Which ribs have the most meat

Grilling spare ribs - the rib guide

1 Introduction to spare ribs

Ribs are one of the most popular BBQ dishes from the USA. In Germany they experienced a real hype. But the standard preparation in the oven should slowly but surely be replaced by the grill or smoker. In our detailed article on this topic, we explain what spare ribs are, what different cuts there are, where you can best buy them, how you prepare them on the various devices and much more. We haven't left out any important topic and have written an answer to every question in this comprehensive guide.

2 What are spare ribs?

For most people, this question will be cleared up quickly. “It's clear, ribs”. Many answers will be like this or something like that and the questioner will be slightly ashamed of answering “Oh, clearly, logically”. But neither of them really knows what exactly ribs or spare ribs are. Of course, meat between several bones, more precisely the costal arch, is basically called ribs first. On closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that there are definitely differences. Some ribs are more curved, the others are wider. The next ribs have more meat between the bones, while the other ribs have the meat more on top. So are they all the same ribs? No, is the correct answer. Rather, there are different cuts that come from the different sections of the pork rib arch.

2.1 What types of ribs or cuts are there?

Probably the best-known ribs are the spare ribs. They are offered in a great many restaurants and snack bars. They are often available as "all you can eat" or "full ribs" versions. So you can eat as many spare ribs as you want. Unfortunately, restaurateurs often do not know what exactly spare ribs are and accordingly simply call all kinds of ribs spare ribs. That rightly causes confusion. The classic spare ribs are quite wide ribs, but have almost no bone bend. The meat sits between the bones, which are quite far apart, but not as a thick layer on top. The spare ribs are cut from the belly part of the rib arch. As with humans, the ribs of pigs start on the back and go down to the stomach. At the end of the costal arch there is then a cartilaginous part. In the area of ​​the abdomen, the bend of the ribs is not as strong as on the back, the individual bones are furthest apart and the meat is very fatty. Strictly speaking, spare ribs are always sold and prepared together with the cartilage end.

In Germany, however, it is widespread to saw off the gristly end before sale and preparation. Everyone will probably know it from the restaurant. Strictly speaking, this pattern is called “St. Louis Cut ”. Nevertheless, it must be mentioned at this point that the German butchers do not even learn this strict differentiation during their training, so that it is completely clear that the names and subtle differences are not necessarily known. Selling a St. Louis Cut as spare ribs is therefore not reprehensible. In the following we agree to classify St. Louis Cut Ribs under the name spare ribs.

St. Louis Cut Ribs. It's good to see how little the bones are bent

We see it a little differently with the so-called cutlet ribs. These come from the back of the costal arch, are very strongly curved, narrower and the bones are very close to each other. So there is little meat between the bones, rather lean back meat sits as a support on the bones. The common name "Baby Back Ribs" was adopted from the USA. While spare ribs tend to contain fatty meat, the meat of the baby back ribs is very lean. If prepared incorrectly, the latter tend to dry out very quickly. This cut also comes from the USA, but should have slowly reached the last butcher in Germany. In any case, it is certain that the German terms “Bauchrippchen” and “Kotelettrippchen” should be common to every butcher so that you get the right ribs for the right application.

2.2 The best spare ribs for the grill and smoker

Based on the differences in the fat content of the various rib sections, there are also different possible uses. Basically, real spare ribs with the cartilage end are ideal for cooking on the smoker or grill for several hours. However, the end of the cartilage should be removed beforehand and prepared, for example, as a stew. The spare ribs removed from the cartilage are then ideally suited for various cooking methods. For example, the very popular 3-2-1 method can be used very well without the ribs drying out. The 3-2-1 method is a 6-hour preparation method that involves smoking for 3 hours, then steaming for 2 hours in foil and then painting or glazing for 1 hour. This method, which originated in the USA, is probably the best-known method of preparation, but should only be used for ribs that are saturated with fat. The rather lean baby back ribs dry out too easily and are overcooked. The temperatures for the preparation range from 110 ° C for the smoking and painting phase to 150 ° C for the film phase. The result should be juicy, smoky ribs with a light bite, with the meat easily peeling off the bone.

Juicy spare ribs. Mega yummy

We have already mentioned that the baby back ribs are not suitable for the 6 hour 3-2-1 method, but they are rightly very popular for BBQ. Not everyone feels like waiting 6 hours for ribs. Baby back ribs are ideal for just such cases. The lean meat is usually well cooked and tender as butter after a few hours. A great and at the same time super simple preparation method is the 3-0-0 method. Ribs are only smoked at approx. 120 ° C for 3 hours. If you like, the temperature can be increased again to 150 ° C in the last half hour and the ribs can be glazed with BBQ sauce or maple syrup. We can therefore state that spare ribs are the ideal ribs for a delicious BBQ, baby back ribs are more suitable for a quick barbecue party.

2.3 Where can I buy the best spare ribs?

For many men it is very easy. Shortly to the supermarket and buy the marinated, frozen ribs. Already you can start grilling. The problem with this is that the ribs always taste like the same marinade, on the other hand, they tend to be at the lower end of the flagpole in terms of quality. Anyone who dares to take the step to a good butcher will usually not be disappointed. Raw, unseasoned and fresh ribs are available from every good butcher for a small price. If you are very lucky, you can even have the silver skin removed on site. The particular advantage is that you can choose the ribs yourself. If the butcher or the seller doesn't really know what you mean by Baby Back Ribs or St. Louis Cut Ribs, you can simply see for yourself which ribs are ready and choose them accordingly. In addition, a good butcher does not get his pigs from the large slaughterer, but often from smaller slaughterhouses made up of a few farmers. The quality is significantly better, the breed of pig is known and can be asked about. Since the ribs are not pre-marinated, you can then use exactly the spices that you like.

A second option is to buy from one of the various online meat retailers. In recent years, the selection of meat mail order companies has increased significantly, and with it the multitude of different options. The offer ranges from normal domestic pork ribs to ribs from Bunten Bentheimer to ribs from Ibérico or Duroc pork from Spain. The quality is usually excellent, but often significantly more expensive than the local butcher. If you don't have a good butcher shop nearby, online trading is a good alternative. You should then make sure that someone is at home on the day of delivery to accept the goods and can put the meat directly in the freezer. This is because it arrives frozen.

3 Preparation of spare ribs / ribs

The first step in preparation should always be to remove the silver skin. In the course of the cooking process, this not only becomes tough, but also inedible. It is located on the bone side of the ribs, i.e. the inner arch. The best and easiest way to remove them is with kitchen paper and a teaspoon. Using the teaspoon, go under the silver skin on the second bone from one side and pull it upwards. Use the kitchen paper to grab it and carefully pull it off the ribs with a little force. With a little practice, this is an easy task. In addition to removing the silver skin, you should also search the meat for bone splinters at the same time. Unfortunately, when sawing the ribs, small splinters often get stuck on or in the meat. So that you don't get a nasty surprise while eating, you should check the ribs briefly beforehand. To do this, simply feel the meat with your fingers and pull out the bone splinter if necessary.

The spare ribs can be grilled freshly seasoned

In the next step you bring the right seasoning to the ribs. You can marinade them like in the supermarket or simply rub dry seasoning. Which spices or mixture of spices you use is entirely up to you. For example, the spice mix "Magic Dust" or "Pull that Piggy" from Ankerkraut is highly recommended. Optionally, there are also many instructions on how to mix this mixture yourself. Most of the time, the latter is associated with a lot of effort, as you need many different basic spices. A smoky blend of spices such as our #Smoke, also produced by Ankerkraut, is also highly recommended. Another delicious spice mix for ribs is “Rib Rib Hurra” by Klaus grills. Which spice mixture you ultimately decide on, you then have to apply it generously and massage it in properly with your hands. So don't just sprinkle it on the meat, but rub it in with your hands in circular movements.

Now it is time to preheat the grill and grill according to the chosen method. It is not necessary to store the ribs wrapped in cling film in the refrigerator overnight, as long as you only add a dry marinade. This consists of quite coarse particles that cannot penetrate the meat. So not much happens when you let it go. With a liquid marinade, you should definitely give the meat time to steep. During the resting phase, diffusion, i.e. a liquid transport to balance the concentration, takes place. This way, the taste gets deeper into the meat. In general, however, this is not necessary with the thin layer of meat on ribs, so that dry seasoning is completely sufficient.

3.1 Smoking, steaming and glazing

The optimal BBQ temperature is approx. 110 ° C. It is suitable for almost all BBQ dishes from the USA, so it is also ideal for ribs. Generally speaking, a lower temperature is required when smoking or smoking. The right dose of smoke ensures a pleasant aroma, while the look of the meat is enhanced. The so-called smoke ring can be seen after successful smoking. This is a reddish streak on the edge of the flesh. For ribs, smoking around 3 hours is sufficient. Too much smoke isn't good either. An overdose will make the meat bitter. With baby back ribs, it is even sufficient to smoke them for 3 hours and then consume them.

In the bowl, the ribs are steamed with liquid

Steaming is one of the standard phases in the 3-2-1 method. In this phase the ribs are sealed airtight with a little liquid in a container or in aluminum foil. The temperature in the grill or smoker is increased to 150 - 160 ° C during this phase so that the liquid begins to evaporate quickly. Since the container or the aluminum foil is hermetically sealed, the steam cannot escape, so that the ribs are steamed for the entire duration, making them nice and soft. But this is also where the Germans made the biggest mistake. While in the USA the ribs should always have a bit of a bite, we Germans like them nice and soft. Because of this, the mistake often arises that the ribs should fall off the bone after steaming. This is called "fall off the bone". In the USA, however, this term means that the ribs can be completely detached from the bone, but not fall apart if you just hold them on the bone. So if your ribs can be easily detached from the bone, but still have a slight bite, the degree of doneness is perfect. Incidentally, the bite is comparable to the bite into a tenderly pounded schnitzel. The duration of steaming depends heavily on the thickness of the ribs. You shouldn't steam very thin ribs for more than 1 hour, very thick ribs can easily take 2 hours.
You can use tasteless water as a liquid for steaming or let off steam creatively. Cola, acidic juices and beer are very popular. Just let off steam and test what you feel like doing.

The spare ribs are glazed with the silicone brush

In the last phase of glazing, you regulate the temperature in the grill down to the usual 110 ° C. With a charcoal grill, it is usually sufficient to close the ventilation openings a little. The gas grill user has it even easier and only has to turn the burners down. As a smoker owner, you should also close the supply air significantly, possibly even remove some glowing coal. The ribs are brushed with a BBQ sauce, maple syrup, honey or whatever else you can get your hands on. It is important to have a certain amount of sugar in the glaze. The sugar caramelizes due to the high temperatures, so that an additional flavor note is added to the meat. By the way, you need a silicone brush for this step. The glazing also makes the ribs really bulky. The process can be repeated several times with an interval of 15 minutes.

You can usually just skip the last phase. If you ever prepare a lot of rib ladders for different guests with different tastes, we recommend not glazing the spare ribs at all, so that each guest can decide for himself which sauce to dip them in. Incidentally, the 3-2-1 represent the respective duration of the individual phases. So here it means 3 hours of smoking, 2 hours of steaming and 1 hour of glazing. Of course, you can also come up with your own preparation concept. If you have less time, you could try a 2-1-1 method or, in the case of baby back ribs, a 2-0-1 method.

3.2 How do I grill spare ribs with the kettle grill?

The kettle grill is a great way to prepare ribs. The topic of smoking turns out to be very simple here. In addition to briquettes, you only need wooden chips or small logs. These are simply placed on the embers and begin to smoke after a short time. The bigger challenge lies in the place in the kettle grill. For optimal smoking temperatures you only need a charcoal basket full of briquettes, so that you can use 2/3 of the grill as an indirect zone. The ribs are then placed there. However, the kettle grill has significantly less space at the edges than in the middle, so that the ribs have to be bent in the edge area. But that only works if they are perpendicular to the bone. So you need an aid so that they can stand upright. More on this in Chapter 4.

The minion ring and the red wine chunks

If you want to grill for 6 hours with the 3-2-1 method, you will not get by with a basket full of briquettes for the entire duration. You should use the Minion Ring method so that the grill stays at a constant temperature all the time. In order for this to work well, we recommend using high-quality briquettes with the KOKOKO Eggs from McBrikett. The further preparation should then no longer pose any problems, so that you can strictly adhere to the preparation from paragraph 2 or paragraph 2.1.

3.3 Grilling ribs with the gas grill

Grilling with a gas grill makes temperature control easier and reduces space problems, but it presents you with a different challenge. How do you smoke with a gas grill? There are basically 2 different options. On the one hand, a so-called cold smoke generator can be used, which either stands outside the grill and blows cold smoke into the grill (e.g. Bradley smoke generator) or stands inside the grill in the indirect zone (e.g. ProQ cold smoke generator). On the other hand, normal smoking chips can also be made to smoke with the help of a smoking box. All you have to do is fill the box and place it directly on the flame of the burner, below the grate. Optionally, aluminum foil can also be filled with smoking chips, closed and provided with holes on the top.This aluminum foil box then functions like the smoking box just mentioned.

Spare ribs from the gas grill

Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. A cold smoke generator is the better method. However, a cold smoke generator inside the grill is very unsuitable in terms of space. It takes up a large area in the indirect area, so fewer ribs fit under the hood. The external cold smoke generators are definitely the best solution, but they also cost well over 100 euros. The cheapest technique is the smoking box or the aluminum foil method. The problem with this is that it smokes for a maximum of 20 minutes, after which new smoking chips have to be filled into the box. So the lid has to be opened and the box replaced.
On the whole, however, it is quite possible to smoke with a gas grill. However, it requires significantly more effort. The rest of the preparation, on the other hand, is child's play, as the direct temperature control through the gas supply is very quick and easy. You should just be careful to provide enough gas.

3.4 Prepare ribs in the smoker

The Lokomotiven Smoker is traditionally used in the USA to prepare a BBQ, including ribs. As the name suggests, you shouldn't have any problems getting the smoke aroma on the meat. Normally, the smoker is fired with coal or embers and logs so that smoke always pulls through the cooking chamber.

Adjusting the temperature in the cooking chamber is more difficult. It is usually the case that the temperature in the cooking chamber right next to the combustion chamber is significantly higher than the temperature at the other end below the exhaust air chimney. You should then try to set the temperature near the combustion chamber to a maximum of 130 ° C, so that the temperature in the further course of the cooking chamber regulates itself to approx. 110 ° C. If you can do that, you can use the entire indirect area and fill it with ribs. In terms of space, you definitely have the largest offer with a smoker. We recommend using a sensible BBQ thermometer to monitor the temperatures. Incidentally, it is much easier to regulate a high-quality smoker with a large wall thickness than a cheap device with thin sheet metal walls.

The rotary control for setting the temperature

It is easier with a pellet moker. These devices run on electricity and burn wood pellets in a controlled manner. With the help of a dial or even a mobile phone app, you can then easily set the desired temperature and the smoker does the rest. It independently controls the temperature in the cooking chamber using a built-in thermometer. Depending on the desired temperature, more or fewer pellets are burned. But this convenience factor also comes at a great price. Good devices start at well over 1000 euros. Of course, you also need the smoking pellets, which are usually different from the manufacturer, so that only the special pellets from the manufacturer can be used. The pellets do not cost a fortune, but the consumption of a pellet moker is also quite large, so that throwing it on should definitely be worthwhile. In terms of space, there is also an enormous area here, so that you can prepare many rib ladders at the same time.

The watersmoker at a glance

The third type of smoker in the group are the watersmokers or ugly drum smokers. These are circular structures with several grids on top of each other. There are ventilation openings and space for the briquettes on the floor, a water bowl above as a heat shield and 1 - 3 grids above each other at a distance of approx. 20 cm. Thanks to the water bowl, a watersmoker can be used with its entire surface as an indirect grill and thus also offers plenty of space for ribs. Because of the round shape, we recommend using a rib holder again.
The temperature is regulated by means of the air inlet openings at the bottom and the exhaust air opening on the lid. Usually some briquettes are lit and placed in the middle between the remaining briquettes. After a while, the smoker should reach the desired temperature and be ready for use. In terms of price, watersmokers are definitely the cheapest among the smokers and also offer a wide variety of options. If you remove the water bowl, a watersmoker can also be used as a grill with a direct zone, similar to a kettle grill. The smoke is generated by smoking chips, just like with the kettle grill.

3.5 Prepare spare ribs in the oven

Ribs can also be prepared in the oven. Incidentally, they are sometimes prepared this way in most restaurants. But it is also an alternative for at home if the weather is not right or you simply do not have a suitable grill. You can keep the preparation as such just like on the grill, i.e. simply adapt the temperatures.

The biggest hurdle is to get smoke aroma on the meat. We strongly advise against igniting wood chips in the oven, it will not go well. Your house / apartment is probably very important to you. All jokes aside, do not under any circumstances light the wood in the oven! The only adequate option is what is known as liquid smoke. This is a liquid smoke concentrate, which is best mixed into the BBQ sauce. But you should dose carefully and season again and again. As a rule, 2 - 3 drops are sufficient. You then use the sauce to glaze the ribs. Of course, the red smoke ring is missing and the aroma is also different, but it is a good compromise.

Another, much faster way to prepare ribs in the oven is to cook them beforehand. Simply boil the ribs in a roaster with a liquid such as beer, juice or the like for about 1 hour until soft, then finish cooking in the oven at 180 ° C for 20 - 30 minutes. This makes them crispy on the outside, but tender as butter. This is a good alternative, especially when there is a lack of time. It must be noted, however, that a good part of the taste is lost when cooking, but other taste components of the liquid used are added.

3.6 Prepare ribs sous vide

The ribs are in the sous vide cooker at 65 ° C

Sous vide cooking is becoming increasingly popular. It has long been a standard in good restaurants. "Sous Vide" comes from the French-speaking area and means "under vacuum". Ultimately, it means nothing more than cooking under vacuum.
For ribs it means that after seasoning they are vacuum-sealed in a vacuum bag and this is sealed. The ribs are then placed in a sous vide cooker and cooked. In its simplest form, a sous vide cooker is a water bath that is heated by a thermostat and circulated by a pump. The thermostat regulates the temperature of the water to the temperature set by the user. The ribs cannot overcook as they cannot get hotter than the water itself. For ribs, 65 ° C with a cooking time of 12-18 hours has proven itself. After 12 hours the ribs still have a bit of bite, after 18 hours they are very soft. You can read more about this in the article Sous Vide Ribs.
The cooking time of 18 hours sounds like a lot, but it is very manageable because you usually just let the sous vide cooker run overnight so that you can relax and remove the ribs the next day and again for about 1 - 2 Smoke and glaze for hours. The time on the grill or smoker is significantly reduced. The particular advantage of this method is, on the one hand, the predictable time management, and on the other hand, the fact that the flavors definitely stay in the meat and do not simply drip into the grill with fat and liquid. After you have removed the ribs from the vacuum bag for further processing, you should not dispose of the liquid contained in it, but store it and add it to the ribs. It contains the pure taste.

3.7 Freezing ribs after cooking?

You invited a handful of your dearest friends and acquaintances to your small but nice garden party and, as always, prepared way too many spare ribs. Now you can either distribute them to all your friends, throw them away, or you can also freeze them. It is quite possible to simply freeze the finished ribs and warm them up again as desired. It is best to freeze them in a vacuum and portion them. Regenerating or warming the ribs is then very easy in a warm water bath.
It is also very nice that you can separate the individual phases, i.e. smoking, steaming and glazing, from one another in time. So it makes sense to always fill the smoker with ribs up to the stop, if you already throw it on. After smoking, you can simply freeze the part you don't need and then steam and glaze in the oven the next time, for example. This gives you the full smoky taste, but you can finish cooking it quickly in the oven regardless of wind and weather. Absolutely awesome. You can of course do the same after the steaming phase.

4 Spare ribs accessories - you really need that!

There are now countless accessories for a wide variety of applications, so that you quickly lose track of things. We will briefly show you which accessories you really need for successful rib grilling.

  1. Rib holder: With the help of a rib holder, it is possible to cook the ribs standing in the grill, so that you can get significantly more rib ladders. Probably the best and cheapest rib holder is the Ikea Variera lid holder. This can be extended or retracted like an accordion and is made of stainless steel, making it absolutely grill and dishwasher safe. However, the plastic caps must be removed before use. 6 ladders fit into a rib holder.
  2. Stainless steel mold with grate: We recommend using a stainless steel dish as a drip tray so that the meat juices and fat that run out do not ruin the grill. The Ikea Koncis shape is perfect. This also includes a removable grid so that you can place the ribs directly on the form. It is very practical that you can simply fill the mold with liquid during the steaming phase and enclose it airtight with aluminum foil. So you don't even have to move the ribs.
  3. Aluminum foil: Of course, aluminum foil should also be present. So that you don't get annoyed while eating that the ribs weren't so tender, we recommend extra thick aluminum foil. This does not tear so quickly, so that the tightness is guaranteed.
  4. Silicone brush: You absolutely need a silicone brush for the glaze phase. You can use pretty much any suitable brush on the market. But we recommend a long silicone brush, especially for a hot grill, so that you don't have to get so close to the heat. We are very satisfied with the Steven Raichlen silicone brush. This also has an integrated bottle opener and is completely dishwasher-safe.
  5. BBQ gloves: Grill gloves are an absolute must for safety on the grill. Since you often have to move the grate, the stainless steel mold or the rib holder, you should definitely put on fireproof grill gloves. So you are optimally protected from the heat. Good gloves are the Rösle grill gloves or the Moesta BBQ grill gloves.
  6. Grill thermometer: Since you should pay close attention to the correct temperatures in the grill or smoker, you can hardly do without a good grill thermometer. For those who spend most of the time at the grill, a normal, wired thermometer such as the Outdoorchef Gourmet Check is sufficient. If you want to be a little more flexible, we recommend the Maverick ET 733 wireless thermometer. So you can monitor 2 temperatures independently of each other and always have the receiver with you.
  7. Incense box: The gas grill owners should definitely take a look at a smoker box. These boxes are available from around 10 euros and have been specially developed for gas grills. So that you don't have to leave the lid open for a long time when smoking with the gas grill, we recommend buying 2 boxes. So you can easily change them after about 20 minutes of smoking time and refill the burnt-out one.
  8. Smoking chips / pellets: For the right smoke aroma, of course, the smoking chips or pellets must not be missing. Smokewood whiskey chips give the meat a great aroma. Owners of a pellet moker should use the appropriate pellets from the manufacturer.

5 Which smoking wood goes well with ribs?

In principle, you can use any wood suitable for smoking for ribs. Much more important than the choice of wood is the amount. Sure, a hickory wood has a significantly stronger smoky note than a fruit wood, which has a mild aroma. Nevertheless, you can also get a strong note on the meat with fruit woods by simply increasing the amount of wood. It is important to note that the smoke aroma is similar to that of spices. Too much spices make the meat inedible, too much smoke too! Meat that has been smoked too much tastes bitter and can only be enjoyed with a lot of sauce and other flavors that cover it. So be careful with the dosage of the smoking wood and rather add a little too little to the embers than to find out afterwards that it was too much. The following principle applies here: trying is better than studying!
Nevertheless, we would like to recommend a few pieces of wood to you. On the one hand, there are woods from old barrels like the Whiskychunks from Smokewood, and on the other hand very good natural woods from Axtschlag. Beech wood is always highly recommended. It is a compromise between strong hickory and mild fruit wood.

5.1 Should the smoking wood be watered?

Various opinions are circulating on the internet on this subject. Even the big grill manufacturer Weber says that smoking chips should be soaked in water before use. But we have a completely different opinion and can justify it. On the one hand, when it is placed in water, not much water really penetrates the wood. If it is well dried, it is sealed and would have to lie in the water for many days in order for it to soak properly. On the other hand, water in wood doesn't make any sense to us. Basically, good smoked wood has a residual moisture of approx. 15 - 18%, which is ideal. Additional water would turn this perfect degree of dryness into negative again. It is also the case that extra wet chips start to give off water vapor before they really start smoking. Accordingly, one only delays the point in time in which the smoking starts, but not the duration of the smoking. If the logs are even larger, then it makes no sense at all to water them.
The bottom line is that you just throw the smoking chips into the embers as they arrive in the bag. Save yourself the nonsensical watering.

6 Which side dishes go well with ribs?

Actually, we could also give ourselves this paragraph. Who needs side dishes with ribs, besides maybe extra BBQ sauce? Be that as it may, there are of course a couple of suitable side dishes for ribs. For example, you can also serve the classic baked potato with sour cream with ribs. A good coleslaw and decent fries are also not to be underestimated.
If you like it a little finer, you can also serve our filled mushrooms or zucchini with your ribs. Grilled corn on the cob or our ultimate grill baguette are also good accompaniments.