Spare ribs (also side ribs or spareribs) are a variety of pork ribs or beef ribs, cooked and eaten in various cuisines around the world. They are the most inexpensive cut of pork and beef ribs. They are a long cut from the lower portion of the pig or cattle, specifically the belly and breastbone, behind the shoulder, and include 11 to 13 long bones. There is a covering of meat on top of the bones as well as between them.
Spareribs are not like spare tires. They are not extras, leftovers, or an inferior cut. Nor are they so named because the meat is scanty. They contain excellent meat, usually richer and more flavorful than baby backs. Many chefs prefer spares to baby back ribs.
Spares are cut from the ends of baby backs, further down the side of the hog, they run all the way down to the breast bone, and that’s why they are also called side ribs sometimes. Look at a slab of spareribs and you will notice that along one edge the ends of bones are showing and you can see marrow. This is where they were cut from the baby backs. The other end, with no bones sticking out, is from the chest. It is flap of meat, small bones, cartilage, and gristle called rib tips. The bone side of spareribs usually has a meaty flap that is part of the diaphragm called the flap meat. It has been removed in the photo at right.
USDA says a slab must have at least 11 bones and there is usually more bone than meat in a slab of spares with more meat between the bones and less on top of them than baby backs. The bones are straighter and flatter than baby backs, and the meat has more fat between muscle fibers, called marbling. The bones, connective tissue, and the fat make the meat very flavorful. spareribs are typically $2 to 6 per pound, they generally run 2.5 to 3.5 pounds, half of which is bone and cartilage, and can usually feed two people.
So how did spareribs get their name? According to Charles Perry of the Los Angeles Times, “In 17th century England, spareribs were also called spear-ribs or even ribspare, a clear tipoff that this wasn’t a native English word. It was borrowed from the German rippespeer, which is smoked pork loin.”
Recipes using Spareribs
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