When you start to have a craving for ribs you might immediately think of pork ribs, but did you know there are other types of ribs that are just as delicious? Shift your ribs cravings into high gear as we uncover the differences between pork, beef, and lamb ribs. Discover the mouthwatering differences that set each type apart and enhance your grill game with Traeger-tested recipes and insider tips.
Types of Ribs: Pork Ribs vs. Beef Ribs
On the grill, pork ribs and beef ribs are certainly the most popular and are the first to come to mind for most pitmasters. Keep reading to see how these two duel it out on the grill.
In the global realm of barbecue, pork ribs reign supreme, capturing the hearts and taste buds of enthusiasts worldwide. These delectable cuts are a quintessential part of barbecue culture, known for their ability to transform into mouthwatering masterpieces on the grill due to their sweet, mild flavor. Among the diverse array of pork ribs, two varieties take center stage: baby back ribs and spare ribs.
Baby Back Ribs: A Delicate Delight
Baby Back Ribs, taken from the top of the ribcage, are smaller and leaner than spare ribs. They’re a popular choice of pork rib not only because they’re typically more tender, but they’re also more manageable and accessible for rib lovers. Because of their sweetness and mildness, they work well with a variety of sauces whether you like your ribs more savory or sweet. For a rib-tastic adventure that's 'small in size, big in flavor,' let baby back ribs steal the spotlight at your next barbecue or game day.
Spare Ribs: Hearty and Flavorful
Where baby back ribs are sweet and mild, spare ribs, sourced from the belly region—the same area where bacon comes from -- boast a hearty and robust flavor. The generous marbling with these ribs has made them into an indulgent favorite. Have an upscale barbecue experience by slow cooking them until they are tender and fall off the bone.
No matter which kind of pork rib you decide to make for your next gathering, make sure to learn how to cook them to piggy perfection on the Traeger and try out a few of our favorite recipes:
Another popular type of ribs that you can throw on the Traeger Grill are delicious and filling beef ribs. Offering a diverse range of cuts, beef ribs can be grilled, smoked, and braised to perfection no matter your flavor preference.
Short Ribs: Indulgent and Decadent
Beef short ribs hail from the plate primal and steal the spotlight with their meatier profile and layers of flavorful marbling. Unlike pork, ribs, these meaty, meltingly tender ribs are best eaten with a knife and fork. Because of their versatility in the kitchen (and the grill), these types of ribs have become a favorite among chefs and home cooks alike. With flavorings that can range from savory and hearty to sweet and tangy, short tibs are suitable for a wide range of cuisines from around the world.
English Ribs: Rich and Flavorful
English-style ribs are a favorite choice for meat enthusiasts because of their bone-in richness and substantial meat. These types of ribs are cut parallel to the bone, ensuring each portion includes both the rib bone and a generous amount of meat (our favorite kind of combination) which makes it flavorful and meltingly tender.
Flanken Ribs and Kalbi-Style Short Ribs: Grilling Delights
Flanken ribs (also known a Kalbi-style short ribs) steal the spotlight as thin cross-cut ribs, that bring bold flavors and a unique grilling experience. These tasty ribs are known for their thin cross-sectional slices, allowing for a speedy grilling session to transform into flavor sponges that soak up marinades and spices with finesse. If you've ever indulged in Korean barbecue, you're familiar with these types of ribs stealing the show, absorbing a sweet and savory blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, and other delectable seasonings. Whether you're a seasoned grill master or a newcomer to the world of ribs, flanken/Kalbi ribs promise a barbecue masterpiece capturing the essence of Korean cuisine.
Beef Back Ribs: Lean Elegance and Bold Flavor
There are a few reasons why back ribs are a go-to choice among barbecue enthusiasts. Positioned closer to the spine, these ribs offer a leaner alternative while still being bold in flavor, and can be slow-cooked, smoked, or grilled. Make sure to check out some of our favorite beef back ribs recipes below:
- Smoked Beef Back Ribs
- Texas-Style Monster Beef Ribs
- BBQ Beef Ribs
- Grilled Beef Back Ribs
- BBQ Beef Short Ribs
If you’re eager to dive into cooking beef ribs (or any type of that rib for that matter) do the following:
- Prep the Ribs: Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs for better flavor absorption, and trim excess fat and any loose bits for even cooking.
- Season the Ribs: Apply a generous amount of savory rib so that your ribs can achieve the maximum flavor. Our suggestion? The Traeger Beef Rub. This tasty rub features sweet molasses spicy paprika and chili powder to match the bold flavor of these ribs.
- Preheat and Smoke the Ribs: While every recipe is different, a good rule of thumb for smoking these back ribs is to preheat your pellet grill between 225-250°F and then place your seasoned ribs, bone side down, for the first 3 hours.
- Wrap in Foil: After your initial smoke, we suggest wrapping the ribs in foil to help them retain moisture for an additional 2 hours, and then smoke them unwrapped for a final hour. Otherwise known as the “3-2-1 method.”
- Check for Doneness: Using the MEATER Thermometer, check the internal temperature of these ribs (they should be around 195-203°F).
- Add BBQ Sauce: If you want your beef ribs to be saucy, make sure to coat them in a flavorful glaze for the last 30 minutes (any earlier and the sugars in the sauce will burn).
- Rest and Serve: By letting your ribs rest for a few minutes before slicing, the juices will redistribute for a moist and flavorful result.
What About Lamb Ribs?
Pork and beef ribs aren’t the only types of ribs out there. Though lamb ribs are not as common to find on the grill, they’re no less delicious. Renowned for their delicate, gamey flavor and unparalleled tenderness, lamb brings have found their spotlight in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines where they’re often marinated with a medley of herbs and spices. Paired with rosemary, garlic, mint, and cumin, lamb ribs are a prized delicacy for those seeking a departure from more traditional pork and beef options. Make sure to try them out on your Traeger.
Now, when those irresistible rib cravings hit, you’ll have the expertise to indulge in a world of mouthwatering options beyond the familiar territory of pork ribs.