With their succulent meat and crispy fat, pork ribs are some of the most popular and satisfying cuts of pork to grill or smoke.
You're likely familiar with pork spare ribs and back ribs, but you may also come across country-style ribs. What cut are these ribs, and how do you cook them?
Our pork BBQ experts answer your questions.
Summary of the Key Findings
- Country-style ribs, also called country ribs and Western-style ribs, can refer to more than one cut of pork and are sold bone-in or boneless.
- Country-style pork rib chops come from the shoulder end of the loin, including sections of the rib and feather bones.
- Country-style pork shoulder ribs are cut from the butt, so the bones are shoulder, not ribs. This cut is often sold boneless.
- Country-style ribs should be grilled, smoked, or cooked in a crockpot like pork chops rather than ribs to prevent overcooking.
What Are Country-Style Ribs?
Unlike the other specifically defined rib cuts, the term country-style ribs can refer to more than one cut of pork.
Also labeled "Western style ribs," these delectable pork cuts may be sold bone-in or boneless and come from different sections of the hog, depending on the butcher.
1. Bone-in Ribs
According to the official source on pork, the US National Pork Board, "Country-style ribs are cut from where the loin and shoulder meet.
They're a combination of higher fat and lean meat and are sold as slabs or individual servings – perfect for those who want to use a knife and fork instead of eating ribs off the bone" .
In practice, butchers cut bone-in-country-style ribs from two parts of the hog, as Danilo Alfaro, former chef, and food authority, explains .
Country-Style Pork Rib Chops
Most country-style ribs are essentially pork rib chops, made by splitting the shoulder end of the loin down the middle.
They consist of a narrow section of rib bone, a narrow section of the feather bone, and the meat attached to each.
Pork Shoulder Country-Style Ribs
Some butchers cut country-style ribs from the fatty, muscular Boston butt, which means they are cross-sections of the shoulder blade, cut into pieces.
So the bone you find in these ribs is scapula or shoulder blade, not rib bone at all.
As Head Chef Yankel Polak of Butcher Box explains, "The name country-style ribs is sort of a misnomer; they don't have any of the appearances of ribs when we think of pork ribs" .
This cut is referred to as a rib because of the similarities of the meat's flavor and consistency to spareribs, with the bonus of meatiness and fat marbling, making them tender and delicious.
2. Boneless Ribs
Unlike their bone-in counterparts, boneless country-style ribs are usually from the pork shoulder.
Boneless Pork Shoulder Country-Style Ribs
These ribs are luscious strips of meat cut off the shoulder bone, almost like pork shoulder steaks.
Christine Gallary, recipe developer, and culinary instructor, describes these ribs as having "nice marbling and great flavor," suggesting that this cut is better boneless (without the shoulder blade section) than bone-in .
These are the juiciest and fattiest rib-style cuts you can find and are best tackled with a knife and fork unless you like a full-body rib-eating experience.
How to Cook This Meat?
Because the cut of country-style ribs can differ from butcher to butcher, and because they are often boneless strips of meat, the cooking method will vary depending on which type of country-style ribs you have.
There are three main ways to cook country-style ribs, each of which suits a particular type of cut.
Check whether you're getting ribs from the loin or shoulder with your butcher.
How to Grill It?
If your country-style ribs are the pork rib chops from the loin, then grilling them is your best bet as the meat is leaner.
As "Meathead" Goldwyn suggests, "They are really pork chops, more meaty and less fatty than real ribs, and should be cooked like chops, not ribs" .
So, feel free to marinade your country-style ribs in a sweet sauce, brine them with a dry rub, baste them with a spicy sauce, and flavor them with smoke. Sear over direct flames for a delicious char.
Try this mouth-watering country style ribs recipe, where you cook the ribs with a tangy mustard BBQ sauce, Carolina-style.
You can also grill boneless country-style ribs, either in whole pieces, like kebabs, or chopped in a grill pan as part of a stir-fry.
These cuts cook quickly as they are boneless and remain juicy from their marbled fat.
How to Smoke Country-Style Ribs?
The smoking route works well if you've got yourself some shoulder blade country ribs, which are much fattier, and so do better over indirect heat.
However, pork shoulder ribs are not, strictly speaking, ribs, so you can't smoke them for an extended period like spareribs, rib tips, or back ribs – they will dry out completely, however much you baste them.
Smoke them low and slow at about 225⁰F for about four hours. As Jeff Phillips, a star smoker, advises, country-style ribs "are a great option when you are trying to get food on the table in a relatively short period of time.
How to Cook These Ribs in a Crockpot?
Unlike other leaner pork cuts like tenderloin, boneless country-style ribs are fantastic for braising in a stew or casserole in a crockpot.
Prepare them with the same BBQ flavors you'd use for spareribs or baby back ribs, and let them simmer for a few hours or even a whole day.
You can also prepare them Asian-style, with ginger, chili, and fruit.
Try these sweet and sour slow-cooker country ribs.
Country-style ribs, although not traditional pork ribs, are an excellent choice if you want a quickly grilled loin rib, succulent smoked shoulder rib, or lazy crockpot dish.
If you haven't tried this cut, go ahead – it's worth every juicy, chin-dribbling bite.
You can easily get this cut of meat from ButcherBox and have it delivered at the comfort of your home.
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