For years I have been hearing people weigh in on which rib is better, Spares or Baby Backs. Once again it isn’t as complicated as some like to make it seem. Today we are going to dive briefly into the world of the pork ribs and hopefully we can set the record straight.
First lets start with the popular baby back. This rib is also known as the loin back rib due to their close proximity to the pig’s spine (where the pork loin is located). Due to its location on a pig this rib yields a leaner meat than that of the mighty spare. Also, since these ribs are leaner and smaller than spares they take less time to cook and have less fat that needs to be rendered out during the cooking process. When smoking these I usually run my smoker at 250 degrees (225 degrees just takes more time and I have never seen any benefit in the final product) and give these puppies a good 2-2.5 hrs of smoke. Anything more than that and you are doing more harm than good. The smoke is supposed to be like anything else on the rib, just another ingredient used to enhance the flavor along with the rub and sauce of your choice. All in all these guys take about 4-5hrs to cook and the results are amazing when using the low and slow method. I have found that this is the ribs that many know and love since this is really all they have ever known or had.
Now lets move to my personal favorite, the spare rib. Spares have grown in popularity the past few years due to the recent BBQ Boom. Spares are going to be closer to the belly side of the rib cage of the pig which allows these ribs to have a bit more fat than their baby brother. And you know what this means…more fat equals more flavor. Spares are going to pack a bolder, more savory punch than baby backs due to their higher fat content. Due to the higher fat content they are also going to be more forgiving than babies and have a better chance of not drying out. This also means that they are going to take a little longer to cook. Again, I run my smoker at 250 degrees but I give spares a bit more smoke (3hrs) than babies. The total cook time on spares runs about 5-6hrs.
To be honest I only cook spares unless baby backs are requested. Even when catering I am amazed to hear some people come up to me and act like they have just had a BBQ epiphany, finally realizing that spare ribs are just as good, if not better than their beloved baby backs.
Keep an eye out on this blog because in a future post I will be going over all the finer details of how to cook the perfect rack of ribs. From trimming to knowing when they are done, we will go over from minute 1 to hour 5 of the cooking process in its totality.
Now get grilling!