Baby Back Ribs: The Ultimate Guide

There are a lot of opinions out there about what makes the best ribs, but if you’re new to cooking ribs, consider this your starter guide to baby backs and what you need to whip up the best ribs of your life.

Everyone knows baby back ribs. But what makes them so coveted? Read on to learn the difference between these and St. Louis–style ribs and find out if you really want meat that falls off the bone. Serve with our hand-picked recipes for summer sides, and you’ve got a summer gathering worthy of our Animal Welfare Certified baby back ribs.

What Are Baby Back Ribs?

Of the four cuts of pork ribs — baby back ribs, spare ribs, St. Louis–style ribs and rib tips — you’ll most often find the tender baby backs and St. Louis–style ribs. After the pork loin has been removed, the baby back ribs are cut from where the rib meets the spine. They’re called “baby” because they are smaller in size than the bigger spare rib cut, which is a combination of the St. Louis ribs and the rib tips.

How to Buy Baby Back Ribs

A rack of ribs usually weighs about 1½ – 2 pounds and has 10 – 13 ribs, which should serve 2 people. In our Meat department, you’ll either find our baby back ribs by the pound at the meat counter or pre-packaged next to the packaged raw meat and ground meats. Ask your butcher if the membrane (or silver skin) has been removed from the backside of the ribs. If not, they’ll be happy to help with this — but it can also be done at home — and they’ll probably share their favorite recipe tip or two.

How to Cook Baby Back Ribs

Baby backs are a fun addition to any summer grilling marathon. But you don’t need a grill or a smoker to make ribs — cooking them in the oven can still produce tender and juicy results that taste like they spent hours in the smoker.

For the best ribs, aim for ribs that still have a little chew to them but aren’t literally falling off the bone, which is typically a sign of overcooked ribs. On the other hand, if the meat doesn’t easily separate from the bone when light pressure is applied, it’s undercooked. An easy tool for checking doneness is similar to one used when baking — the humble toothpick. When you can easily slide a toothpick (or a skewer) into the meat between the bones and you’re met with little resistance, the ribs are ready. But if fall-off-the-bone ribs are what you love, keep cooking the ribs until you can pull a rib from the rack without too much effort.

What to Serve with Baby Back Ribs

When you’re ready to serve, make sure to give the ribs at least 10 minutes to rest. To make cutting easier, use tongs to hold rib racks on their side so you can see the bones while using a large sharp knife to cut between each rib bone. Whether you’re cooking Korean BBQ ribs on the grill or dry-rubbed ribs in the oven, you’ll want the right sides to balance out the tender fattiness of the ribs. Try these recipes for the perfect pairings (and don’t forget the extra napkins):

Explore More