How to buy pork ribs

The first thing to note is that there are 2 main types of pork rib – spare ribs and baby back. Spare ribs are cut from the belly section, whereas baby backs (not cut from baby pigs) are cut from the loin.

Learn more about pork rib cuts with our dedicated guide.

Individual belly spare ribs spare ribs

Fat equals flavour when it comes to ribs, so look for a decent amount of marbling through the meat that should exhibit a pinkish-red colour. Stay away from meat that is pale or has dark blemishes on the fat.  Don’t be put off by the large rack of bones that accompanies the meat. This accounts for about half the weight and, once cooked properly, will fall away from the meat easily.

How to store pork ribs

When it comes to how to store your pork ribs, it’s very simple.  Store raw pork at 5°c or below in the fridge (check your fridge is cold enough by using a fridge thermometer) and up to 4-6 months in the freezer at -18°C.  When you’re ready to use them, defrost and thaw for 24 hours towards the bottom of the fridge before preparing.

How to prepare your pork ribs

As mentioned briefly earlier, the key to showstopping ribs lies in the preparation and cooking process. Adding a dry rub or marinade at least a day before cooking will make sure that the meat has absorbed as much flavour from the marinade as possible.
The world is your oyster when it comes to marinades and dry rubs, so any combination of herbs and spices that you like will surely turn out to be a hit. If you need some inspiration, discover the seasonings that complement pork here.
Also, be sure to let the ribs reach room temperature before cooking, ideally about 30 minutes before cooking will ensure even cooking results.

sticky ribs in a small bowl next to corn on the cob

How to cook your pork ribs

To make sure you get your ribs exactly right, you’re going to want to invest in a meat probe thermometer. This is an important step in figuring out how to cook a pork rack and meat in general. You can pick these up for under £10 and will last a lifetime of perfectly cooked ribs so it’s well worth it! Cooking low and slow produces the best results so be sure to:

  • Line an oven tray with foil, place the ribs on the tray, roast uncovered, low and slow for 3-4 hours
  • Oven cook at approximately at 14O°C, 120°C Fan, Gas Mark 1
  • Halfway through, brush with a prepared BBQ sauce, remove the foil and continue to cook. It is a long time but will make the meat super tender!
  • For the best results, put the ribs over a wire rack as opposed to on a baking sheet. Lifting the meat up allows the heat to circulate evenly

If you have a slow cooker have a look at our slow cooked pork guide.

For fall off the bone ribs 

  • Take a large saucepan and fill with water, add 2 star anise and 6 whole black peppercorns, add a lid and bring to the boil.
  • Add pork spare ribs or half a rack, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the ribs from the pan and discard the water.
  • Allow to cool slightly and then roll the pre-cooked ribs in a sauce of your choice until covered. Place on preheated barbecue.
  • Cook slowly or on a low heat until glaze is sticky and golden, don’t allow to burn. Alternatively place under a preheated grill, or place on a rack and roast in a preheated oven for 20mins. at 180°C, 160°C Fan, Gas Mark 4-5