The first ribs we remember were spare ribs, a childhood favorite at Chinese restaurants. Then, came barbecue joints and baby back ribs.
More recently, country-style ribs have become the “it” rib; and they’re not even ribs. They’re cut into rib-like shape from a pork chop
An article in The New York Times praises this inexpensive cut of pork for slow cooking. Others love them for grilling, with plenty of barbecue sauce.
Country-style ribs are the meatiest of all the pork ribs, giving you more bang for your buck—especially because they’re also the least expensive ribs (for now). As a bonus: They’re leaner, because they were originally a chop.
Country-style ribs are a combination of lean white meat and rich dark meat. True country style ribs are cut from the loin, either from the rib end or the sirloin. Most butchers then cut the slab into fingers, with or without the bone.
However, with the growing popularity of the cut, there are also “fake” versions labeled “country-style ribs.” These are cut from the pork shoulder. They’re full of fat and worse, collagen, which makes them gummy unless they first cooked at 200°F. Before you buy, look at the meat carefully; if they seem fatty, ask the butcher if they’re a shoulder cut.
The cut is actually a chop, but butchers had difficulty selling it. Coming from the ends of the loin, the chops didn’t look as lean and smooth as the chops cut from the center of the loin.
The meat typically ended up in sausages, or mis-labeled, hidden at the bottom of packages of loin chops.
Sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, a Chicago-area butcher, Cliff Bowes, took advantage of the popularity of ribs by butterflying these less attractive chops, fashioning them into strips that resembled ribs.
Country-style ribs were born. Yet, they haven’t gotten as much PR as their cousins, spare ribs and baby back ribs (see the chart below).
If you’re a rib person, or just want to dig into meaty chunks of pork, give them a try. For starters:
Illustration courtesy The New York Times.