansas City cut, are a flatter, rectangular slab that aren’t as curved as baby back ribs. Spareribs can be less expensive because they contain more bone and aren’t always in as high demand as baby back ribs. Spareribs are about three pounds and usually a rack will feed about two people (much of the weight is from the heavy bones). The meat is very flavorful; spareribs are cut from the end of the baby back ribs, and they’re often meatier than baby back ribs. St. Louis cut ribs are simply spareribs with the rib tips cut off so that the whole package is a neat rectangular slab.
Hungry yet? Check out our seven recipes for flavor-packed baby back and spareribs below. If you’re in a pinch, you can always substitute one cut for the other. Just be sure to adjust the cooking times. (And don’t forget the barbecue sauce.)
1. Smoked Barbecue Baby Back Ribs
The spice mix includes kosher salt, dark brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and ground mustard for a perfect smoky-sweet mix. Get our Smoked Barbecue Baby Back Ribs recipe.
2. Barbecue Asian Glazed Spareribs
The Asian glaze separates these ribs from the rest. The glaze is heavily seasoned with ketchup, soy sauce, rice vinegar, corn syrup, light brown sugar, honey, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, Five Spice mix, and hot sauce. The quantities are also easy to adjust according to your tastes. Get the recipe.
3. Easy Barbecue Baby Back Pork Ribs
The rib seasonings combined with the homemade barbecue sauce are what take this recipe to the next level—you can use your favorite store-bought brand if you’re running short on time, but the homemade sauce really makes a difference. Get our Easy Barbecue Baby Back Pork Ribs recipe.
4. Sticky Chinese Spareribs
The sticky sauce is a combination of ketchup, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, red wine, garlic, honey, Chinese five spice powder, ginger, sriracha, and some liquid smoke. You can garnish the ribs with sesame seeds and freshly chopped scallions for an added touch. Get the recipe.
5. Korean Kalbi Baby Back Ribs
A Korean take on baby back ribs, this recipe has a sweet and savory mix of onion, garlic, ginger, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame seeds, green onion, rice vinegar, and dark sesame oil. Get the recipe.
6. Pressure Cooker Spareribs
This simple recipe can easily be adjusted to your liking. Utilizing the always-reliable pressure cooker, standard cooking times can be shaved off a few hours for tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs in around 45 minutes. A real winner! Get the recipe.
7. Glazed Asian Baby Back Ribs
A fruity glaze makes for a surprising twist in this recipe for Asian-inspired baby back ribs. Cider vinegar, mango chutney, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, honey, red pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and mayonnaise are all thrown in the mix to mirror notes of tamarind and shrimp paste. Get the recipe.