This post is sponsored by Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. All opinions are my own.
I created this informational post all about smoked pork ribs to kick off grilling season and give you a heads up about the Tyson Fresh Meats line-up of pork ribs perfect for summer smoking and grilling. After brushing up on your pork rib knowledge, head on over to goodmessyribs.com/store-locator/ to find Tyson® ribs at a Walmart store near you.
While you’re there, make sure to enter to win one of my all-time favorite grills, the Camp Chef® Woodwind SG with the Sidekick attachment. This pellet grill is perfect for cooking up some delicious pork ribs!
What are Pork Ribs?
Pork ribs are a delicious cut of meat that can be smoked, grilled, or baked. When cooked properly they are tender and flavorful, and best slathered with some sweet and tangy BBQ sauce.
Pork ribs are a cut of pork taken from the rib cage of a domestic pig. There are several different types of ribs, each cut from a different section of the rib cage. Each type of ribs comes with varying thickness of bone, meat, and fat content, meaning they will cook and taste different.
Smoking and grilling ribs results in an amazingly flavorful, tender bite of meat. Ribs are laced with connective tissues holding all of those ribs together. Low and slow smoking renders the fat and breaks down those tissues until the meat melts in your mouth! Plus, everybody loves eating with their hands, and ribs are perfect for getting your hands good and messy!
While there are many different cuts and preparation of pork ribs (rib roast, button ribs, and riblets to name a few), this post will focus on the three most common cuts of pork ribs: baby back ribs, spareribs, and St. Louis style ribs.
Now that you know the bare bones (pun intended) of what pork ribs are, let’s jump into the nitty gritty and discuss the three different types of pork ribs.
Smoked Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs (also known as loin ribs or back ribs) come from the loin area where the loin is cut away from the spine. They are taken from the top of the ribcage and are shorter bones that are curved (due to the natural curvature of the loin).
These ribs vary in length from 3 to 6 inches, and they are known for being thicker and often more tender than spareribs. A full rack of these ribs will contain anywhere from 8-13 bones; however, any rack that comes with less than 10 bones is considered a “cheater rack.”
Baby back ribs typically cook more quickly than spareribs. They are arguably the most popular ribs sold in grocery stores and are also a popular menu item at many well-known restaurant chains.
Smoked Pork Spareribs
Spareribs (also known as spare ribs or side ribs) come from the belly of the pig after the actual belly meat is cut away. These ribs are taken from the bottom of the ribcage (with the baby back ribs taken from the top). They contain more bone than meat, but they are also well-marbled with a nice high fat content, making them extremely tender, rich, and flavorful.
A rack of spareribs will provide you with 10-13 bones. These bones are much larger and flatter than baby back ribs, ranging from 6-8 inches in length. A rack can easily feed 2-3 adults (or in some cases, one very ravenous person!).
St. Louis style ribs are made from the sparerib when the top, cartilage ridden piece of the full sparerib is cut away. So spareribs and St. Louis ribs are from the same portion of ribs, just trimmed 2 different ways.
Smoked St. Louis Ribs
St. Louis pork ribs (also known as St. Louis style ribs or St. Louis cut ribs) are most common among competition BBQ cooks. As mentioned above, St. Louis spareribs are spareribs that have had the sternum bone, top cartilage, and rib tips cut away, making this rack more rectangular in shape.
These ribs are more flat and straight and contain 10-13 bones. St. Louis style ribs are approximately 5-6 inches in length. They can also feed 2-3 adults due to their larger size.
Personally, I prefer to cook with St. Louis ribs whenever possible. But take note! These ribs take a little longer to cook than baby back ribs. They also contain small pieces of cartilage in addition to the larger bones. When I’m cooking with St. Louis pork ribs, I try to plan an extra 45 minutes to an hour of cook time.
How to Smoke Pork Ribs
There are as many different methods to smoke pork ribs as there are pitmasters. Everybody has their own style and flair. The important part is figuring out what you like and then matching a method to your particular preference. Today, let’s just touch on some basics for smoking pork ribs (for a more detailed description and how to, check out my Full Guide to Smoking Ribs here!).
- Step 1: Trim and season. I always recommend beginning your prep by removing the membrane from the back of the ribs. Next, slather with mustard (for rub to adhere and to tenderize the meat) and your favorite seasoning.
- Step 2: Get the smoke going. Use a good smoker (I absolutely love my Camp Chef SG Pellet Grill), and choose some good pellets. My favorite for ribs is cherry.
- Step 3: Pick your cooking method. My favorite method for smoked ribs is called the 3-2-1 method. This method makes your baby back rib meat just fall off the bones. Other good methods include a classic low and slow approach as well as the hot and fast recipe.
- Step 4: Invite some friends over for a rib eating party! Once you get your ribs to that perfect internal temp (I use my trusty Thermapen Mk4 to get ribs to 200 degrees F), you’re ready to serve these delicious ribs to your friends and family.
Smoked Pork Ribs Recipes
Now that you have the 411 on smoked pork ribs, the next step is to cook them up! I’ve linked some of my AMAZING smoked pork rib recipes below for you to try out:
Let’s make something delicious! I’m all about helping you make better BBQ, feed the people you love, and become a backyard BBQ hero. If you want to see more of my recipes, tips, and behind the scenes action, follow along on my social channels. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube!
Need some sauce with those ribs? Head on over to Patio Provisions to pick up a 3-pack of Hey Grill Hey signature sauces today!