How Many Ribs per Person? Amount Explained

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
May 6, 2022

When it comes to serving ribs for your family and friends, it can be tough to figure out how many ribs to offer per person.

In general, pork ribs will have the following serving sizes:

  • Baby Back Ribs: 1-2 servings or a 1/2 rack per person or 5 or 6 ribs.
  • Spare Ribs: 3-4 servings or 3 or 4 ribs per person

With that said, there are a number of different factors to consider like the types of sides you're serving and if you intend to offer more than just ribs.

How Many Ribs in a Rack of Ribs?

A typical slab or full rack of pork ribs will have between 10-13 ribs; Meaning, a half rack of ribs is between 5-6 ribs.

pork rib count

Different Types of Pork Ribs

When most people hear that "ribs" are on the menu, they'll almost always assume it's pork.

There are two main types of pork ribs: baby backs and spares.

Baby Back Ribs

If you hear someone say they "like ribs" and they're not a person who does barbecue, I'd wager to say they are referring to baby back ribs.

baby back ribs serving size

This isn't a coincidence either; Baby back ribs are marketed really well. Meaning, most people have heard of them.

Baby back ribs come from the upper portion of the pig's rib cage - where the ribs and spine meet.

In general, baby back ribs are smaller and more tender than spare ribs. The reason they're more "tender" is become they're essentially loin meat on a bone - hence "loin" back ribs.

Due to their smaller size, a typical serving of baby back ribs is a 1/2 rack or 5 or 6 ribs.

Spare Ribs

Folks who do barbecue would likely tell you that they prefer spare ribs to baby back ribs.

In general, spare ribs are meatier and have more flavor than baby back ribs (due to having more fat).

pork spare ribs serving size

Spare ribs come from the bottom of the ribs, or the underbelly of the pig; Where the pork belly and bacon come from.

Spare ribs can come as a whole slab or can be trimmed to a St. Louis Cut. The St. Louis Cut simply removes the sternum, costal cartilage, and flap.

Due to their larger size, a typical serving size of pork spare ribs is 3 or 4 ribs.

What About Beef Ribs?

Most folks reading this article are likely serving pork ribs. The main reason for that is because beef ribs are expensive.

However, if you're only cooking for a few people, they are definitely worth making.

There are a few different types of beef ribs, namely: beef plate short ribs, beef chuck short ribs, and beef back ribs.

To quickly summarize serving sizes:

  • Beef back ribs: 1 or 2 servings or 3 or 4 ribs per person.
  • Beef Short Plate Ribs: 3 servings or 1 rib per person
  • Beef chuck short ribs: 1 or 2 servings or 1 or 2 ribs per person

Beef Back Ribs

Back ribs come from the dorsal area of the steer. They come from the rib primal after the rib roast has been removed.

Unlike other types of beef ribs, the meat is intercostal - between the bones - rather than on top. Due to shrinkage, there is also very little meat.

beef back ribs servings

If anything beef back ribs offer at most 2 servings. The rib bones above were cut in half and vacuum sealed.

One "rack" served my mother (who is rather petite) and the other was for myself.

Beef Short Plate Ribs

Beef short plate ribs come from the short plate primal which is an extension of the brisket. Short plate ribs come from ribs 6, 7, 8 and are cut just below the ribeye into 3 bone slabs.

beef short plate ribs servings

Ribs 9 - 12 aren't used because there is very little lean meat and mostly fat. This meat is typically turned into ground beef.

Since beef short ribs are sold as three bone slabs - they offer three servings.

Note: There really isn't any dancing around this, Beef short plate ribs are expensive and are also rather hard to find depending on where you're from.

Beef Chuck Short Ribs

Beef chuck short ribs come from the chuck primal. Chuck short ribs from from ribs 1 - 5 and are cut just above the brisket.

When sold in-tact, chuck short ribs are typically sold as 4 bone slabs - colloquially called Dino beef ribs. However, at a grocery store, you're more apt to see them English cut into singular bones.

chuck short ribs serving

Due to the size restrictions of overwrap meat trays, they typically come 3 ribs to a pack.

If I were the overwrap tray version I'd offer one per person. If I had the whole slab, I'd offer two per person.

How to Serve Less Ribs?

When you have a barbecue, it's about being strategic in terms of offering your guests enough food without going broke.

The easiest way to accomplish this is by offering cheap sides and smaller plates.

Some of the best sides for ribs include:

  • Baked beans
  • Mac & cheese
  • Coleslaw
  • Cornbread
  • Corn on the cob
  • Potato salad
  • Pasta salads

In terms of the plate size, people will instinctively fill up their plates as much as possible; The saying "Your eyes were bigger than your stomach" applies here.

Meaning, buy smaller plates.

This way, people will feel like they're eating a lot of food, simply because their plate is full.

If you're catering an event, always place your protein/ribs towards the end of the line. This way, they'll be forced to look at the delicious sides before they even consider the ribs.

Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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