Step 1: Choose your ribs
Spareribs are cut from the belly (side) and have up to 14 ribs per slab (also called a rack). Look for a slab that weighs at least 3 pounds, is well trimmed, and has good layer of lean meat on the ribs, especially on the larger end of the slab. Plan three servings per slab.
Loin back ribs come from the blade and center section of a pig's loin and are also called baby back ribs, because they are smaller than spareribs. Back ribs should be meaty and lean, so look for ribs with at least 1 inch of meat attached to the bone. Each slab usually contains 10 to 13 ribs and weighs 1-1/2 to 2 pounds. Figure about half of a slab per person. These also make great appetizers when cut into individual ribs.
Country-style ribs are the meatiest of the rib varieties and are cut from the sirloin end of the pork loin. They are better for fork-and-knife eating than as finger food and are just as versatile as the other rib cuts. This cut is often used for braising, and it does well in the slow cooker. Country-style ribs are sold in slabs and individual servings.
Step 2: Cutting the ribs
If desired, cut the ribs into serving-size portions. Using a chef's knife, cut between the rib bones to make two- to three-rib portions.
Step 3: Adding flavor
Before cooking the ribs, you can boost the flavor with a marinade or a dry rub. This step is optional.
- To marinate: Place ribs in a clean resealable plastic bag inside a dish or a covered container. Add desired marinade and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, turning ribs occasionally.
- To add a rub: Sprinkle each rib section evenly with a spice or herb mixture, and rub it into the meat with your fingers. If possible after adding the rub, refrigerate ribs, covered, for 2 to 24 hours before cooking to allow the flavors to soak into the meat.
Step 4: Picking a cooking method
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rib portions, bone side down, in a shallow roasting pan. Roast, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Drain off fat.
- If desired, brush ribs with sauce. Continue to roast, uncovered, about 30 minutes more or until the ribs are tender, basting once with sauce, if desired.
- For a charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Test for medium heat above the pan. Place ribs, bone side down, on the grill rack over the drip pan.
- Cover and grill for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until the ribs are tender, brushing occasionally with desired sauce during the last 15 minutes of grilling.
- For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Adjust for indirect cooking and grill as above, except place ribs in a roasting pan.
- If desired, brown the ribs under the broiler. Preheat broiler. Place the rib portions on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil ribs 6 inches from the heat about 10 minutes or until browned, turning once.
- Transfer the ribs to a slow cooker. Pour a purchased or prepared sauce over the ribs, as directed in your recipe.
- Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3-1/2 hours. Skim fat from sauce in slow cooker and serve with ribs.