There are many ways to buy ribs, and many forms. Baby back, St. Louis Style, full slab, rib tips, country style and brisket. What's a new cook supposed to do? Read on.
Ribs are split into where they come from and how they are trimmed. What you pick will determine your cost and, to a certain extent, your final result. High cost doesn't equate with high flavor, since most of the time the high cost is for work done by the butcher. You're going to do your own trimming and save the money.
Baby backs come from "high on the hog", the top part of the rib that runs right next to the chop. This is good eating, but rarefied air and pricey. If you are a Rockefeller then go for the baby backs, but if you are a Rockefeller, you might just as well go for the lobster, and skip ribs completely.
St. Louis ribs are the lower part of the ribs with all the extra stuff trimmed off. When you buy a full slab of ribs in a restaurant, St. Louis is what you will get. St. Louis ribs are more costly because you have paid the butcher to trim all the excess for you. But that excess can be great in another meal, so why pay money to lose perfectly good meat?
Full slab is the lower part of the ribs, with what would be the St. Louis cut still attached to the rib tips and the brisket. This is our cut. It can almost always be acquired for less than $2/lb. I just got some on sale for $1.79/lb. and have gotten them in the last 2 months for $1.49/lb. At this price you will be getting them the way the butcher gets them, in cry-o-vac plastic with 2 or maybe 3 whole slabs. Yes, it's a lot of pork, but assuming you have freezer space, you'll eat it all eventually, or you can feed a mess of people on ribs.
Country style pork ribs are a fatty delicious hunk of meat cut from the pork loin, rib end, but is useless for barbecued ribs. Way too fatty. I LOVE these for pork, sauerkraut and dumplings, however.
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