Spare ribs are a popular cut of pork, featured in different cuisines around the world. Spare ribs are cut from the end of the baby back ribs, just above the belly of the pig. There is more bone and cartilage than meat in the typical rack of spare ribs, and it is most common for the ribs to be consumed individually by hand. Spare ribs are often barbecued, steamed, slow cooked, or served with a dry rub or a sauce.
The rib area of a pig is extensive and offers many different cuts that suit a variety of occasions. In addition to the spare ribs, the pig's loin and side also offer baby back ribs, rib tips, bacon, rib roasts and more. Spare ribs contain flavorful meat with lots of marbling and are preferred to baby back ribs by many cooks and chefs. Although the name implies that the ribs are in some way "extra" or "spare," that is not a true statement.
There are many different ways to prepare and serve pork spare ribs in American cuisine. Two popular methods are known as “wet” and “dry.” A wet spare rib is one that is brushed and basted with sauce during the cooking process, while a dry preparation consists of a seasoning rub that is worked into the meat before barbecuing.
Spare ribs are also found in Chinese and Japanese cooking. American Chinese cuisine features ribs in the pu pu platter, an assortment of Chinese appetizers. In Japanese recipes, they are popularly served in a dish known as soki soba. Soki soba is a soup including ribs, soy sauce, sugar, and liquor.
Ribs are a tough cut of meat that require slow cooking on low or over indirect heat. Boiling or steaming the ribs prior to placing them on the grill can both cut down on the overall cooking time as well as tenderize the meat. They can also be placed in liquid and slowly simmered in a technique known as braising.
Although ribs are most commonly cut from pork, beef ribs are also available. Like pork ribs, beef ribs are also tough and require long, slow cooking at a low temperature. The beef cut most similar to the familiar pork spare rib is called the short rib. Many people believe that beef ribs are fattier and chewier than their pork counterparts, while others state that they have more meat and more flavor.