Spare Ribs Vs Back Ribs: What’s the Difference?

Are you interested in learning the difference between spare ribs vs back ribs? If so, then you’ve come to the right place! Here, we’ll break down what makes these two cuts of meat different from one another. We’ll discuss flavor profiles, cooking methods, preparation techniques, and more – helping you make an informed choice when deciding which type of rib is best for your next meal.

Whether you’re a grilling enthusiast or just someone looking to enjoy delicious food with friends and family this summertime season, understanding the distinction between spare ribs and back ribs is key. Read on to learn more about why they vary!

What Are Baby Back Ribs?

What is Baby Back Ribs
What is Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs, or simply back ribs, are cut from the top part of the rib cage near the spine. They’re much leaner than spareribs and tend to have a richer flavor because of their proximity to the loin muscle. This cut is also known as pork loin back ribs since they come from an area close to the tenderloin.

Back ribs are considered a “specialty cut” since they have bones that are shorter in length and curve around the meaty portion of the rib. This means that when cooked, the rib isn’t as exposed to heat as it would be with spare ribs. It also makes them more difficult to debone, as the bones are much closer to the meat.

What Are Spareribs?

What is Spareribs
What is Spareribs

Spareribs are typically cut from the belly side of the rib cage and contain more fat than back ribs. This makes them ideal for slow cooking methods, such as smoking or barbecuing. The extra fat helps keep the ribs moist during the cooking process.

Spareribs have a more intense flavor than back ribs, but they also take longer to cook since they contain more fat and connective tissue. This makes them a popular choice for those who want to enjoy a richly-flavored rib experience without spending too much time in the kitchen or on the grill.

Read Also: Pork Butt Vs Pork Shoulder: What’s the Difference?

Spare Ribs Vs Back Ribs: What’s the Difference?

Where Are They From?

Where the ribs come from on the animal is the major defining factor that determines whether they are baby back ribs or spare ribs. This is because these two types of pork don’t just refer to different sizes; the baby back and spare ribs come from distinct locations on the body of pig which can result in widely divergent flavors and textures.

Where Are They From? Back ribs come from the top section of the rib cage, while spareribs are located near the belly side. This makes a big difference in terms of flavor, texture and cooking time. It’s also important to note that baby back ribs have shorter bones than spareribs – so they can be more challenging to debone.

The Size

The size of a rack of baby back ribs and a rack of spare ribs may be deceivingly similar, but there are some major disparities that can help guide you in selecting the perfect rack for your meal.

The biggest difference is that the baby back is much smaller; typically 11-13 individual ribs, making it just the right size for one person. The length of the ribs ranges from 6 inches down to 3 inches, giving you more tender and juicier meat as you move near the shorter end.

The total weight is also more consistent at around two pounds, compared to the spare rib’s 2.5 to 3.5 pound range. But don’t forget: made up of half bone and cartilage, these racks’ weights will decrease drastically when cooked, so choose wisely!

The size of each cut is also quite different. Baby back ribs are much leaner and more delicate, while spareribs are often bigger with a lot more fat and connective tissue.

The Price:

The price of baby back ribs and spareribs can also vary depending on the source. Baby back ribs tend to be more expensive since they are a smaller cut of meat and generally have less fat, while spareribs are typically cheaper than their back rib counterparts.

How Much Do They Cost? The cost of baby back ribs and spareribs will depend on where you purchase them from. Generally, baby back ribs are more expensive since they are a smaller cut with less fat, while spareribs tend to be cheaper due to their larger size and more fat content.

In most grocery stores, you can expect to pay around $7 to $10 per pound for baby back ribs, while spareribs may be priced anywhere from $3 to $6 per pound. Prices will also vary depending on the quality of your local butcher or grocery store.

The Meat:

When it comes to barbecue ribs, there’s no denying that spare ribs are a lot bigger than their baby back counterpart. The real question, then, is why are the baby back so much more expensive?

The answer lies in the quality of the meat. Whereas spare ribs have a greater degree of fat marbling running through their cut of pork, baby back offer a more lean and tender texture.

The marbling in spare ribs offers an extra juicy and flavorful bite, but doesn’t quite match up to that classic tenderness you get from baby back. That’s why it commands a higher price tag; because you simply can’t get that same incredible flavor anywhere else!


The difference between baby back ribs and spareribs can be seen in their appearance. Baby backs have a curvier shape, with less fat and cartilage in between each rib. Spareribs are much flatter, with more fat and tissue marbling throughout.

The result is that when cooked properly, baby backs will have a more consistent level of tenderness throughout, while spare ribs can be hit or miss depending on where you’re biting into them.

Ultimately, the choice between baby back and spareribs comes down to what flavor and texture profile you desire in your meal. If you are looking for leaner meat with a consistent tenderness, baby back ribs will be your best bet. If you prefer more fat and flavor, then spareribs may be the cut for you.

Method of Cooking:

The method of cooking each cut is also quite different. Baby back ribs can be cooked in the oven, on the grill or in a smoker, while spareribs are usually slow-cooked and then finished off with a quick sear over higher heat.

Baby backs tend to cook much faster than spareribs due to their size, so cooking times must be monitored carefully. Spareribs, on the other hand, require more time to cook in order for that amazing fall-off-the-bone texture to develop.


Another point of comparison that must be made is the amount of marbling found in each cut. Baby back ribs tend to have less fat marbling and thus a leaner texture, while spareribs are packed with fat which gives them their juicy flavor and fall-off-the-bone strength.

When it comes down to it, it’s really up to you and your taste buds to decide which cut is the better option.

Spare Ribs vs Back Ribs Comparison Table

Baby Back RibsSide / Spare Ribs
Time To Cook5-6 hrs6-8 hrs
Weight2 lbs. (AVG)3 lbs. (AVG)
Fat MarblingLowMedium-High
AvailabilityVery Easy. Most Grocers.Not As Available. Go to Butcher Shops
Pit Masters PreferenceSortaAbsolutely

Can You Substitute One Type of Rib for the Other?

In most cases, you can substitute one type of rib for the other. However, keep in mind that baby back ribs are typically more expensive and have a much leaner texture than spareribs, so if you plan on substituting them for each other be sure to adjust your cooking times to compensate for this difference.

Also, the fat content and marbling in spareribs may require you to use more seasoning or a longer cooking time to achieve the same flavor as baby back ribs. Be sure to keep these differences in mind before substituting one type of rib for the other.

What to look for when buying ribs?

When it comes to buying ribs, there are a few things you should look for to ensure the best quality product.

1) Always choose meat that has been recently butchered or purchased from a reputable source – this will help ensure that your ribs are as fresh and flavorful as possible.

2) Pay close attention to the color of the meat. Ribs should be a bright pinkish-red color and have some fat marbling throughout – this will ensure they are juicy and tender when cooked.

3) Check for any discoloration or signs of decay such as mold, bruises or other defects that could compromise the quality of your ribs. If you follow these simple steps, you can be confident that your ribs will be of the highest quality.

4) Even thickness: Be sure to check that the ribs you purchase are of even thickness. This will ensure even cooking and help avoid undercooked or overcooked sections.

5) Look for visible fat throughout the rack: Visible fat throughout the rack will help ensure flavor and juiciness when cooked.

Where To Buy Back Or Spare Ribs?

The best place to buy back or spare ribs is from a local butcher or grocery store. You should look for ribs that have an even marbling of fat and are not overly tough or dry.

Prices can vary significantly depending on where you live, but generally speaking, baby back ribs tend to be more expensive than spareribs.

If you’re looking for a great deal, look for sales or promotions at your local butcher or grocery store.

FAQs About Spare Ribs Vs Back Ribs

What are St Louis-style Ribs?

St Louis-style ribs are spareribs that have been trimmed to a rectangular shape. They are then heavily seasoned and smoked over low heat for an extended period of time, resulting in incredibly juicy and tender ribs with a unique smoky flavor.

Is the 3-2-1 method the best way to cook Ribs?

The 3-2-1 method is a tried and tested way to achieve juicy, tender ribs.

The 3-2-1 method involves smoking the ribs for three hours before transferring them to an aluminum foil pouch with liquid for two hours.

Finally, the ribs are cooked directly on the grill or smoker for one hour to achieve that perfect smoky flavor.

This method has been proven to be one of the best ways to get tender, juicy ribs with amazing flavor. However, it does take some practice and experimentation before you can master it!

What is cheaper between Baby Back Ribs vs Spare Ribs?

Spareribs are generally cheaper than baby back ribs. This is because the spareribs have more fat and marbling which adds to their flavor, but also makes them less expensive overall.


When it comes down to choosing between Spare Ribs Vs Back Ribs, there really is no right or wrong answer. Each cut of meat has its own unique flavor and texture profile that appeals to different palates.

Baby backs are leaner and cooked quicker, while spareribs have more fat content, marbling and require a longer cooking time. Ultimately, it is up to you and your taste buds to decide which cut of meat you like better.

No matter which type of rib you choose, with the right method of cooking and seasoning you can achieve amazing flavor and texture that will have everyone at the dinner table asking for seconds!

Happy grilling!

Leave a Comment