Ever since that Chili’s ad campaign debuted in the late 1980’s—you know the one I’m talking about, the one that worms its way into your head for days—baby back has been the rib of choice for many meat-loving Americans. This means that they can be hard to get at the market, especially during grilling season, and priced as such. The good news is that there is a tender market of ribs beyond baby back ribs that’s waiting to be devoured. You have options and all of them are just as delicious, even if they don’t have their own catchy theme song. Let’s break it down:
What Are Baby Back Ribs?
Baby back ribs lay over the pork loin, which is one of the most tender parts of the animal—when you eat a bone-in pork chop, that bone is a baby back. Their location on the animal is one of the reasons they are so highly regarded; compared to other muscles on the animal’s body, the loin doesn’t get much work, which means that the meat on your baby backs is very tender (it’s the same reason why filet mignon meat is prized for its tenderness; it comes from an easygoing part of the cow). It also means that they don’t need much fussing over before grilling, so you can keep their preparation as simple as you want—even a basic salt and pepper rub will do. The leanness of baby back ribs makes them less conducive to long, slow braises or smokes than our other rib choices, because they don’t have a layer of fat to protect them from drying out. For quick, easy grilling, they’re your best choice, but not your only choice.