Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: August 14, 2021

When I think of a piece of meat that combines taste, flavor, fast preparation, and convenient eating, my mind goes directly to ribs. This combination of meat and bone makes it a favorite part of every celebration, gathering, and restaurant menu.

Some people prefer pork ribs and others like more beef ribs. Is there a difference between these two? We did a research and found the most important facts which will help you select the right one for your next cooking.

About Pork Ribs

Pork ribs with black background

Pork ribs are a very popular type across the United States and are derived from pigs. Pigs have 16 or 17 pairs of ribs, depending on the breed [1].

Pork ribs are divided into 3 popular cuts known as back ribs (also called baby ribs), spare ribs, and St. Louis ribs.

As the first two to three ribs are close to the shoulder, a piece of pork ribs usually contains a section between the 8th and 13th rib.

This is the upper part of the ribs that are located below the back, and we can recognize them because they are shorter and semicircular.

Baby back ribs are coming from the lower rib cage. They are more tender and require a shorter preparation time, so they are more common in restaurants' menus.

The continuation of the ribs towards the top, along the chest part, is called spare ribs. Spare ribs are an intact part of the ribs separated from the abdomen and may include cartilage.

The meat from the spare ribs is a bit tougher, with a nice beef flavor and there are many nice recipes to prepare a tasty meal.

If we remove the tips of the bones to align them, along with the abdomen part, we get St. Louis ribs. We can say that Louis cut ribs are pork ribs that are prepared by removing bones from the belly. This piece is characterized by straight bones about 10-12 cm long, and the meat found here tastes great thanks to its higher fat content.

About Beef Ribs

There are two different types of beef ribs – short ribs and back ribs [2]. Back ribs originate from the part of the back section of the cow. We are getting this cut when we remove ribeye steaks or ribeye roasts, from the bone.

The short ribs originate from the lower part of the cow’s body. Because of their position and size, they have more meat than back ribs.

The most expensive cut of the beef is the rib roast or prime rib; it has a great beef flavor, so make sure to include it on your menu, at least for special occasions.

Apart from taste, the main difference between short and back ribs is their size. Beef ribs have high nutritional value and contain many essential amino acids, fats, minerals, and vitamins. In addition to providing us with valuable nutrients, it has a positive effect on health.

Due to the abundance of vitamins B and E, linoleic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids, beef ribs protect the health of the cardiovascular system.

Also, vitamin B12 prevents the appearance of osteoporosis, which makes beef ribs a favorite choice for everyone who cares about health [3]. Since they are soft, you can cook beef ribs in various ways.

Difference Between Pork Ribs and Beef Ribs

Pork and beef ribs close up image

Beef and pork ribs are specific pieces of meat derived from cows and pigs. When we say rib, it usually refers to the part of the steak that is less meaty and has a bone.

If we talk about size, beef ribs are much larger than pork ribs. Therefore, beef ribs have more meat than pork ribs. If we compare their consumption, pork ribs are those that people usually use when they want to prepare their cooked meal or grilled dish.

You can cook beef and pork ribs using various techniques like baking, roasting, etc. However, in US cuisine, when we say ribs we usually refer to grilled ribs and we are often serving them with bbq or some other sauces.

1. Size

The first difference that we can notice without being meat experts is the rib’s size. Just like cows and pigs are different in size, so are their ribs. Beef ribs are much bigger than pork ribs. This can be a downsize, as it makes them more difficult for preparing and eating.

Pork ribs, on the other hand, are smaller. You can prepare them easily and they are more convenient for eating.

2. Flavor

Apart from the size, among pork ribs and beef ribs, there are differences in taste. Beef ribs have a specific and stronger taste, while pork beef’s taste is more tender.

Differences in taste and flavor can also be found among different cuts. For example, pork back ribs are tender and best suited for grilling. The short ribs have a lot of meat and are very tasty, while many people prefer baby back ribs from the lower rib cage, because of their tenderness and aroma.

If you like fatty meat, then you should choose spareribs, as they are high in fat. Louis cut ribs are tasting the best when you put them on the grill.

3. Cuts

Both pork rib and beef rib have different cuts. The three most popular techniques for pork ribs are back ribs (or baby back ribs), spare ribs, and Louis cut ribs, while for beef ribs there are short ribs and back ribs.

There are differences among them in size and taste, so as in cooking techniques. We may have ribs from the same animal (for example, pig), but the taste, cooking method, or preparation is different among different cuts.

4. Cost

There is a difference in cost between a beef rib and a pork rib. Beef short ribs are among the most expensive as they are not too easy to find. Baby ribs are one of the most common so you will find them in every supermarket.

5. Fat

Beef ribs are a good choice for those who take care of their health because of the valuable nutrients they contain. They are known for high nutritional value and contain many essential amino acids, fats, minerals, and vitamins.

One portion of beef ribs has:

  • 340 calories
  • 0 carbs
  • over 35 grams of protein
  • 27 milligrams of calcium
  • 328 milligrams of potassium
  • 20 grams of total fat
  • 105 milligrams of cholesterol.

Compared to other types of meat, beef has fewer calories, as well as less fat.

Pork ribs are smaller in size but contain more fat. One portion of pork ribs has:

  • 320 calories
  • 30 grams of protein
  • 34 milligrams of calcium
  • 340 milligrams of potassium
  • 20 grams of total fat
  • 115 milligrams of cholesterol

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Cooking and Grilling

Sliced beef ribs and grilled pork ribs

There are many ways to prepare ribs. In terms of cooking method, beef back ribs are quite similar to pork ribs. But if we are talking about pork ribs - there is only one right way. Low and slow is the way to go. As they cook, they continue to get more tender, but don’t leave them too long as they’ll get dry and tough.

Preparation

The most important part is the preparation, removal of the skin from the underside of the ribs. It is a hard and tough membrane that is extremely difficult to chew, and also blocks the passage of smoke into the lower part of the meat during smoking.

Fortunately, the membrane is very easy to remove. If there is excess fat on the upper side of the, remove it as well.

Methods

There are different styles and recipes for preparing barbecue pork chops with a bone. The most common is the Kansas City style, which uses a mixture of spices with the addition of brown sugar and a sweeter BBQ sauce for a tomato-based finish. They go perfectly well with baby-backs.

Texas-style uses a mixture of spices with chili peppers, and the topcoat gives a barbeque sauce with the addition of beer, coffee, fruit, or hot sauce.

St. Louis, North Carolina, and Memphis styles are recognizable by the vinegar in the finish, and Alabama by the mayonnaise.

Temperature

For preparing beef back ribs you can use a similar cooking style and method. You can barbecue them low and slow on the grill, roast them in the oven or prepare them in a slow cooker. You can even put them in a smoker to get the fantastic smoke flavor of chuck short ribs, dinosaur ribs, or ribeye meat.

If you cook beef back ribs on the grill or roast them in the oven, don’t expect them to be as tender as pork ribs prepared the same way. Still, this rib part is full of flavor and if you prepare it right, it will simply melt in your mouth.

To keep their flavor make sure to use the right technique to prepare each of these ribs. There are many recipes that you can use to cook beef ribs, short ribs, loin ribs, or pork spare ribs.

Beef ribs vs Pork Ribs - The Bottom Line

There are certainly differences between pork ribs and beef ribs. Apart from the flavor, pork, and beef rib sizes and different cuts, you need to know the right cooking method to prepare tasty food from these ingredients.

Find a good butcher who will know how to cut these pieces to perfection. Based on the rib tips above, experiment with ingredients - discover tasty recipes and invite friends or family for a nice lunch or a tasty dinner.

Did our advice help you? Let us know in the comments below.

References:

  1. https://www.thespruceeats.com/pig-diagram-and-pork-chart-995306
  2. https://visual.ly/community/Infographics/food/beef-cuts
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/beef

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