Eat Good Food. Be Kind. Tell the Truth.

Country Ribs or Spare Ribs?
by Jack Beuttell -- November 16th, 2011

Chef Hadley removes the ribs from the sirloin. Photo credit: Jennifer Chin.

Chef Hadley removes the ribs from the sirloin. Photo credit: Jennifer Chin.

re: pork butt, butchering tips, and rib taxonomy. oh, and the best BBQ in the world.

Sure you can cook a mean rack of ribs.  But do you know where they came from?  Not the farm, but the part of the pig.

In the past I’ve tried to learn about where the different cuts come from on a cow or pig, but gave up in frustration because there are so many different names for the same piece of meat, and some of them are counterintuitive.  Even Chef Hadley, Head of the Culinary Arts Department at Wake Technical Community College, who led the “Lessons from a Master Butcher” session on Sunday morning at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham, confessed he had no idea why the forward shoulder of the pig came to be known as the “butt”.

Nonetheless, the master butcher proceeded carefully with his anatomical disassembly, offering tips on everything from the type of knife to use, to the angle at which it should be drawn against the carcass.

Admittedly, I don’t know the next time I will quarter a hog carcass and reduce it to chops, ribs and sausage.  But it was still pretty useful information.  I should now be able to remember that baby back ribs are cut from the section of the rib cage that’s closest to the spine, and that spare ribs are what’s left over.  That St. Louis ribs are the middle part of the cage (between the babies and rib tips) and that the meatier country ribs may not be ribs at all since they’re cut high on the rib cage where the baby backs meet the shoulder blade.  (More detail here).

The timing of this new information is perfect, since I’m new to Durham and have made it a personal goal to visit every noteworthy BBQ institution in the area.  And don’t hate me for this—but I’m coming in with a little bias, believing that the best BBQ in the world is in Charlottesville, VA.  Perhaps now with a little more sophistication, however, I’ll be able to compare apples to apples instead of country ribs to spare ribs.

Regardless, I think it’s time for lunch.

1 Comment

  1. Sue
    Nov 17, 2011

    Good for you!

    Sounds like an informative session. I don’t know, Jack, I used to live in Charlottseville for some years, and I gotta’ say, NC BBQ is mighty tasty!

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