Ribs are some of the most popular foods seen at a barbecue not only because of how easily they can be prepared and cooked up, but also for their smokey taste that is bursting with flavor and guaranteed to satisfy all guests who are meat lovers.
With ribs you also get a wide choice of different variants to mix up the taste and flavor, whether it’s leaner pork ribs that are more adjacent to a pork chop, or beef ribs that taste closer to a steak or brisket, the choice is yours.
Ribs are a unique dish however because they are all composed into one rack which can come in a variety of sizes and can sometimes make this delicious treat a bit harder to divide amongst a group of people, which can be especially troublesome if you’re hosting a barbecue and have a particular number of guests arriving.
To make this job easier, we have taken a deep dive into rib rack sizes and the best ways to serve a rack of ribs so no one gets too little of a portion.
How Many Ribs Are In A Rack?
While each rack consists of at least a few ribs, depending on what type of ribs you pick up the number and actual meat content can vary quite a bit so it can be important to know how many are in each rack so you can pick up the option that will provide enough meat for how many guests you are hosting.
Pork Ribs Rack
Regular pork rack ribs are known for having some of the most amount of ribs with a rack usually being from 10 to 13.
While pigs have 14 rib bones, one or two of the bones are often left on the shoulder when it’s removed from the loin, which is why the standard market pork rack will consist of 13 ribs that have a fair amount of meat and are full of juicy flavor.
Beef Ribs Rack
Standard beef ribs are just behind this with a full rack often containing anywhere from 9 to 12 ribs.
These ribs are taken from the middle section of the animal, however while the steer has 13 bones from each side, a few of the ribs are left behind in the butchering process which usually leaves 9 ribs for a standard rack.
There are also beef short ribs which have far smaller meat portions from the chuck section of the animal that are too small to be cooked as regular steaks.
Because they are a lot smaller, a rack will usually consist of 5 short ribs.
Lamb Ribs Rack
Despite being a slim cut with a very unique and memorable flavor, lamb racks actually come in fairly small portions having 7 to 8 ribs.
This is still enough to really bring out the delicious and tender flavor of lamb ribs which are often matched with other treats such as mint jelly to cut down some of the fatness,
Baby Back Ribs Rack
Beef back ribs are a little different because the meat is intercostal, meaning it is more between the bones rather than resting on top making the meat a lot smaller, however despite having a bit less meat a beef back rack will usually have 8 to 13 ribs.
Because of how many ribs actually come in a baby back rack and how easy they are to cook up and digest, they are a great option for one person to eat or to share among a few people with just one single rack.
Spare Rack Of Ribs
Spare ribs are a little more meaty than a baby rack of ribs though their number can vary anywhere between 7 and 13 ribs in a rack, with spare ribs it all depends on how thick each of the bones are cut to determine how many ribs will be left.
Half Rack Of Ribs
The half-rack, which is usually served as a thick and tasty appetizer, will often contain 6 to 8 ribs in a rack with each bone being about an inch in thickness.
Half racks are actually an excellent substitute for a full rack of ribs because they still provide plenty of meat per portion without being too big so you can ensure you won’t have too much left over but still enough for everyone to have enough of a tasty treat to snack on.
Cheater racks are usually racks that have become damaged in some way usually from the amount of burning that occurs throughout the butchering process which gives it its name because customers feel as if they have been ‘cheated’ out of the full rack of ribs.
These racks will contain fewer than 10 ribs making them on the smaller side, but still bursting with flavor.
Serving Sizes For Each Rack
With such a variety of racks on the market each with their own set of flavors and number of ribs, it can be a good idea to know which racks will be the best option depending on the amount of guests you are having.
Here are some of the best serving sizes for each type of ribs.
Pork Ribs Rack
Because they are full of juicy flavor and can be quite thick for each rib, you won’t need to serve any more than 4 ribs for each person and since a single rack can contain up to 13 ribs, one rack will be enough to feed up to 3 people.
Pork ribs are probably the best choice when you have a large amount of guests because for their price you get the most quantity without sacrificing any flavor.
Baby Back Ribs
As mentioned previously, baby back ribs are known for being plentiful in their actual portions, but have far less meat on their bones than other racks.
Because of this, it is usually advised to serve each person around 6 ribs each just so they can get their adequate fill of ribs and won’t eat through them too quickly.
One rack consisting of 12 or 13 ribs will feed around 2 people making them perfect as a minimal but delicious treat for smaller gatherings.
Spare ribs tend to be a little meatier than baby racks, however when extracted from the animal they are usually trimmed down a bit so they still maintain a slender and thin appearance and texture.
They do however possess a much higher fat content than baby back ribs which makes them extremely flavourful when cooked and also means they can be prepared very quickly because of how flat they are.
A spare ribs rack will usually consist of anywhere between 7 and 13 ribs and while they have enough flavourful meat to feed around 3 people and are great for a medium sized barbecue, spare ribs are slightly more expensive so keep this in mind when considering them.
Beef Rack Ribs
Standard beef rack ribs are one of the most common ways of eating ribs but this is for good reason since they are known for being very lean, but still contains a high amount of beef that when properly cooked, makes them both juicy and delicious.
Because of how lean they are and contain much less fat than other ribs, they are also a great option for guests who may not want to be eating too many fatty foods but still want some delicious snacks when they arrive.
When it comes to serving portions, because they are a bit thicker and can contain quite a bit of juice it is usually recommended to serve just 2 to 3 ribs per person.
With 9 to 12 ribs in a single rack, beef ribs can serve up to 4 people making them some of the best options in terms of quantity and feeding a lot of guests at once.
Lamb ribs are often a bit thicker and weightier with even one rib being enough to satisfy a person’s taste buds, however just to make sure everyone gets enough, it can be a good idea to serve 2 lamb ribs for each person.
A single rack is made up of 7 to 8 ribs making lamb ribs some of the most plentiful and tasty options that are the best choice if you don’t want to buy too many ribs overall and want to feed up to 4 people with one purchase.
Best Serving Options
The number of ribs in each separate rack vary widely in number and flavor, and since planning ahead of time is incredibly important when preparing a barbeque, it can be a good idea to know the best serving options for your amount of people.
If you are expecting a large number of guests and know that all, or at least most of them, are going to want to try some tasty ribs, then lamb and beef rack ribs are the best option with a single rack of each feeding up to 4 people meaning you won’t have to buy too many depending on the amount of people.
Standard beef rack ribs are also a great option for a lot of guests that are also very lean making for a trimmer but still delicious choice.
Baby rack ribs and spare ribs are the best options for medium sized gatherings of 10 people or less with a single rack feeding around 3 people with both types being a bit more slender and thinner but great as a fresh tasty treat.
It’s also important to keep in mind other specifications particularly your side dishes and how filling you feel they will be, for example small salads and grilled veggies can be light and even served alongside the ribs, while potato salad or cheesy pasta dishes can be a bit more filling.
You could also have other light meat options being served such as chicken wings and brisket and if so, you will need to decide if the ribs are going to be a main dish or if they will come secondary to other meat options.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Average Amount Of Ribs For Each Person?
Of course this majorly depends on how much you think your guests will want to snack on some ribs when they arrive.
If you have a bigger group and you know for sure that all your guests are going to want to enjoy feasting on some ribs, then it can be a good idea to buy more racks than are recommended just so that everyone is adequately fed.
However, if you just want to serve ribs without worrying about buying them in massive bulk and how much everyone will eat, the general rule of thumb is to cook up 3 to 4 ribs per person.
This is usually a good amount for guests to get their fill of ribs but not be too full so they can move onto other foods.
Also keep in mind that as any barbecue enthusiast will tell you, planning in advance is key to making a good amount of food variety for each person.
For example, pay attention to how many side dishes you have and how big they are.
If the side dishes are more plentiful or are quite heavy and come in bigger portions, then you may not need as many ribs or meat in general to satisfy the guests.
Racked ribs can come in quite a wide variety of servings depending on which kind you decide to get, which leaves you with a huge array of options no matter how many guests you are having around for a barbecue whether it’s a big family gathering, or just a small get together with a few friends.