How Many Racks Of Ribs Per Person

by | Feb 2, 2023 | Barbecue, Smoker | 0 comments

Being the host calls for getting a sufficient amount of meat per person to enjoy and savor! Most items are easy to calculate, but something bigger with lots of pieces like ribs can make the issue tricky. Ribs are generally served in a few numbers as appetizers with alcohol, but ribs are the main dish, more will be needed. 

In a small house party or gathering, one rack of ribs (around 10 to 13 ribs) for a person should be okay. However, if there are a lot of people for dinner, only a few (around 4-5) should be enough to suffice one person. This is the average for pork spare ribs, but if you are cooking beef or lamb, how many ribs per adult will differ. 

Read on to know more!

How Many Types Of Ribs In A Rack?

When you get a rack of ribs, you generally get around 8 to 12 ribs each, depending on the kind you choose. 

In pork, there are up to 8 to 13 ribs on the back and 15 to 16 when cut from the loin, lamb has up to 9 to 16 if cut perpendicularly from the spine, and full beef has up to 10 to 13 ribs in a rack depending on where it is cut from. 

  1. Beef Ribs

Beef ribs are usually luxurious food, as they tend to be more expensive. They can be good for a small crowd, and come in three trim cuts – back ribs, chuck short ribs, and beef back ribs. 

Back Ribs: These come from the dorsal area of the shoulders which you can obtain after you remove the rib roast. The meat is generally in between the bones instead of being on the top, meaning that there is less amount to eat. 

Short Plate Ribs: Short plate ribs are higher in fat content and come from the primal area on the short plate (near the end of the brisket). They are usually offered in three servings and are the costliest portion of the animal. 

Chuck Short Ribs: These come from the chuck primal area, right on the upper area of the brisket. They also generally come in three a pack and are moist, tender, and rich. 

  1. Lamb Ribs

Lamb ribs are generally smaller when compared to beef and pork, and come directly from the rib area of the animal. There are two sections and sold in halves, so if you’ve ever tried to find a ‘whole’ lamb at stores, you will see that it will often be referred to as a ‘double rack’ of lamb. They are also often called lamb chops. 

  1. Pork Ribs  

Pork ribs are the most common image of what people mean when they say ‘ribs’ and they are mainly cut in three styles depending on which part of the pig they are from – back, spare, and country style. 

Baby Back Ribs: These ribs are taken from the upper area of the pig – usually the loin – the muscle which is along the back and on both sides of the spine. They are usually small and tender in texture. 

Spare Ribs: Spare ribs are cut from the lower area of the ribs – the underbelly where the baby back ribs end. This is also the portion from where you cut bacon and pork belly. They can come either as a full slab or are cut into St. Louis style (removing the flap, costal cartilage, and sternum). 

Country Style Ribs: These are usually boneless and are cut from the shoulder area that is fatty and muscular. When there is a bone, it is usually the shoulder blade. 

How Many Ribs To Cook Per Person?

Trust me, there have been times when I’ve cooked too many ribs! 

Now, since there are three different kinds of rib racks, the amount of meat per person you need to prepare also differs according to the kind of meat you are serving. 

  1. Pork Rib Racks

A good amount of meat per person to serve a person in a meal of pork ribs is around 3 to 4 spare ribs a plate along with some good side dishes. Baby back pork ribs are smaller in size, so the average serving size would be around 5 to 6 on each plate. 

With this rule of thumb, a good way to know how many rib racks to buy per adult is 1 rack of spare ribs for 3 to 4 people and 1 rack of baby backs for every 2 people. 

  1. Beef Rib Racks

Beef ribs are larger than pork ribs, and also more expensive so the amount of meat per person to buy and your budget will have to be adjusted accordingly.

One serving of beef back ribs would be around 3 to 4 ribs for each person, while beef short plate ribs, which are bigger, can satiate one guest with just 1 rib in each serving size. As for beef chuck short ribs, only 1 to 2 ribs per person would be enough food for all your guests. 

So when calculating how many racks to buy, take it as a general rule that 1 rack of beef back would have 1 – 2 servings, short plate ribs would have 3 servings, and chuck short ribs would have 1 – 2 servings. 

  1. Lamb Rib Racks

The number of lamb ribs to serve per person also depends on the breed of animal you are using.  If you bought American lamb, then around 2 ribs per person would be enough while New Zealand or Australian lamb will be needed to serve as 4 per person. 

Hence, since lamb rib racks have around 16 ribs or chops, then the number of racks to be bought can be calculated as 4 servings per rack in the case of a double rack. 

How Many Ribs To Cook Per Person?

There is a standard rule when buying meat – get ½ pound per adult or ¾ pound for those with larger appetites. This does not work very well for ribs, as a whole pound of ribs would only make for up to 1 – 1½ servings and since they are individual pieces, you cannot count ribs through pounds per person. 

With the fact that 3 to 4 ribs per person are a decent amount of meat for one serving of ribs, you’ll want to count the number of ribs in the rack you are buying. If there are around 10 – 13 ribs, you will be able to give about 3 servings per rack so that there is enough food for everyone. 

Factors To Consider When Buying Rib Racks

How many ribs per person would also depend on how you are serving it! There are certain things to take into account when you are getting rib racks for your meal. 

  1. Time Of The Day For Serving 

Generally, if you are serving rib racks for lunch and do not know how long they will stay, it is better to balance out your amount of meat with other small dishes as well. As for dinner, demographics suggest that people tend to consume more during this hour, so you should always get extra for the event!

  1. Side Dishes And Other Meat

When on a budget, you can get other meat items as well to accompany a certain number of ribs for an affordable meal. If there are more side dishes, there will be less of a need for more ribs. Additionally, if you are serving dessert, you might want to lessen the amount you are serving so there is space for the sweet treat. 

Planning a structured meal along with dessert would leave your family and friends satisfied. Go for lighter side dishes like coleslaw or green salad if ribs are the main dish, and with heavier ones like a creamy potato salad if not. 

  1. Availability Of Alcohol

As per my experience, when people drink more, they tend to eat more. So, you will need more servings of ribs if you plan to have alcohol. Considering buying around 15 – 20% more if you are throwing a party. 

Additional Tips For Serving Rib Racks

When cooking meat like ribs at a big dinner or buffet you’ll want to serve a complete meal with well-cooked ribs, drinks, and lots of sides to go. 

Whether it is an outdoor barbecue in your backyard or a BBQ dinner over Christmas, the following are a few tips to help you serve the best meal ever. 

  • If you set the table buffet-style, you will be able to coordinate how your guests go about eating the meal. Putting secondary meats like sausages, fried chicken wings or chicken poppers will help save the ribs for the last, letting your guest get to the main dish last. 
  • If you are serving any condiments, prepare your sauce and side dishes a day before as ribs take a long to cook. Some great side dishes that go well with rib racks are potato salads, baked beans, and coleslaw. 

Related Questions

  1. How Many Ribs In A Full Rack? 

There are a minimum of 8 ribs in a pork rib rack and can go up to 10 to 13 ribs, which is the commercial quantity of pork ribs. Beef racks can be expected to have anything around 8 to 13 ribs in a full rack and lamb usually has around 16 if cut from the spine. 

  1. How Many Ribs In A Half Rack? 

Generally, a half rack of pork ribs will have around 5 to 6 rib bones, beef rib racks will be 6 to 8 ribs, and 5 to 6 individual rib bones in lamb rib racks. 

  1. How Big Is A Full Rack Of Ribs?

A full rack of ribs is usually around 1½ – 2 pounds heavy, beef rib racks will be around 4 – 5 pounds while the lamb is only about 1¼ pounds. 

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, a good amount of ribs to serve per adult would be around six in case of baby back ribs, four to five if there are spare ribs, and two or three if you are going to cook beef back ribs. 

This number is just right for providing your guests with enough food to be satisfied as well as relish the flavor of the meat. Happy grilling!




Colin has been grilling, smoking, and barbecuing in his yard for as long as he remembers.  His favorite dish is pork belly smoked on his favorite offset smoker. Read more about Colin here.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *