If you are planning a large BBQ event, you may be wondering what the suitable serving size of ribs is.
Read on to find out what the appropriate serving size is, how many ribs in a rack are there, what are the types of ribs, as well as what a half rack is.
How many ribs are in a rack?
The answer to this question is – it depends on the type of ribs and on the animal they come from.
Pigs have 15 or 16 ribs depending on their breed, cows have 13 ribs, but the number of ribs in a rack can be different.
A full pork rack usually has 10 to 13 ribs, a full beef rack contains 9 ribs, and a full lamb rack has 7-8 loin ribs.
The different types of pork ribs
There are several different types of pork ribs to keep in mind when planning your menu.
These are the ribs that are cut from the breast bone of the animal. They have fatty, and in some cases, chewy meat and are best cooked low and slow and after being marinated.
Spare ribs are fairly inexpensive but yield quite a lot of meat per rib.
An average spare rib rack consists of 11-13 ribs.
A trimmed-down version of the spare ribs is known as St. Louis ribs and has 10-13 ribs per rack. The trimmed parts leftover from making the St. Louis rib cut are known as rib tips, which are 1-3 inches wide, and can be up to 1 foot long.
Back ribs, also known as baby back ribs, are from the upper backbone area of the animal. They are tenderer and leaner than the spare ribs, making them faster to cook and more preferred by pitmasters.
A typical rack of back ribs contains 15-16 ribs. Baby back ribs are from the same part of the animal but come from smaller animals, and as such, usually consist of fewer ribs.
This is a pork rib rack that contains less than 10 ribs, usually due to mistakes or damage during the butchering of the animal. The quality of the ribs is the same, and while the ribs are fewer than in a regular rack, you will be paying only for the meat that you are getting, so it is not actually cheating.
Related: How to Remove the Membrane from Pork Ribs, And Why Should We Do It!
How many ribs are there in a half-rack?
As the name of the cut suggests, half-rack contains half of the full rack of ribs. So you can expect a half rack to consist of 7 or 8 ribs. It could have less if the ribs suffered damage during the butchering.
When ordering half a rack in a restaurant, you can expect to be served 3-8 ribs.
Beef ribs and racks
Beef ribs are delicious but can rarely be seen offered in full racks due to their enormous size.
A full beef rack includes 13 ribs on each side, and they can reach a length of 18 inches and more.
A full rack of beef ribs usually contains 9 ribs from the middle section of the animal.
They are less expensive than many of the other beef cuts, but they do contain a lot of heavy bones and less meat too.
Still, they are delicious when prepared properly.
The different beef rib cuts include the 6-8 inch long back ribs (aka dinosaur ribs), which include 7 ribs per strip and meat in between the bones.
The other cut is beef short ribs which usually consist of 3 bones with an abundance of meat in between them. This cut is also popular as flanken-style or BBQ-style and is preferred for making braised recipes.
A lamb rib chop includes a long thin bone with a morsel of meat from the loin muscle on the tip. It is usually served frenched (the meat and fat completely cleaned off of the bone) and looks like a meat lollipop.
A full rack of lamb ribs usually consists of 7-8 ribs.
What are the suitable average serving sizes for ribs
When planning an event, it is crucial to plan how much food you will need to buy and prepare. The same goes for when you are planning on treating your guests with ribs. How much do you need to buy and make, so that everyone is happy and so that you don’t end up with too many leftovers?
Here are the average portion sizes for different types of ribs.
Serving size for pork ribs
An average portion of ribs for an adult is 4-5 ribs per person. Since one rack contains 13 ribs, you can expect that a pork rack is enough for feeding 3 adults.
If you are making and serving baby back ribs, then you should add more ribs per person as they are smaller and have less meat. The average portion size of baby back ribs is about 6-7 ribs per adult.
Serving size for beef ribs
The average portion size of back beef ribs is 2-3 ribs per adult. The same goes for the beef short ribs. Since the cuts are usually sold in racks of 3 ribs, you should plan on buying and making one for each of your adult guests.
Serving size for lamb ribs
The average portion size for a rack of lamb is 4 rib chops per adult. Remember that even if the rack of lamb looks like it has a lot of meat, the actual meat will shrink when it is cooked.
Tips for calculating the serving sizes
There are many other factors to consider when planning on the amount of food you should buy, prepare and serve to the guests of an event.
Some of these factors include:
- What time of day is the event – if it is in the evening, the guests will most likely be hungrier and eat more than in the afternoon.
- What type of event is it – if you are planning a sit-down dinner or meal, then you should expect your guests to eat a lot more than if you are inviting friends over for a casual get-together.
- The age of your guests – if your event will have a lot of children guests, then you should plan much smaller portions for the young ones as compared to the adults.
- The other food and sides – planning the right amount of meat you will be prepared to depend on the side dishes you will be serving. If the meat is the main event and the sides are light salads, then you should plan on making more ribs or meat. If you are serving a very wide assortment of filling side dishes, then you can safely plan on cooking smaller amounts of meat.
- Will, there be alcohol – people tend to eat more when there is a lot of drinking involved.
- Are any of your guests’ vegetarians or vegans
Related article: How Much Meat Per Person? BBQ Planning Guide
In the end, it is clear that there is no one right answer to the question – how many ribs in a rack?
Still, hopefully, we have helped you understand what the different types of ribs are, how many ribs to expect when buying a full or half rack, and how many racks should you plan on buying and making for feeding a certain amount of guests.
Our opinion is that beef back ribs are among the ribs which offer the best bang for the buck given their low price, impressive size, and sufficient meat.
Good luck with your menu planning, and we wish you a successful event with many happy guests!