Sunday, January 17, 2010

Anatomy of a Pork Rib

Pigs have 14 ribs. They are attached to the spine and are usually divied up into four popular cuts: Baby back ribs, spare ribs, St. Louis cut ribs, and rib tips.

Applebees launched pork riblets on their rib menu adding a lower cost menu item while expanding their variety. Now they feature two portions of pork baby back rib, and two portions of pork "riblets" The price points are at a $10.50 pork riblet basket-just ribs, a $12 Riblet meal offering a choice of flavorful sauces to chose from, a $13 half rack of baby backs, and a $17 full rack of baby backs with signature bbq sauce. All but the basket include fries and coleslaw.

A riblet is a confusing term however as what there are really serving is more accurately called a "rib tip" or in retail they are known as button ribs. This is a portion of the whole pork sparerib that is closest to the breast or brisket. It is trimmed off of the sparerib to create what is called a St. Louis style rib.

Pork loin baby back ribs lie closest to the spine on the hog, and as the name implies they back up the loin meat that makes up your pork chops. This is the area where the "prime rib" of pork is located and the meat is most tender. Baby backs are probably one of the most popular menu items here on the West Coast.

St. Louis ribs are popular because they combine the wonderful full flavor of the sparerib with the consistant sizing of a pork loin baby back rib, at up to half the cost of the back rib.

A sparerib sold wholesale will usually cost under $2 lb, while a St. Louis rib will be in the $2-$3 lb range. Amazingly the cut rib tip tends to remain around the same price of the whole sparerib creating quite a value for the restaurateur and ultimately the consumer.

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