Beef Ribs vs Pork Ribs: The Ultimate Guide

Nothing says barbeque like a rack of good old-fashioned ribs. Ribs usually refer to pork or beef ribs, but ribs can also be made from lamb, elk, buffalo, venison, and other animals. Ribs can be cooked or heated, on the grill, in the oven, or slow cooker.

Beef Ribs vs Pork Ribs: What is the Difference?

Pork ribs come from either the pork loin (back ribs) or the pork side (spareribs.) The KC BBQ Style and St. Louis style ribs are created from the Spareribs.  The Baby Back ribs are separated from the pork loin. Beef ribs come from two different parts of the cow. There are back ribs and short ribs. Beef ribs tend to be bigger than pork ribs and have more meat because the animal is bigger originally. 

How to Know Your Types of Pork Ribs

Spareribs (side ribs) are rich and flavorful ribs cut from the side of the pig.  The other side of the “side” is the belly (a.k.a. bacon!) As mentioned above, because spareribs are wider, they can be cut more narrow to make both KC BBQ Style (removing the brisket bone) and St. Louis Style (removing the brisket bone and some of the sparerib itself) -creating a long, narrow rib.


Baby back ribs are removed from the pork loin and can only be created when a pork loin is being made into a boneless loin. They are smaller than spareribs and are traditionally meatier.  They usually weigh about two-three pounds per rib (about half that of a sparerib.)

Types of Beef Ribs

Beef Short Ribs 

Considered the equivalent of the pork sparerib. Boneless short ribs are cut from the chuck or plate sections of a cow. These ribs contain 2-5 ribs.


Short Plate Ribs

Are loaded Beef Ribs have a layer of fatty meat on top and are cut from the lower part of the rib cage.


Prime Rib

Ribeye Roast comes from the area behind the shoulder and above the lower back. This cut is made up of 2 to 7 ribs and includes some of the most tender muscles on a cow.


How to... Cook and Serve Pork Ribs

Fresh, Raw Pork Ribs - Oven Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 275°F.
  2. Add ½ an inch of water to the bottom of a broiling pan. This keeps the meat from drying out.
  3. Cook your ribs for two hours.
  4. With a meat thermometer, check that the internal temperature of the ribs reaches 145°F. To receive an accurate reading, make sure that the thermometer does not touch the bone. The bone may be hotter than the meat.

Fresh, Raw Pork Ribs - Grill Method

  1. Preheat your grill. If you have a charcoal grill, preheat your grill for 40 minutes, or until the coals are ashy white. Gas grills need to be preheated for 10 minutes.
  2. Grill for 1 1/2-2 hours. Occasionally turn the ribs and basting with sauce, if desired.

Slow Cook Pork Ribs

  1. Season your ribs with salt and pepper.
  2. Add about 1/2 cup of water to the slow cooker.
  3. Place them in your slow cooker meat side down.
  4. Put the slow cooker on low heat.
  5. Check the ribs in 6-8 hours.  

The Best Side Dishes for Ribs

  • Potato Salad
  • Coleslaw
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Grits
  • Corn on the cob
  • Cornbread
  • Pasta salad
  • Grilled zucchini

Did You Know?

8 Interesting Ribs Facts

  1. Baby-back ribs do not come from baby pigs. They are called baby back ribs because they are smaller than spare ribs.
  2. The average American eats the equivalent of 28 pigs in their lifetime.
  3. Properly cooked ribs will not fall right off the bone. They should have some resistance but pull clearly off the bone with your teeth.
  4. Memphis, Tennessee is often called the Rib Capital of the World.
  5. Prime Rib Day is celebrated on April 27th.
  6. September 3rd is National Baby Back Rib Day.
  7. At the first White House Barbecue, Lyndon B. Johnson served barbecued ribs.
  8. When talking about prime rib, the word “prime” refers to the type of cut, not the USDA grade.



How to... Grade Ribs

Scent: The first thing you should notice about the ribs is their sweet, smoky smell.

Moisture: Ribs should be juicy but firm.

Texture: The surface of the meat should be a little crunchy while the interior of the meat is slightly chewy.

Sauce: The sauce should complement the natural flavor of the meat.

Balance: The moisture, scent, texture, and sauce should all complement each other. One aspect should not outweigh the others.