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The Instacart guide to pork ribs

About pork ribs

Pork ribs are a popular cut of meat enjoyed around the world. They come from the ribcage of the domesticated pig, also known as a hog. Several types of pork ribs exist based on the section of the ribcage. The pleura, an inner lining of connective tissue, is removed since it doesn't cook well and doesn't add flavor to the prepared dish. Depending on the cut of ribs, the fat content and amount of meat will affect their taste and texture.

Baby back ribs come from the top of the ribcage below the loin and between the spare ribs and spine. These are sometimes known as back ribs or loin ribs. This pork rib section contains meat between the bones but is shorter and curved on top of the bones. Often, the baby back rib has more meat than the spare rib. A rack of ribs has up to 13 rib bones, but at a minimum should contain 10. Butchers call any rack with less than 10 ribs a cheater rack. 

Spare ribs come from below the baby back ribs on the belly side of the ribcage and are sometimes referred to as side ribs. Spare ribs have less meat, less curvature, and more bone than baby back ribs. However, spare ribs contain more fat, which results in more tender meat when properly cooked. There are two common styles of spare ribs.
  • St. Louis-style spare ribs come without the sternum, cartilage, and rib tips and have a rectangular shape to the rack.
  • Kansas-City-style spare ribs aren't trimmed as much as St. Louis ribs.
Rib tips come from the lower end of the spare rib between the sternum and rib, and are removed when butchering St. Louis ribs. Rib tips are short, meaty, and don't contain bones. Instead of bone, the meat attaches to dense cartilage that you cannot eat. 

Riblets are less common cuts that come from cutting a full rack of spare ribs in half, creating a smaller set of short ribs. At one time, this cut was thrown out by butchers, but its low cost and excellent flavor have gained popularity in large part due to the restaurant industry's inclusion of the riblet on menus.

Button ribs are often confused with riblets because of their size, but button ribs don't have bones. Like the rib tips, button ribs contain cartilage.

Country-style ribs don't come from the ribcage. Instead, they are cut from the loin near the pork shoulder and are meatier.

Rib chops are steak cuts with a single rib bone with the loin meat attached. The meat is naturally tender and lean.

A rib roast contains the entire pork loin with the back ribs attached. The rib roast goes by many different names, like prime rib of pork and crown roast pork.

Pork Ribs Near Me

Buy your favorite pork ribs online with Instacart. Order baby back ribs, back ribs, country style ribs, and more from local and national retailers near you and enjoy on-demand, contactless delivery or pickup within 2 hours.

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FAQs About Pork Ribs

The answer is both. You can find every pork rib cut available freshly butchered and ready for cooking. Some grocers will French-cut the ribs or assemble the crown roast, usually around the holidays. French-cut refers to the trimming off of the meat on the backbone, leaving the bone bare but the loin meat still attached. A crown roast stands the entire rib roast on its side and forms a circle by connecting both ends. The bones point upward after assembly and resemble a crown.

Spare ribs and baby back ribs can be found in the frozen meat section of your grocery store, as well as cut fresh. They come in full racks cut at the processing plant and are vacuum-sealed before being frozen and distributed. 

Any meat can be braised, but most chefs agree that braising pork ribs isn't recommended, especially with the roast and chop cuts best prepared grilled or broiled. You can braise whole racks, but the result won't have the caramelization you find when traditionally grilled. Part of the appeal of a rack of pork ribs is the finger-licking of the sweet, sometimes spicy, barbecue sauce and the meat's crispy texture.
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