You can expect 10-13 ribs in a full pork rack, while you generally will get 8-9 ribs in a full beef rack, and around 8 ribs from full lamb racks. But of course, how many ribs you get depends on how your butcher has cut the meat – you might end up with a cheater rack, so there can be 2 less (more on this later).
My friends love it when I make pork ribs – I’m pretty much on duty for it for all of our pot-lucks. But there’s usually a lot of us hanging out, so I have to be extra mindful of how many ribs to get. I’ve been using the rough estimates I mentioned earlier, and so far, I’ve always had enough ribs per person.
So, today, I thought about running through exactly how many ribs you’ll need for a person, and a few other added information, like how many racks you’ll need to buy.
How Many Ribs Are There in a Rack?
A full rack of ribs is essentially all the ribs that you can expect in one rack, while a half rack (like its name suggests) is only half the amount. You usually only see ‘ a half rack’ in restaurants but they’re also in butcher shops sometimes.
If you’re going to buy a full rack of pork ribs, you get around 10-13 individual ribs. But if you’re going for beef or lamb, you expect around 8 in them, usually.
The thing is, the above numbers aren’t always set in stone. Just like there are full and half rack portions, there’s also something called a cheater rack – it’s when your butcher gives you a little less than an entire rack: This happens when ribs in a rack get damaged during the butchering process.
Although they’re called ‘cheater’ racks, you aren’t getting cheated. Remember that you buy ribs per pound. So, you’ll still be paying the right amount for the ribs in a rack that you get.
But apart from this, there’s a bit more information that I’d like to dive into. So, I thought about discussing how many ribs you’ll get in a rack for different meats, as detailed below:
1. Pork Rib Racks
Baby Back Pork Ribs
Baby back ribs are taken from the pig’s rib cage beneath the loin muscle. When people talk about pork ribs, they’re usually talking about baby back ribs – it’s arguably the most popular type.
You can expect around 10-13 ribs in a full rack of baby back ribs. Just keep in mind that back ribs are leaner, so the meat won’t be the juiciest.
Also, if you’re wondering, no, you don’t get baby back ribs from baby pigs. This moniker stuck because it has fewer bones than the other pork rib type, spare ribs.
Pork Spare Rib Cuts
Pork spare ribs are taken from the pork belly, so there’s a lot of fat and meat in them. I’d have to say that they’re my favorite type of pork rib because of how much more meat they have. Generally speaking, you get around 11 ribs in a full rack of spare ribs (so there’ll be around 5 in a half rack).
While on the topic of pork spare ribs, I also have to talk about St. Louis-style spare ribs. St. Louis ribs are a type of spare rib that’s more trimmed down. You get a nice, uniform cookout of St. Louis-style ribs as they have all the tough cartilage and fat removed from their rib rack.
2. Beef Rib Racks
Beef Back Ribs
Beef back ribs are taken from the upper-back section of the cow (behind the shoulder). If you’re a pit-master, you’d know that this is also where you get prime rib roasts from. The prime rib roast is actually what’s left when you take the back ribs out.
The thing is, there really isn’t much meat on the top of these beef ribs. However, you get a good amount between each rib piece. Also, the meat from this section is kind of lean.
You can expect around 8-9 ribs in a full beef rib rack – each rib measures around 8 inches, if you’re wondering.
Beef Short Rib
You might also know beef short ribs as short plate ribs or dinosaur ribs. They’re taken from the lower part of a cow’s rib cage (along the breast bone), so they’re thick and fatty.
There’s a variety of different sizes that you can get short ribs in. Keep the dish you’re making in mind before speaking to your butcher.
3. Lamb Rack
Unlike pork and beef ribs, there’s really only one type of lamb rib that you can get – it’s taken from along the back and rib bones of the sheep. At the end of the day, how many ribs you get in a full rack of lamb can differ, but it’s usually around 8.
Also, the tops of the lamb ribs are usually trimmed to expose the rib tips: it works really well for garnishing.
Can You Substitute the Rib Type That You Use?
I’d say that the different types of pork ribs are fairly interchangeable with each other. But you have to keep in mind how many ribs you get in baby back ribs compared to spare ribs. There are fewer ribs in a full rack of spare ribs compared to baby back ribs (around 2 to be exact), so keep in mind the dish and how many people you’re going to be feeding.
If you’re going to be swapping different meat types, like pork with beef or lamb ribs, I don’t think that this will work. Remember that the taste of them can vary completely, as lamb tastes more robust compared to pork.
Plus, the cooking process for all 3 of them is naturally not the same, since they each come with their own thickness and size. I really like medium done and have found that you can cook beef at 159.8 F for 45-50 minutes for the perfect medium done. While cooking lamb, you’ll have to set the temperature at 159.8 F for 50-55 minutes, and pork for 40-45 minutes at 150 F.
Of course, this is a very simplified example, as the times change depending on how many pounds of meat you’re dealing with.
Answered below are some popular questions.
1. How Many People Can Your Ribs Feed?
Typically, you will need 5-6 baby back ribs or 3-4 spare ribs for a person. For beef ribs, you’ll need 3-4 back beef ribs or one whole beef short plate rib for an individual. While for lamb, you’ll need around 2-4 lamb ribs per person.
If you’re on a budget and can’t afford to buy a full rack, you can always add more side dishes to the meal. You don’t have to go too crazy with it, as simple dishes like potato salads and collard greens would work well. Also, you can serve the ribs with really hearty buns – I’d suggest going with potato buns.
You might be able to get away with not serving as many ribs if you have kids at your event – they probably won’t be able to eat that much. I’ve been able to get away with just giving them 3-4 baby backs instead of 5-6 like I would an adult.
2. How Many Racks of Ribs Do I Need for 10 Adults?
It naturally depends on the type of meat that you’re talking about. To make this simpler, let’s also assume you’re talking about a full rack. If you’re going to be serving pork, you’ll need at least 5-6 full racks regardless of if you’re going to be serving baby back ribs or just spare ribs. You’ll need around the same amount for beef ribs too.
In terms of lamb ribs, you get 8-9 ribs in a rack, and you only need 2-4 of them per person. So, you can get away with 3-4 full racks.
You generally will get 10-13 ribs from a full rack of pork ribs. But sometimes, you can get a little less than 10 – it’s called a cheater rack and will have less because of something going wrong during the butchering process. When it comes to beef and lamb ribs, you can expect 8-9 rib bones in a full rack, instead. There’s also something called a half rack, which is basically half the amount in a full rack.
Also, keep in mind that when it comes to spare ribs, you can get it in the St. Louis ribs style. It’s a more trimmed-down version of the cut: all the tough cartilage and excess fat is removed from it for a more uniform cook!