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Beef Ribs Vs Pork Ribs, a Comparison of Size, Taste, Nutrition, Cost and More

Learn the difference between beef ribs and pork ribs, concentrating on the size, taste, flavor, text to meat ratio, nutritional information, how to cook them, relative cost and more. We cover all the different cuts, 5 types of pork ribs and 3 types of beef in total.

Jim Wright profile picture
Written by:
| Reviewed by: Mark Jenner

Last Updated: March 21, 2024

Smoked beef ribs and smoked pork ribs in two photos side by side.

Today we’re comparing beef ribs to pork ribs to learn the differences and the similarities. You’ll learn the various rib cuts, their names and how they look, nutritional and pricing information, and how to cook them.

Carnivores are virtually united in their love of ribs. If I weren’t already convinced this opinion was correct, it was cemented when I did a search on, “Why do people like ribs?”

This led me to an article eye-catchingly titled (in full caps), “YOU’RE STUPID IF YOU DON’T LIKE RIBS!” The only support for this assertion is a parade of food porn shots of different kinds of ribs. Of course, I agree, though I may not have expressed it quite the same way.

But, it’s a simple truth that ribs are delicious, and they’re fun to eat. You can dress them up so many ways, cook them in almost anything — in short, you never have to have the same rib experience twice. But, which ribs should you start with?

Keep reading for the full rib-stravaganza!

At a Glance Comparison Table

It’s important to note that the values below can vary wildly based on the breed of cattle or pig the ribs come from, can vary animal to animal, and depend on how the ribs are prepared and cooked. But I’ll provide a general overview based on typical servings of typical cuts.

spare ribs vs St Louis ribs, one photo each, side by side.
smoked and sliced BBQ pork ribs.
BBQ spare rib platter with rosemary and a pot of sauce.
Sauced St Louis ribs sitting on a charcoal grill.
rib tips glazed with BBQ sauce, on a white plate with mashed potato and some beans.
Barbecued country style pork ribs on a green plate and some lettuce and oil around it.
Close up of some smoked beef short ribs on a wooden chopping board.
Close up of nice, moist beef ribs with a smoke ring and peppery rub crust.
Barbecue beef back ribs, some sliced, on a dark background.
Pork Ribs (General)
Pork Baby Back Ribs
Pork Spare Ribs
Pork St. Louis Style Ribs
Pork Rib Tips
Pork Country Style Ribs
Beef Ribs (General)
Beef Plate Short Ribs
Beef Chuck Short Ribs
Beef Back Ribs
Average Weight per Rack
Average Weight per Rack
Varies, typically 1.5-3.5 lbs
1.5-2.5 lbs
2.5-3.5 lbs
2-3 lbs
1.5-2 lbs
1-2 lbs
Varies, often 3-5 lbs for short ribs, 3-4 lbs for back ribs
3-5 lbs
2-4 lbs
3-4 lbs
Ribs Per Rack
Ribs Per Rack
Varies, typically 10-13
Varies, typically 3-4 for short ribs, 7-8 for back ribs
Tasting Notes
Tasting Notes
Flavorful, varies from mild to rich
Tender, lean, mild
Meatier, flavorful
Uniform, trimmed
Tougher, flavorful
Meaty, tender
Rich, beefy flavor, varies by cut
Extremely flavorful, rich, and meaty
Rich flavor, slightly leaner than plate ribs
Leaner, less meaty
Fat Content
Fat Content
Varies, typically moderate
High in short ribs, moderate to lower in back ribs
Moderate to high
Fat to Meat Ratio
Fat to Meat Ratio
Varies, typically moderate
Varies; higher in short ribs, lower in back ribs
Moderate to high
Nutritional Info (per 100g cooked) *
Nutritional Info (per 100g cooked) *
Approximately 250-300 calories, 20-25g protein, 20-25g fat, rich in B-vitamins, zinc, and iron.
About 250 calories, 24g protein, 20g fat, high in B-vitamins, especially B6 and B12, selenium, and phosphorus.
Roughly 260 calories, 24g protein, 21g fat, good source of B-vitamins, selenium, and zinc.
Similar to spare ribs, around 260 calories, 24g protein, 21g fat, rich in B-vitamins and minerals.
Approximately 300 calories, 18g protein, 25g fat, higher in fat, good source of B-vitamins and iron.
About 290 calories, 22g protein, 23g fat, rich in B-vitamins, particularly niacin and vitamin B6.
Roughly 280-330 calories, 20-25g protein, 25-30g fat, high in protein, iron, zinc, and B-vitamins.
Around 330 calories, 20g protein, 30g fat, very high in fat, excellent source of protein, iron, and B12.
Approximately 310 calories, 22g protein, 28g fat, rich in protein, iron, zinc, and B-vitamins.
About 280 calories, 24g protein, 20g fat, leaner than other beef ribs, high in protein and B-vitamins.
Price Comparison
Price Comparison
Varies, typically moderate
Lower than baby back
Similar to spare ribs
Moderate to low
Generally higher, varies by cut and region
Moderate to high
Moderate to high
Cooking Time (Smoker)
Cooking Time (Smoker)
Varies, typically 3-6 hours
3-4 hours
5-6 hours
5-6 hours
3-4 hours
4-5 hours
Varies; 6-8 hours for short ribs, 3-4 hours for back ribs
6-8 hours
6-8 hours
3-4 hours

* Nutritional information was sourced from multiple places online and is, to the best of my knowledge, correct. But please double check before basing anything such as a strict diet on these values!

Difference in Taste Between Beef Ribs and Pork Ribs

A mans face from the nose down, eating rib meat off the b.

Describing flavors is never easy, but here goes with a taste comparison of beef ribs vs pork pork ribs.

Beef ribs have a very strong flavor, as all good cuts of beef do. It’s distinct and unmistakable — but what is it? I suppose you could call it “beefy,” but that breaks the old rule of never using a word in its own definition. A better word for beef flavor is “umami.” If you haven’t heard it before, that’s not a big surprise.

Umami is the fifth taste our tongues can detect, along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Proteins release the deep rich flavor that is umami, and you find it in mushrooms, carrots, seaweed, bacon, and dry-aged beef. If you want to learn more about umami and beef, this article in Beef Magazine is a great place to start.

On the other hand, pork ribs have a much tamer flavor than beef, which you might describe as oddly sweet. On their own, they taste a lot like pork chops — mildly pleasant. But, that’s why chefs, pitmasters, and backyard barbecuers love them; they’re a blank canvas for painting on any combination of spices, seasonings, and sauces you care to try.

Size Comparison

Did you ever go to a farm and see a pig standing near a cow? Can you at least imagine them side-by-side? Then you can already guess that beef ribs are almost always bigger than pork ribs.

Beef ribs can be so huge that they’re sometimes sold under the name “dinosaur ribs.” (Hands up if you’re picturing Fred Flintstone at the drive-in restaurant!) Depending on the cut, a single rib might be 8 to a whopping 12 inches long and weigh 2 pounds or more.

Pork ribs are considerably smaller, with portions measured in ounces, with bones not more than a few inches long. However, because of the way butchers trim them, a rack of pork ribs may not be that much smaller than a rack of beef ribs before they’re packed and shipped to the grocer.

Pork Rib Cuts Overview

Like other sections of the pig, the butcher divides the ribs into various cuts, creating a few different types of pork ribs. And each cut has its own “personality” if you will.

Here’s a rundown of each pork rib cut and a few details about each.

Baby Back Ribs

raw baby back ribs, prepped and sitting on a baking t.

Baby back ribs are cut from the highest point on the rib cage, and are lean and tender. They aren’t as meaty as other pork ribs, but their convenient size and shorter cooking time make them popular at restaurants.

You may see them labeled as “loin ribs” or simply “back ribs.”

Spare Ribs

Raw pork spare ribs on a dark surface with some herbs and spices aro.

Wildly popular, spare ribs (sometimes shortened to ‘spareribs’) begin where the baby back ribs end. They extend down the side of the pig right to the breastbone. They don’t have the curve baby backs have, but they do have a fair bit more meat.

They’re typically less tender but more flavorful than baby back ribs. Other names include “side ribs” and plain old “spares.”

St. Louis Style Ribs

raw St Louis ribs on a cutting board with two ramekins full of spi.

A tidy, mid-size rack, St. Louis ribs are cut from the spare ribs. The butcher removes the cartilage and small bits of bone from the ends of the spares and squares off the sides. The result is a flat, rectangular rack of good meat that cooks evenly and looks terrific on a platter.

They aren’t easy to find, though, so you may have to make your own.

Rib Tips

rib tips glazed with BBQ sauce, on a white plate with mashed potato and some be.

Rib tips are the ends that got cut off spare ribs to turn them into St. Louis ribs. They’re very tender, with a lot of fat marbling.

Rib tips aren’t easy to eat since the fat-to-meat ratio favors the fat. But, they’re very tasty and a lot of fun to pick up and nibble on.

Country Style Ribs

Barbecued country style pork ribs on a green plate and some lettuce and oil around.

It’s a bit of a stretch to call these “ribs” but, we’ll cover them anyway. A better description would be “bone-in pork chop,” and depending on the cut, it may be one or two bones.

The meat is loin meat, so it’s tender and delicious. Yes, I’m trashing the name a bit, but the cut itself is a treat.

Beef Rib Cuts Overview

Since you can’t very well plate an entire beef rib from stem to sternum, beef ribs are divided into three separate cuts. Some butchers subdivide them even further, but these are the most common different types of beef ribs.

Let’s meet them, shall we?

Plate Short Ribs

Plate Short Ribs isolated on wh.

Plate short ribs are also called “beef short ribs”. These are massive, throw ‘em over your shoulder, release your inner cave person ribs that make drool-worthy pics for the web.

Plate short ribs come from the lower section of the rib cage, and they’re incredibly tender and loaded with meat.

Chuck Short Ribs

Chuck short ribs isolated on wh.

Chuck short ribs are less gargantuan than the plate short ribs, but still impressive. These ribs come from a little higher up towards the back of the cow. The bones are smaller, but there’s still a lot of meat to be had.

Chuck short ribs are a lot easier to find at the grocery store, too.

Beef Back Ribs

Beef back ribs isolated on wh.

Found right up at the top of the back, beef back ribs look nothing like the short ribs. The meat is excellent — no surprise, since it’s basically what you get on a prime rib roast.

You don’t get the stack of meat on top of the bone like you do with shorts. Instead, all the yummy beef is sandwiched between the bones.

A Comparison of Fat to Meat Ratio and Fat Content

Want to know what you’re getting on your rack? Let’s assess the meat and fat contents of each type.

Remember: these are generalizations — meat and fat content varies from breed to breed and animal to animal, and will also change depending on how the butcher cuts the racks.

Pork Ribs

Overall, if you’re doing a side-by-side comparison with beef, pork ribs are lean and moderately meaty with more meat than fat and a lot of bone.

It varies from cut to cut, but generally speaking, pork ribs are reasonably lean, at least when compared to beef ribs.

The lower on the rib cage you go, the more the meat-to-fat ratio slides over to the fatty side, and the rib tips are mostly fat. The amount of bone is fairly consistent across the three major cuts (baby back, spare, St. Louis style).

Beef Ribs

To summarize, beef ribs are fattier than pork ribs, with closer to even portions of meat and fat. But, while the bones are larger individually, there is proportionately more meat per bone than on pork ribs.

Despite a pig’s reputation for being a chunky animal, there is a lot more fat in beef ribs than in pork. But, that’s ok; we eat them for the flavor, not for the health benefits!

There is also an enormous amount of meat on beef ribs, but it’s heavily marbled. The bones are huge, but you often get a walloping stack of beef piled on top of each rib.

Pork Ribs Nutritional Info

The following table is based on 4oz or a 1/4 pound of spare ribs.

NutritionTotal Amount% Daily Value (based
on 2000 calories/day)
Total Fat16 g25%
Cholesterol70 mg23%
Sodium90 mg4%
Protein17 g

Beef Ribs Nutritional Info

The following table is based on 4oz or a 1/4 pound of short ribs.

NutritionTotal Amount% Daily Value (based
on 2000 calories/day)
Total Fat25 g39%
Cholesterol113 mg38%
Sodium80 mg3%
Protein29 g

Price Comparison

Pork ribs are, on average, less expensive than beef ribs. What you pay will vary depending on the cut and where it’s from; your typical grocery store rack will be considerably less expensive than one sourced from, say, a local organic farm.

At the time of writing, baby back ribs average around $4.50/lb or about $9.90/kg. Thanks, to lower demand, spare ribs are closer to $3.00/lb or $6.60/kg.

For beef ribs, expect to shell out a bit more. While back ribs are similarly priced (averaging $4.50/lb or $9.90/kg), the coveted short ribs are in the neighborhood of $7.00/lb or $15.40/kg.

My Experience and Views on Beef Ribs Vs Pork Ribs

As someone who loves all kinds of ribs, I find both pork and beef ribs have their unique charm. However, my personal favorite has to be beef ribs.

While I enjoy pork ribs’ lighter taste and versatility, beef ribs win me over with their robust flavor and hearty texture.

I tend to treat pork ribs as a go-to BBQ staple and cook them almost every time I throw a party at my house. They are far more economical, and many more people seem to eat pork ribs but turn their noses up at beef ribs. (What is THAT all about?!)

But beef ribs, for me, are an occasional treat. They are so rich and unctuous, and pack a powerful flavor punch that they are, for me, something extraordinary. They also cost a fair chunk more than pork ribs, so buying them for a crowd can be prohibitively expensive.

I also tend to cook beef ribs in place of brisket. They taste quite similar, cook in half the time, and cost way less money. So they are a regular at my house.

My go-to beef ribs are what’s called a ‘Jacobs Ladder.’ This is a full rack of short ribs. You can see how I cook mine here: Smoked beef ribs recipe.

I buy meaty baby back ribs or spare ribs for pork ribs. I tend not to bother with St Louis ribs as you pay extra for the time needed by the butcher to cut spares into St Louis and get less meat. I buy spare ribs, cut off the tips off, and square them up myself, keeping some scraps for sausages and cooking the tips separately. This gives me the best bang for my buck.

How to Cook Pork Ribs

pork ribs in a BBQ smo.

When smoking pork ribs, preparation is key. Start by trimming excess fat and removing the membrane. Then apply your dry rub.

Pork ribs’ smoking time and temperature depend on the cut and your preference. Typically, pork ribs smoke for 5-6 hours at 225 to 250 °F. Choose your wood based on your desired flavor: mesquite or hickory for a strong smoke flavor; apple, cherry, or maple for a lighter, fruity smoke.

Many experts recommend wrapping the ribs in foil during the smoke session. This method ensures moist, tender ribs with rich flavor and can knock an hour or two off the total cooking time.

A popular technique is the 3-2-1 method: smoke the ribs for 3 hours, wrap in foil with liquid and smoke for 2 hours, then smoke unwrapped at a slightly higher temperature for 1 hour. This method simplifies the smoking process and is great for beginners.

For smaller racks or a less crispy bark, consider the 2-1-1 or 2-1-0.5 methods.

If you want sauced ribs, apply the sauce in the last 30 minutes to prevent burning.

Ribs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 190 °F–200 °F and feel tender when poked with a skewer, despite pork being safe to eat at 145 °F.

How to Cook Beef Ribs

beef ribs in a BBQ smo.

Unlike pork ribs, beef ribs don’t usually need trimming or membrane removal. The membrane helps keep the meat on the bones but feel free to remove it if it bothers you.

Keep seasonings simple to enhance the natural flavors of beef ribs. Most people recommend that salt and pepper are enough, though a touch of garlic salt, onion salt, or chili is fine. Avoid over-spicing beef ribs, unlike with pork ribs. Avoid any sugar or commercial rubs containing sugar, as the sweetness does not suit beef ribs.

Set your smoker to 225 – 250 °F for a traditional low and slow approach. As beef ribs are robust, you can increase the temperature to 275 – 300 °F for quicker cooking. The exact time required to smoke beef ribs depends on their size, but in my experience, it’s anything from 6 to 9 hours.

Choose strong-flavored woods like mesquite, hickory, pecan, oak, and add some cherry wood for the beautiful red hue it adds to the bark. Lighter woods like maple or alder are too mild for beef’s strong flavor in my experience.

You can use the Texas crutch method, wrapping the ribs in butcher paper or foil to speed up the cooking and keep more moisture in the final meat. This is controversial; some say it makes the meat mushy and ruins the bark, while others like the tenderness and shorter cooking time. Try both wrapped and unwrapped to see which you prefer.

Cook beef ribs way past the USDA’s safe temperature of 145 °F, aiming for at least 190 °F, but almost always closer to 200 °F. This higher temperature renders the fat and collagen, making the meat tender. And always cook to feel, not time or temp. They should probe like butter, and then they are ready.

Where to Buy Beef Ribs Online

A number of online outlets sell beef ribs, making variety and price range highly variable! Here are two of the most popular suppliers:

Porter Road

Four photo montage of 4 different types of beef ribs from Porter R.

Porter road have a selection of four different beef rib cuts available that are all pasture-raised and hormone and antibiotics free:

  1. Beef back ribs, shipped frozen, weighing between 2 and 3 lbs per rack. These ribs are cut from a whole ribeye section, leaving a generous amount of rich marbled meat.
  2. Dino ribs, shipped frozen, weighing between 5 and 7 lbs per rack. Cut from the first 3 ribs of the rib plate, these 8”+ ribs are dry-aged for maximum flavor and are the giant ribs you see in Instagram pics that are sure to impress your guests!
  3. Texas short ribs, shipped frozen, 4 per pack weighing a combined 2.75 to 3.25 lbs. These individually cut portions smoke and eat well with their balanced mix of meat and fat.
  4. Boneless short ribs, 5 per pack weighing a combined 2.4 to 2.7 lbs. Though still generously marbled and packed with flavor, these are the leanest of their beef ribs on offer.

Check Price on Porter Road

Snake River Farms

Two photos side by side, of raw and cooked beef ribs from Snake River Fa.

Snake River Farms short ribs are American Wagyu Black grade, which means they have a higher marbling than even USDA prime, which provides a beefy umami richness and depth of flavor that has to be tasted to be believed.

Each rack weighs in at an average 6 lb, so they are large and have that instagrammable ‘dino rib’ appearance.

Check Price on Snake River Farms

Where to Buy Pork Ribs Online

Pork ribs are sold by the vast majority of online outlets, making them easy to source, and affordable due to the amount of competition.

Here are a couple of suppliers that we highly recommend:

Snake River Farms

Two photos, one each of spare ribs and baby back ribs, from Snake River Farms, on a gray surf.

Snake River Farms spare ribs are a full-sized rack weighing on average 1.5 lbs. They are 100% purebred Berkshire Kurobuta pork, raised naturally with no added hormones, providing generous amounts of meat and flavorful marbling.

They also sell baby back ribs of the same quality, from the same purebred species, that come in at an average weight of 1lb per rack.

Check Price on Snake River Farms

Porter Road

Photos of porter road spare ribs, and pork short ribs, side by s.

Porter roads spare ribs are all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free, coming from pigs that live out in and explore the woods, giving a rich deep red meat that is full of flavor. Very meaty and well-marbled, each rack weighs between 2 and 3 pounds.

Their pork short ribs are actually a cut I’ve not come across anywhere else! Porter Road describes them as  a cut that: “combines the perfect ratio of fat and meat….(they) start tough, and are ideal for smoking or braising in the crockpot. Settle in for a few hours of cooking, the payoff for your patience will be outstanding.

Sounds great to me!

Check Price at Porter Road

Final Thoughts

Now that you’re up to speed on both pork and beef ribs, which will you tackle next in your smoker? Of course, there’s no wrong answer to that question. Either way, it’ll be another exciting step on the road to mastering the grill in all its forms.

Thanks for trusting us to answer your questions on pork ribs vs beef ribs. If you like what you read here, please share it with your barbecue brethren. And, come join us on social to connect with other BBQ fans and see what’s new at our site.

Here’s to being the best griller you can be.

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Jim Wright profile picture

Written By: Jim Wright

Hi, I’m Jim! I’ve been grilling for over 20 years over charcoal, wood, and gas. Now I’m happy to share my experience and discoveries with you.

When I’m not writing about barbecue, I’m usually writing about food anyway, at a food marketing agency: Aside from my family and the perfect steak, my passions include travel and all things Disney.

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  1. Avatar for Benjamin Lee Benjamin Lee says:

    Thank you for the super informative article with great photos, I came here to learn about beef vs. pork ribs and was not disappointed!

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