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View Full Version : why spares over babybacks?


bigzthamoose
10-05-2011, 02:21 PM
I know the common answer, and im just thinking out loud here but... Ever since i was young, my dad was a chef and bbqr and have always eaten ribs, so even before my obsession, i knew a thing or two. I hear spares are meatier, etc, but in my experience, spares are not as thick, with less meat overall on them. I know they are bigger length wise, stuff like that, but every baby back i have cooked or eaten at friends houses, were about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick with tons of meat. They arent as pretty thats for sure. But what really caused the whole " spares over babybacks" in comps? Kinda like how everyone turns in thighs. I know that one. Darker meat than breast meat, harder to dry out, etc. Just wondering. My fam always likes babybacks more, but i always buy and cook spares bc thats what i learned from competitors. I dunno, just wanted to hear some opinions!

MO Swine
10-05-2011, 02:32 PM
I cook spares becuase they are more uniform. To me, BB tend to be really thick at the short end and get progressively thinner. With spares, I feel like I have a few more bones one way or the other when it comes time for turn in.

Sawdustguy
10-05-2011, 02:52 PM
I use spares because you can't get a St. Louis cut Rib out of a Baby Back rib.:doh::tape::wink:

Jorge
10-05-2011, 04:36 PM
I cook spares becuase they are more uniform. To me, BB tend to be really thick at the short end and get progressively thinner. With spares, I feel like I have a few more bones one way or the other when it comes time for turn in.

True, but if you trim that thickness issue can be overcome. At the end of the day I'd cook whichever looked better, even though my preference is for spares.

I know the common answer, and im just thinking out loud here but... Ever since i was young, my dad was a chef and bbqr and have always eaten ribs, so even before my obsession, i knew a thing or two. I hear spares are meatier, etc, but in my experience, spares are not as thick, with less meat overall on them. I know they are bigger length wise, stuff like that, but every baby back i have cooked or eaten at friends houses, were about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick with tons of meat. They arent as pretty thats for sure. But what really caused the whole " spares over babybacks" in comps? Kinda like how everyone turns in thighs. I know that one. Darker meat than breast meat, harder to dry out, etc. Just wondering. My fam always likes babybacks more, but i always buy and cook spares bc thats what i learned from competitors. I dunno, just wanted to hear some opinions!

I like spares, because in general, I've got a larger mass of meat which should help even out the temp the piece of meat over a longer cook. They also tend to be fattier, which leads to more flavor in my opinion if all other factors are equal. BBs work great as well. For me it's a personal preference based on the reasons given. Others differ.

Ron_L
10-05-2011, 04:45 PM
I use spares because you can't get a St. Louis cut Rib out of a Baby Back rib.:doh::tape::wink:

Huh?

We've cooked both over the last 3 years and in that time we've placed first in ribs 6 times and guess what. 3 times it was with spares and 3 times it was with baby backs. To me that says that it really doesn't matter as long as the ribs are cooked properly and have the right balance of flavors that the judges are looking for on that day.

bigzthamoose
10-05-2011, 04:51 PM
ya, makes sense. A team im familiar with has had the same good results with bbs also, so ya, i guess as long as you hit your mark, your good to go?

fnbish
10-05-2011, 05:07 PM
I cook spares in both competition and at home. The reason at home is because they are so much cheaper. The reason for competitions is that we don't compete enough to mess around with a big change like switching rib types :-P. We are finally starting to get consistent with spares. I do like baby backs too occasionally.

Ron_L
10-05-2011, 05:27 PM
I cook spares in both competition and at home. The reason at home is because they are so much cheaper. The reason for competitions is that we don't compete enough to mess around with a big change like switching rib types :-P. We are finally starting to get consistent with spares. I do like baby backs too occasionally.

This is a good point. Cook what you are comfortable with and do it the best that you can. Don't do something just because someone else does it that way. their cooking style or cooker or who-know-what-else are all different and your results may be entirely different.

Lake Dogs
10-05-2011, 05:48 PM
^^^ BINGO. That's IT in a nut shell. Cook what you cook well. If you like spares and cook a mean spare, go with it. I like BB's, and I tend to cook a pretty good BB, and so I compete with 'em.

I do think some sanctioning bodies judges have tendencies towards expectations, and some of that could be regional as well. Meaning, I know it's rare to see a spare in MBN in this area, and same for GBA. However, in KCBS I think it's more like 75% spares (in this area). Your area/region may see something completely different.

HandsomeSwede
10-05-2011, 06:57 PM
Seen teams do well with both. As for the meat/thickness of the ribs:

- BBs come from a section where the tenderloin rests, those thick BBs come from the butcher leaving more of the loin meat on the rib.

- Spares are being cut thinner these days because this is the same section that the belly is drawn from. Thin spares are resulting from the high price of bellies, butchers trying to cut as much belly meat as possible at the expense of the spare rib.

boogiesnap
10-05-2011, 07:30 PM
IMHO, there may be more meat overall on a babyback, but more consistent amount of meat on a spare. thusly, when the judge bites, he gets a nice mouthfull of balanced sauce/rub/foil mix, etc. no matter where the bite come from.

i also think they just taste better. again YMMV, and cook what ya know.

CivilWarBBQ
10-05-2011, 08:01 PM
I think spares taste better.

Loin ribs have that thick end for sure, but to me spares generally have a richer, "porkier" flavor. Or put another way: bacon meat tastes better than pork chop meat.

Pack-A-Smokes
10-05-2011, 08:23 PM
I have had as much luck with one as the other. Each has got me walks in comps. I didn't start using spares until this year with mixed results. I like them both. My biggest problem with bb's is the curverature of the bones makes it more difficult to get them in the box without making a mess on the inside to the lid.

bigzthamoose
10-05-2011, 09:21 PM
ya know, i didnt think of it that way, "bacon tasting better than loin" lol. Good point. The reason i asked was, i have kinda targeted pork and brisket over the summer months in preparation for my rookie season next year, so ribs took the back burner for a while, i still cook em and practice different rubs/ sauce combos, but lately, the size of my spares freakin suck. Its like i get to sink my teeth into a nice, juicy, 1/4" piece of pork. uhhh... not satisfiying and seems not very appealing if i were a judge. Maybe its my source? But the whole pork belly thing makes sense. Thanks everyone. Im best at spares, but the amount i cook them, it wouldnt be hard to turn it any direction.

TheJackal
10-05-2011, 09:26 PM
cook what you cook best. We've tried both this season. For us:

Babies -- 2nd place Wildwood NJ State BBQ Championship plus the Butch "Smack Your Lips" Lupinetti Award for Top Ribs in NJ
Spares -- 7th place Mt Holly

We will continue to cook Babies.

rksylves
10-06-2011, 06:28 AM
That's interesting. I've never turned in a spare. In fact, I've never even cooked one. So far I've done pretty well in comps with BBs and getting better.

I've heard people say before that 'Nobody ever wins with BBs'. That's cool, I'll keep getting better with them and be the only one who turns them in.

As a judge, I'm getting kind of tired of seeing the same chicken thighs in every box. I actually get a little excited when I see legs, drummies, or even (gasp) a breast. Finally, something different. Same deal with BBs. If everybody turns in spares then my ribs will be the one the judges WANT to try because it's different.

Russ

CBQ
10-06-2011, 07:33 AM
Spares have a wider window between, undercooks, done, and overcooked than BB. Also, here in the northeast BB are harder to find. It's hard to find a source for consistent spares, and BB are even more difficult.

JD McGee
10-06-2011, 08:14 AM
All we cook are BB's...I wouldn't let a skinny spare rib near my pit...:twisted::becky::boxing:

Sawdustguy
10-06-2011, 08:55 AM
Huh?

We've cooked both over the last 3 years and in that time we've placed first in ribs 6 times and guess what. 3 times it was with spares and 3 times it was with baby backs. To me that says that it really doesn't matter as long as the ribs are cooked properly and have the right balance of flavors that the judges are looking for on that day.

Ron,

My point was that we like to use a St. Louis cut Rib in competition and we trim spares down to a St. Louis cut. We don't use Baby backs because no matter how hard you try you can't make a Baby Back in to a St. Louis cut Rib. It was my feeble attempt at dry humor.

Candy Sue
10-06-2011, 10:09 AM
I cooked both at the AR - had some nice thick BBs in the freezer and bought a 2 pack of spares at Restaurant Depot in KC. Cooked both with same seasonings (bbs need more, IMO). Let my wing man pick which to turn in -- he picked the babies. It was my best score in the meat categories! I may have to re-think ribs this winter.

HandsomeSwede
10-06-2011, 12:28 PM
As a judge, I'm getting kind of tired of seeing the same chicken thighs in every box. I actually get a little excited when I see legs, drummies, or even (gasp) a breast. Finally, something different. Same deal with BBs. If everybody turns in spares then my ribs will be the one the judges WANT to try because it's different.

Russ

Um, isn't this comparative in nature and kind of against the spirit of judging each respective entry on its own merit?

I would hate to think if I caught you at a table that you might unfavorably prejudge my chicken thighs and score down a bit because you felt like eating white meat that day.

CivilWarBBQ
10-06-2011, 03:31 PM
I think RK's comment was a good testament to one of the "x factors" that can and do affect judges scores. While I don't think these sort of things are responsible when you catch those random sixes or sevens, I believe it's these type of things that can make the difference when a judge is deciding whether to put down and 8 or a 9.

These "x factors" are so hard to anticipate that you really can't attempt to play to it as a cook. Just gotta write it off as another piece of the subjective judging puzzle!

SmokinGuitarPlayer
10-06-2011, 08:05 PM
I did our prep today for comp this weekend. 2 x 3 packs of BB from Sams ..I have cooked these often and they are usually great. Lately, and it happened today, all the racks are trimmed BAD ..they have pieces of the backbone still attached. I practiced with one of these racks earlier this week and when cooked, when I go to cut them ..there is no "straight" "path" between the 2 rib bones ..you can't cut them !! Also, there are these little shards of bones on the ends of the ribs that could fall of or get into someones mouth. Today all 6 racks were horrible ... I went to another store this afternoon and bought 3 racks of Swift 1855 spares ... very nicely trimmed to KS cut, nice and thick without too much fat ..... very nice. So I think the bottom line is, cook the type that you can get high quality ...in my opinion the babybacks available to me here in the Reading Pa area has really hit bottom so spares are what we're gonna cook.
FB/SGP

Pack-A-Smokes
10-06-2011, 09:27 PM
As a judge, I'm getting kind of tired of seeing the same chicken thighs in every box. I actually get a little excited when I see legs, drummies, or even (gasp) a breast. Finally, something different. Same deal with BBs. If everybody turns in spares then my ribs will be the one the judges WANT to try because it's different.

Russ

We tried the leg thing and well...placing in the bottom 10% is not what we were after when we did. We went with the idea that judges were getting tired of thighs and would like seeing something else. WE WERE WRONG! After three comps, we went back to thighs and started getting calls again.

Iamarealbigdog
10-07-2011, 01:56 PM
Just for a point of reference Baby Backs took third at the Jack last year

177.1 out of 180 and only 2 poins from first.

Southern Home Boy
10-07-2011, 07:52 PM
Spares have a wider window between, undercooks, done, and overcooked than BB. Also, here in the northeast BB are harder to find. It's hard to find a source for consistent spares, and BB are even more difficult.
This exactly why I do spares. They're more forgiving IMHO.