If you are a BBQ connoisseur or enthusiast, then you have made a few trips to the grocery store for ribs during BBQ season.
You’ve noticed how difficult it is to determine portion sizes, especially when it comes to ribs.
This leads one to ask the question of how many ribs are on a rack. Read on to find out.
How Many Ribs in a Rack
Depending on the species of animal, pigs can have 15-16 ribs, and cows can have 13 ribs.
However, the number of ribs you get when you purchase a rack from the grocery store can differ.
For example, a whole rack of pork ribs can have 10-13 ribs, while a whole rack of beef ribs can have as many as 9 ribs.
On the other hand, a rack of lamb ribs may contain 7-8 loin chops.
Ribs come in multiple shapes and forms. Even if you are a pork rib enthusiast, chances are you will have to decide between 2-3 types of ribs.
Spare ribs are carved from the breast bone. Spare ribs have a high-fat content. The meat can be chewy if it is not cooked slowly over a period of time.
Spare ribs are affordable ribs and will give you a decent amount of meat. On average, a rack of spare ribs has about 11-13 ribs.
In contrast, St. Louis ribs, a trimmed type of spare ribs, boast 10-13 ribs on each rack.
Rib tips which are simply the meat that was carved from spare ribs to fabricate St. Louis ribs, are 1-3 inches in width and up to a foot in length.
Rib tips may be called brisket. However, it is not referring to brisket, the cut of beef. If you want to know what brisket is, check out our detailed guide.
Rib tips must be cooked correctly unless they will be chewy and tough as nails. For this reason, most BBQ enthusiasts avoid rib tips like the plague.
However, with a little marinating or sous vide cooking, rib tips can be transformed into a tender cut of beef.
Back ribs, popularly known as baby back ribs, are carved from the upper spinal portion of the pig. The term baby alludes to the fact they the ribs are smaller than spare ribs.
Baby back ribs are more tender and leaner than spare ribs, which means they have a shorter cooking time. Furthermore, you may also see back ribs labeled as loin back ribs.
Unfortunately, when the back ribs are carved from the big, a few ribs remain attached to the shoulder.
Back ribs have more ribs than the ones fabricated from the lower region of the animal.
On average, a rack of baby back ribs will have 15-16 ribs. However, a rack of baby back ribs may also contain as little as 8 ribs.
Since we are talking about ribs, we cannot leave lamb ribs or rack of lamb out. Generally, a rack of lamb has 8 ribs.
Nevertheless, similarly to pork ribs, the butcher determines the number of ribs a rack of lamb has.
Therefore, you may end up with more or fewer ribs depending on whom you purchase them from.
Additionally, lamb ribs usually feature the chop as well as the loin meat near the top.
However, some BBQ experts trim away most of the extra fat as well as some of the meat from the bone.
This allows them to create a lamb lollipop. This strategic trimming also serves two other purposes.
It enhances the lamb chops presentation and gives the individual something to grab onto while they are devouring their delicious lamb.
Although beef ribs are deliciously flavorful, the entire rack is seldom sold. This is due to their gigantic size. Some beef ribs can be as long as 18 inches.
A cow has 13 ribs on both sides that run from the breast bone up the length of the backbone.
A few beef ribs are left behind after the carving process. However, a butcher can still get a full rack of beef ribs consisting of 9 ribs.
These ribs are almost always carved from the middle region.
Even though beef ribs are not the cheapest rib on the market, they are considerably cheaper than their lamb or baby back counterparts.
Unfortunately, beef ribs feature a large bone which decreased the yield per pound. Nevertheless, the yield is balanced by their larger-than-life beefy flavor.
Similar to their pork counterparts, beef ribs are fabricated into two different cuts. The back ribs, also known as dinosaur ribs, range from 6-8 inches long.
Dinosaur ribs are typically sold with 7 ribs, but the quantity depends on the butcher’s discretion.
The top of the beef rack will not have a significant portion of meat on top of the ribs.
Nonetheless, there will be plenty of meat to make up for it between the rib’s individual bones.
In contrast, beef short ribs are broken down into strips that contain 3 bones.
Short ribs are also referred to as BBQ-style or flanken-style short ribs and are almost always braised.
Sort ribs, frequently called short plate ribs because the bones are very flat, feature a few inches of meat on top.
Ultimately, what distinguishes beef short ribs from beef back ribs is their size.
What’s a Cheater Rack?
Unlike the name suggests, a cheater rack is not what you think. A cheater rack actually refers to racks of ribs with less than 10 ribs.
Racks of ribs with less than 10 ribs usually sustain some damage during the butchering process.
Due to this, most consumers feel like they are being cheated out of their money’s worth of ribs, hence the term cheater rack.
Nevertheless, because ribs are usually sold by the pound, this term is an inaccurate assumption.
Even though it is okay to count the number of ribs on a rack to ensure you have enough to feed your family before purchasing it, keep in mind that you are paying for the amount of meat you buy.
How Many Ribs Is a Half Rack?
A half rack of ribs is a common occurrence of ribs. However, how many ribs does a half rack of ribs consist of?
As previously mentioned, a pig has 15-16 ribs. Therefore a half rack of ribs would consist of 7-8 ribs.
However, this amount depends on the butcher as well as if the racks sustained damage during the butchering process.
Nevertheless, you can count the ribs in a half-rack of ribs before you purchase them.
In contrast, expect to receive 3-8 ribs if you are purchasing them from a restaurant.
How Many Ribs per Person
We’ve got a rough estimate of how many ribs a whole rack, as well as a half rack of ribs, may have.
However, we still have not answered one very important question. How many ribs per person?
On average, an entire rack of spare ribs can give you 2-3 servings per person.
This amounts to 4-5 ribs per person if the rack has 13 ribs. This will be sufficient for 3 adult dinner guests.
On the other hand, if you are serving baby back ribs, you need to add a few more ribs for each person.
Baby back ribs are smaller than spare ribs, so they will not have the same amount of meat as their counterparts.
When it comes to baby back ribs, estimate 6-7 ribs per person.
In regard to beef ribs, you can decrease the number of beef ribs per person. Estimate about 2-3 beef ribs for each dinner guest.
If you are serving short ribs, 2-3 ribs are sufficient per person. Because short ribs are sold in threes, it is easier to practice portion control.
When it comes to lamb ribs, they are different from their pork and beef counterparts. Lamb shrinks considerably when it is cooked.
Even though they may have looked plentiful when you purchased the rack, purchase more lamb than you think you need.
Although it seems like a lot, 4 ribs will only be enough to satiate one person.
Therefore make sure you factor 4 per person into the equation when purchasing lamb.
Unfortunately, there is no definite amount of ribs a package will have when you purchase it.
It truly depends on the type of rib you purchase as well as the size of the animal the ribs were carved from.
If you want a cost-effective way to serve ribs at your next BBQ party, beef ribs are the way to go.
The yield is high, and they are not as expensive as baby back ribs or lamb ribs.
Alternatively, you can also purchase spare ribs as they are also very affordable.
However, lamb ribs and baby back ribs might be limited to special occasions since the amount per person will be higher.
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.