I recommend three-quarters to 1 lb of ribs per person depending on the type of meat. That is roughly 3-4 spare pork ribs per person. If you know your guests' eating habits, allocate 5-6 spare ribs per person for those with larger appetites. Keep in mind that this number will vary depending on the type of ribs your recipe calls for.
As a pitmaster and lover of all things meat, ribs are always my go-to for laid-back afternoons. They are also scrumptious, very forgiving, and perfect for slow cooks. The million-dollar question is, just how many ribs should I get per person?
Well, you are in luck! This article is a guide to the top factors you should consider when buying pork, beef, or lamb ribs. I will also tell you how different the types of ribs are.
Type of Meat
Type of Rib
Baby Back Ribs
5-6 ribs per person
3-4 ribs per person
St. Louis Ribs
7-8 ribs per person
8-10 ribs per person
5-6 ribs per person
Short Plate Ribs
1 rack per person
Chuck Short Ribs
4-5 ribs per person
2 ribs per person
The number of ribs per person mainly depends on the type of meat you are working with. There are several cuts to choose from and they differ in size and meat content as well.
A rack of ribs consists of 7-13 individual ribs depending on the animal. Other variations arise mainly due to differences in butchering techniques but in general, a whole rack of:
Pork offers rib tips, St Louis ribs, baby back ribs, and spare ribs whereas beef offers back ribs, short plate ribs, and chuck short ribs. There are also the famous lamb ribs that are normally sold as individual pieces (sometimes dubbed lamb chops). Here's a general rundown:
Pork ribs are more widely used compared to beef and lamb ribs because they are much more affordable. Options include rib tips, St Louis ribs, baby back ribs, or spare ribs. I recommend planning based on how much meat is on the bone.
Baby back ribs are cut from the upper section of the hog's ribs where the spine meets the rib cage. This mainly includes the muscle running along both sides of the spine and the back of the hog - the loin.
Baby back ribs are curvier, smaller, and leaner than spare ribs with considerably less meat on the bones. If want to serve baby back ribs, allow a serving of at least 5-6 ribs per person.
Spare ribs are cut from the underbelly of the pig's carcass where the baby back ribs end. This is also where your bacon and pork belly cut come from which means you can expect your these ribs to be bigger and meatier than baby back ribs.
They also have a big fat cap that makes them very flavorful and juicy. It is also why they are preferred for bbq and grilling recipes.
Since they are comparatively larger, I recommend a serving of 3-4 pork spare ribs per person.
St. Louis ribs are spare ribs that have been cut in a particular way. In most cases, butchers will remove the sternum, rib tips, and cartilage to give these rib bones a more flat, straight, and uniform shape.
St. Louis ribs are smaller than both spare and baby back ribs with comparatively less meat on the bone which is why I recommend a serving of 7-8 St. Louis ribs per person.
Rib tips, also called riblets refer to the bottom section of the spare ribs that remains after St. Louis ribs have been cut off. Riblets are closest to the pig's belly which is why they are heavily marbled and packed full of flavorful.
Since rib tips are tiny compared to all the other pork ribs, allocate 8-10 rib tips per person.
Beef ribs are more highly-priced than pork ribs. They include back ribs, short plate ribs, and chuck short ribs.
Back ribs are cut from the back or dorsal area of the steer, after removing the rib roast. This section is known as the rib primal. I do not recommend back ribs for a large gathering because most of the meat is intercoastal. This means the meat is located between the bones as opposed to on top of the bones.
If you plan to serve back ribs, allocate 5-6 beef back ribs per person.
Beef short plate ribs are also known as loaded beef ribs. They comprise ribs 6,7 and 8 of the steer. Short plate ribs lie right between the shank and flank steak cuts. They have a fat cover and are the meatiest of the beef ribs. Beef short plate ribs boast a rich marbling thanks to the serratus ventralis muscle which is why they are great for barbecue.
If you plan to serve beef short ribs know that they are very pricy and since they come in a rack of only 3 individual ribs, allocate a rack of short plate ribs per person.
Beef chuck short ribs or dinosaur ribs include the first 5 ribs of a steer. They are cut from the chuck primal region right above the brisket and the shank. This area is covered by the latissimus dorsi muscle that gives the chuck short ribs its signature marbling. Beef chuck short ribs have smaller bones than short plate ribs and a rectangular chunk of meat on the bone.
Since they are small ribs, allow a serving of four or five ribs per person.
Lamb ribs are much smaller than both pork and beef ribs. There are 2 sides of lamb ribs each with 7-8 ribs. They are most commonly sold as a 'double rack' of lamb. If this doesn't ring a bell, try lamb chops.
Despite being smaller than other ribs, lamb chops carry a chunk of tender and inviting meat so 2 ribs per serving should be enough. If your guests have a larger appetite, I assure you that 3 lamb ribs per serving are sufficient.
Other than the type of ribs, there are several other factors to consider when accounting for how many lbs of ribs per person. They include:
Will you be serving your meal in the morning, in the evening, or at dinner time? This is important because people have different feeding habits depending on the time of day.
In general, your guests will prefer lighter side dishes and finger foods during the morning hours than towards dinner time. If your party is past 5 pm, go hard on the ribs because your guests will be all over them for sure.
If you have other dishes aside from the ribs, you don't have to allocate the maximum amount per plate since the ribs will essentially become one of the side dishes. Giving your guests more choices means some of them might not be interested in the ribs as much.
If ribs are the star of the meal, go with lighter dishes like a green salad and coleslaw. If they are not, accompany them with more filling dishes like a creamy potato salad, baked beans, and secondary meats like chicken wings.
Tip: If you are working with a tight budget for ribs, opt for a buffet-style arrangement and place the ribs at the end of the buffet table. This way your guests will have to consider other side dishes before getting to the ribs.
It is proven that when people drink they will eat more. If you are planning to throw a wild party, count an extra half pound of ribs per person. It won't hurt to have a little extra.
The demographic of your guests should also factor into this equation. Kids usually prefer sweet treats, junk food, snacks, and finger food over ribs. So if you are expecting a lot of children, you might not want to get as many ribs. On the other hand, if you are entertaining guests from work, you'd comparatively want to get more ribs.
To comfortably host 6 adults, allocate 4.5-6 pounds of ribs. If you are working with back ribs, aim for 6 pounds. If you opt for spare ribs to plate ribs, 4.5 pounds of ribs is enough food.
Similarly, for 20 adults, you will require 15-20 pounds of ribs depending on the type of ribs.
A whole rack of pork or beef ribs can serve 4 adults if you have enough side dishes. With fewer side dishes, spring for one-and-a-half rib racks. As for lamb ribs, a double rack is sufficient for 4 guests.
3/4-1 lb of ribs or 3-4 spare pork ribs per guest on average is a decent amount of meat to present to a guest. However, some factors will require you to either reduce or up this amount: the most important being the type of meat your recipe calls for.
Others include the time of day you intend to serve, whether there's alcohol involved, the demographic of your guests, and the number of side dishes available.