How To Select The Best Ribs For Barbeque

How To Select Ribs

Ribs are by far the number one choice of meat when people barbeque, but selecting the best ribs possible is something many people make common mistakes on without even realizing it. This will serve as a simple guide for you to follow so you will know How To Select The Best Ribs For Barbeque.


First things first. There are truly two types of ribs. I know you may have heard of Short Ribs, Country Style Ribs or even Western Ribs, in reality these are not actually ribs at all. The two types of ribs are Spare Ribs and Baby Back Ribs.

– Spare Ribs: are the traditional slab of ribs which come from the belly of the hog. They are large in size and very meaty. They also usually have the rib-tips/breast bone attached. The St. Louis and Kansas City Style Ribs are cut from the Spare ribs, it consist of removing the rib-tips and possibly 1-3 rib bones on the smaller end to give it a more uniform look.
– Baby Back Ribs: are known as Back Ribs or Loin Ribs depending on which part of the country you are in. These come from the loin of the hog, where pork chops come from, they and are not as meaty, contain less fat, and more tender than spare ribs. Due to a high customer demand these are more expensive than spare ribs.

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It is always best to select your ribs from either the butcher case at your local grocery store or directly from the butcher at you local butcher shop/meat market.

Choose slabs with good meat coverage over the bones and no large areas of surface fat.
You want to avoid buying ribs that are frozen or have been previously frozen. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell how fresh these are.
Baby Back ribs are easier to select than Spare Ribs because all you have to do is ensure that you select slabs of a uniform size, very little trimming is needed.
Avoid ribs that are off-colored or appear to be dried out.
If you’re purchasing ribs packaged in Cryovac packaging, that’s the thick heavy plastic wrap you usually find ribs sealed in when you get 3 or more ribs from places like Sams Club, Costco’s and other places, you want to make sure you give them a good visual look before buying. When opening these you may get a whiff of sulfur but that is normal, it has something to do with the processing of the hog and the packaging of the meat. This smell should go away after you open the package and throughly wash/rinse the ribs in COLD water. DO NOT USE WARM OR HOT WATER! If the smell is still strong or continues to linger, return the ribs for a refund or in exchange for a different package of ribs.


Your local grocery store sells meats commonly known as “ENHANCED.” These meats, yes including ribs, have a solution injected into them of water, sodium phosphate, and flavorings. It’s believed that this makes the meat more tender and juicy even if it’s overcooked. Usually you will find that “enhanced” meat taste a bit different from fresh meat.

A common thing when using enhanced meat is most people will find that the meat is a bit salty, this is due to the fact the meat has been pumped with a salt base solution and when you add your seasonings the salt content is too high.

I prefer fresh ribs so I can place the seasoning on them that I want.



Now that you are equipped with the information and what to look for when selecting ribs for your next barbeque you should have little trouble selecting the best ribs possible. I have covered where to get your ribs, what to look for, what to avoid and even information on enhanced ribs, so now you can go out and select and cook the best ribs ever! Remember, you get what you pay for.

If you are wondering about cooking the ribs and how to prepare them the just jump over to the piece I did called Smoking Ribs: The Basics and that will show you how to prep your ribs, and after you are done looking at that look at my 3-2-1 Ribs post for the best fall off the bone tender ribs you have ever had!


About Pigskin Barbeque 80 Articles
Just a regular guy who loves to barbeque. Married father of two. I developed a love for grilling as a child watching my dad grill. My love for BBQ, using wood and the "low & slow" method came after I purchased my first horizontal smoker in my 20's.


  1. I buy my ribs from Gordon’s as they are well priced (last week 1.95# for spares) and they are consistent in quality. Trimming is the most important step in my opinion.

    • That is a good price. As long as you’re happy with the quality of the ribs you’re getting thats great.
      I’ve had a couple incidents where I’ve purchased pre-packaged ribs and I wasn’t happy with them so I usually like to pick out each of my ribs.
      Trimming is always key as you can remove the membrane and get the size uniform so they cook evenly.

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