I am going to ask and answer a very popular question that most of my customers have asked me over the years at one point of another.
I love ordering ribs when we go out to eat, but I don’t know if they were spare ribs or country ribs. What is the difference between them? Do you know which they were?
First things first, Country Ribs aren’t really ribs at all, they are more like “faux” blade steaks or chops. Cut from the blade portion of the loin’s shoulder end, they often include part of the upper rib bones, though some butchers cut them as boneless. They have a lot of connective tissue and fat, making them ideal for barbecue, not unlike real ribs.
Here is a great country ribs recipe:
Barbecue Braised Country Spareribs with Beer and Mustard Glaze
For the ribs:
1 Tbs. sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. dried sage
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 lb. bone-in country style pork ribs
For the braising liquid:
4 strips bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced (3 cups)
4 medium cloves garlic, chopped (1 Tbs.)
1 medium carrot, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1 12-oz. bottle bock beer or dark lager
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. caraway seeds
For the glaze:
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
In a small bowl, combine the paprika, brown sugar, dry mustard, sage, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Set aside 2 tsp. to use in the braise and sprinkle the remaining rub all over the ribs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.
Prepare a gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Grill the ribs until nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter, let cool briefly, and then tie each rib with 3 or 4 loops of butcher’s twine.
Prepare the grill for indirect grilling. In an 8-quart heavy-duty pot, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it just starts to crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and beginning to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, carrot, and the reserved spice rub and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the broth, beer, vinegar, bay leaves, and caraway seeds. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Nestle the ribs into the braising liquid. Set the pot on the grill over the cool zone. Cover the pot, close the grill lid, and cook until fork-tender, about 1-1/2 hours, turning the ribs halfway through cooking.
Transfer the ribs to a tray. Strain the braising liquid into a heatproof vessel, such as a Pyrex measuring cup, and let sit until the fat rises to the top. Discard the solids. Skim off and discard the fat. Keep warm.
Prepare the grill for direct grilling over medium-low heat. In a small bowl, stir the mustard, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in just enough of the braising liquid, 1 Tbs. at a time, to produce a glaze thin enough to easily brush on the ribs. Brush one side of the ribs with the glaze and grill glazed side down until bubbly and beginning to darken, 3 to 5 minutes. Brush the other side, flip the ribs, and grill until the glaze is bubbly and beginning to darken, an additional 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove the string from the ribs, put them on a warm platter, and drizzle with the remaining braising liquid.
Make Ahead Tips
You can make this dish through the braising step the day before serving. Just cool and wrap the meat and braising liquid separately. Refrigerate overnight and glaze the next day. To spread out the work even more, you can season the meat the day before you braise.
And for the second part of the answer…
Spare Ribs are ribs.
Spare Ribs are also called “spareribs” or “side ribs”, are taken from the belly side of the rib cage, below the section of back ribs and above the sternum (breast bone). Spare ribs are flatter and contain more bone than meat. There is also quite a bit of fat which can make the ribs more tender than back ribs.
Here is Ina Garten’s Spare Ribs Recipe:
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 small red onion, diced (1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 4 racks country ribs (8 to 10 pounds)
Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, and saute the onions and garlic for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the chili powder, ground cumin and red pepper flakes and continue cooking for 1 minute. Add the zest and ginger and cook for an additional minute. Add the vinegar, tomato paste, honey, mustard, soy sauce and orange juice and simmer uncovered on low heat for 15 minutes, until thick.
Marinate the ribs in 2/3 of the barbecue sauce for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Prepare a grill with a single layer of hot coals and then add a few more coals 5 minutes before cooking, which will keep the fire going longer. Place the ribs on the grill and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, turning once or twice to cook evenly on both sides. Brush with the marinade as needed.
Serve with extra barbecue sauce on the side.