Understanding Ribs

chocolate ribs
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Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all the rib choices in your meat market or supermarket? There is a huge assortment of choices, but the main cuts of ribs boil down to five common ones.

Let’s Talk Ribs

Here’s a guide to the mostly commonly found rib cuts:

Spare Ribs

Spare ribs come from the belly rather than the back. They’re flat and have more bone than meat. They also contain more fat than ribs that come from the back of the animal, making them more tender when cooked.

St. Louis Style Ribs

St. Louis style ribs are trimmed of the breast bone, cartilage and rib tips and have a rectangular shape.

Baby Back Ribs

These are meaty little ribs cut from the lower back section. They are more tender than spare ribs and have meat both on top of the bone and on the sides.

Short Ribs

This is a rectangular rack of ribs cut individually from the shoulder. Short ribs contain a cross section of rib bones, with layers of lean meat and fat that alternates throughout the ribs resulting in a perfect rib for long braising.

Flanken-Cut Ribs

Also known as Korean-cut ribs, they are from the same area as short ribs and are very similar to short ribs except that they are cut lengthwise rather than between the ribs.

Country-style Ribs

These are more meaty than other rib cuts, and contain no bones. They come from the rib end of the loin and are suitable for grilling or roasting.

Beef Flanken Ribs
Beef Flanken Ribs
Beef Short Ribs
Beef Short Ribs
Pork Flanken Ribs
Pork Flanken Ribs

If you encounter other rib cuts you’re unfamiliar with, ask your butcher for advice. Otherwise you will find short ribs, baby back ribs, flanken-style ribs and spare ribs both in a rack, as well as cut individually, in your supermarket.

With spare ribs, St. Louis cut ribs and baby backs, you’ll want to take the sheet of connective tissue off the back of the ribs before preparing them. It’s inedible and easy to remove by just grasping the edge of the tissue with a paper towel for traction and peeling it off.

Now get the grill fired up and let’s make some ribs! I am making a simple little rack of spare ribs with a nice grilled apple barbecue sauce for you to enjoy.

Chocolate Thyme Ribs

Grilled Ribs with Chocolate Thyme Marinade

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: 10 ribs

Serving Size: 2-3 ribs per person


  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened chocolate powder
  • 1/4 cup of fresh thyme pulsed in a spice grinder with 2 tablespoons salt until it's a moist powder
  • 1/4 cup of rosemary pulsed in a spice grinder with 2 tablespoons of salt until it's a moist powder
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • Juice from one whole large lime
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 rack of ribs, membrane removed


  1. Mix the chocolate powder, thyme, rosemary, brown sugar and white sugar in a bowl large enough to hold your ribs. Add the lime juice and water and stir until dissolved.
  2. Place rack of ribs into bowl of marinade mixture and let it sit in the liquid for 3 - 6 hours (not longer since the acid of the lime will start to "cook" the meat and dry it out).
  3. Remove the ribs from the liquid and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  4. Preheat the grill on low (250°F).
  5. Grill the ribs bone side down for the first 25 minutes with the lid closed. Turn ribs over and cook the ribs meat side down for another 20 minutes with the lid closed. Remove ribs from grill, wrap with heavy-duty foil and place them back on grill for another 30 minutes with the lid closed. Remove the ribs from the foil and turn the grill up to high and put the ribs on the hot grates, turning them constantly to achieve a nice color and a nicely sealed "bark." At this point the ribs are done and are very delicate so do this carefully. Remove the ribs to your cutting board and let them rest. Serve with a spicy apple barbecue finishing sauce.


This is a delicious marinade that would work equally well as a dry rub by simply leaving out the lime juice and the water and substituting lime zest.


Spicy Apple Finishing Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 2 cups

Serving Size: --

Calories per serving: --

Fat per serving: --

A sweet and spicy finishing sauce for ribs or other grilled meats.


  • 1 apple, cored, sliced and grilled until soft
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 3 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar


  1. Mix all the ingredients with a blender or immersion blender.
  2. Taste and season as necessary to get to your desired salt and spice level. Serve on grilled ribs as a finishing sauce.