What are baby back ribs?
Ways to Cook Baby Back Ribs
As the name suggests, baby back ribs are found near the backbone on the top of the ribcage. Spare ribs are instead taken from the underside of the rib cage all the way along towards the front end of the pig. The ‘baby’ in their name refers to the fact the rib bones from this area are shorter.
Coming from the loin, baby back ribs hold leaner meat. This produces a more subtle flavour that can add balance to any BBQ spread.
As with all ribs, baby back ribs have a heavy amount of connective tissue. You’ll find most back ribs take a little longer to cook than spare ribs because of this. The best ways to cook baby back ribs require slow cooking with indirect heat, as it breaks down connective tissue without drying out the meat. This is doubly important for baby back ribs, as they contain less fat and more loin muscle than other ribs.
Here are some examples of cooking methods:
- BBQ – Cooking ribs on a BBQ is ideal as it creates that signature char and caramelisation. To get the best results, turning and sauce application may be required.
- Baking – Ribs respond well to a low and slow oven bake. The consistent temperature allows the connective tissue to break down and become tender.
- Smoking – Think of smoking it as a combination between BBQing and baking. It gives baby back ribs an extra dimension of flavour and guarantees tenderness. The main con with smoking baby back ribs is time. It takes roughly 6 hours to smoke a rack of ribs, where baking and BBQing takes around 2 to 2 and ½ hours.
- Pressure cooker – It seems so wrong but pressure cooking in undeniably useful for convenience. Depending on the type of cooker and psi, baby back ribs can come out tender in 30 minutes. However, the rack will likely have to be broken cut up before cooking.
The beauty of BBQ is that there’s no one right way to do it. Why not try combining techniques? Cooking ribs covered in the oven for most of the time and then finishing them on the grill can produce great results.
It’s not necessary to cover baby back ribs while they cook. However, we do recommend it. The leaner meat in baby back ribs creates an increased risk of drying out. Covering with foil stops moisture escaping while protecting the meat from direct flame.
Don’t forget! Baby back ribs have a membrane on one side that should be removed before cooking. The membrane doesn’t break down in cooking, so it’ll make the ribs chewy. The membrane can be removed by hand by pinching a corner and gently pulling.
If you’re looking for a delicious recipe for cooking baby back ribs, try these peanut and jam ribs.
What to Serve with Baby Back Ribs?
The real answer is anything! There are so many delicious sides that can be paired with baby back ribs that you can’t really go wrong. While the ribs should remain the star of the show, simple sides can provide a perfect compliment. You can choose side dishes for ribs based on who you’re catering for, what season it is and to cater to a range of dietary requirements.
That being said, here are some tried and true baby back rib accompaniments that are sure to please a crowd.
- Potato salad – a flexible side dish, a potato salad can contain lots of possible ingredients unique to the chef. However, all potato salad recipes will feature boiled potatoes and a dressing of some kind.
- BBQ baked beans – sweet, spicy, earthy, vinegary. Baked beans are a side dish that can be great vessel for all manner of flavours.
- Corn of the cob – an easy side that goes a long way. Corn can be cooked to delicious effect on the BBQ, adding a sweet crunch.
- Coleslaw – shredded cabbage, carrot and/or onion with a creamy dressing. Coleslaw is a staple BBQ side as it helps keep strong flavours of dishes like baby back ribs in check.
- Macaroni and cheese – an American classic that can easily be a meal in its own right. A zingy baby back rib sauce can cut through the richness of mac and cheese.
- Green beans – a potentially healthy option! Green beans can be steamed, baked or grilled to add snap to a BBQ plate.
- Mashed potato
Where can I buy Baby Back Ribs UK?
Tips for eating ribs
It might seem silly but eating a rack of baby back ribs can be a messy procedure. Have plenty of napkins and other absorbent materials close by so people can wipe up sauce. For more formal touch, finger bowls can help with rinsing. Of course, you can use a knife and fork to eat ribs but that’s no fun!
How do I store Baby Back Ribs?
If you’re preparing to eat baby back ribs within 3-5 days of receiving them, they can be kept air-tight in the fridge. Place the raw ribs in the coldest part of the fridge, making sure the temperature is less than 4ºC. This will typically be towards the back of the fridge away from the door. For longer storage times, baby back ribs can be frozen for a couple of months.
You can check if stored ribs have gone off by their smell and appearance. Bad meat has the sour smell of ammonia and a grey/brown colour.
Leftover ribs are a wonderful thing. Follow the same storage tips as for the raw ribs, making sure they’re covered with foil or plastic wrap before they go in. The leftover ribs can then be reheated in the oven (high temperature for 20 minutes) or on the grill.
Where can I buy Baby Back Ribs UK?
The Village Butchers deliver direct to your door across the whole of mainland UK. Our baby back ribs come as full racks to give you the most meat for your money. By working closely with local butchers around the country, we provide produce that can maintain its high quality in freezer storage.
We stock a huge range of meats and accompaniments for all occasions. Shop today.