The belly part of the pig is connected to the loin meat. It contains the spareribs and the pork belly, a fatty slab of meat that is sometimes cooked. Fresh pork belly is currently quite popular in restaurants), but more often is smoked for bacon or cured for pancetta.
When buying ribs at your supermarket, you're likely to find three types: spareribs, baby back ribs and country ribs. Of the three, spareribs are the only true ribs — this doesn't mean you might not like the other cuts; they're just technically not ribs.
- Spareribs are cut from the belly of the pig, from the front of the rib cage. They are meaty with plenty of fat. A full rack contains 13 ribs, weighs about three pounds and serves two to three people.
- Baby back ribs are cut from the pork loin, where the ribs join the spine: They are, in fact, the tops of the pork chop bones that are left when the boneless loin is cut away. Baby back ribs are leaner than spareribs and, depending on the butcher, may or may not be meaty.
- Country ribs are not actually ribs at all, but are chops cut from the shoulder end of the loin; they are meaty with a good amount of fat.
For best results, ribs should be cooked slowly over low heat, either in the oven or on the grill, until the meat is tender and the fat is rendered. (Ribs are often seasoned before cooking with either a wet or dry rub or a marinade.) Once cooked, the ribs can be browned on the grill or under a broiler to add a flavorful, seared-meat taste. Country ribs may be cooked like a chop.
- Grilled Country Ribs with Summer Savory Mustard Marinade
- Michael Chiarello's Babyback Ribs with Espresso Barbecue Sauce
Bacon is pork belly that has been dry- or wet-cured, then smoked. It may be cooked by roasting, broiling and sautéing. (Canadian bacon is a different animal entirely; it is boneless center-cut loin that has been smoked. Roast, sauté or broil Canadian bacon; because it is loin meat, it will not get crisp like bacon.)