How Many Ribs in a Rack: Lamb, Beef, and Pork

There are many different kinds of ribs, from three main types of animal: lamb, pig, and cow. Each one provides you with a different flavor profile and cuts of ribs. However, when planning a party, it can be hard to determine how many ribs you need, and how many racks you need to purchase. 

Keep reading to learn about the different types of rib cuts, as well as what a serving of ribs is, and even which cut is the best.

Why There Are No Standards to the Number of Ribs in a Rack

There are many different types of ribs available, which makes it hard to give a standard number when it comes to the number of ribs in a rack. To start with, there are three different animals we commonly get racks from, which are cows, pigs, and lamb. Each of these animals has a different amount of ribs initially, changing the definition of a rack.

There are also many different types of ribs, and each kind offers a different number of ribs and quantity of meat involved.

Some types of ribs include:

  • Back ribs: Back ribs, also known as dinosaur ribs. There isn’t a lot of meat on top of the ribs, but they have a lot of meat on the inside, between the bones that make them filling and hearty. 
  • Baby back ribs: These are the same cut as baby ribs, but are called baby back ribs due to the smaller size. You may also get fewer total ribs than you would with normal back ribs.
  • Short ribs: With short ribs, the bones can be quite flat. These usually come with fewer ribs, usually 3, but have a few inches of meat on top of the bones. Despite the name, they can be on the larger side. 
  • Spare ribs: These are ribs taken from the breast bone. They are better for cooking slow and low, and tend to be cheaper due to their high-fat content. If these are pre-trimmed to get rid of some of the fat, they are known as St. Louis ribs. 

With all these varieties, it is easy to see why the question isn’t as simple as it seems. Generally, weight is more important when determining the amount of ribs you get. This is because sometimes, the meat could be butchered incorrectly, so you may get more ribs than expected, but for the same cost due to the weight. 

Here are some averages to give you a general idea of how many ribs to expect:

How Many Ribs Does Each Animal Give?

Lamb

  • Actual amount of ribs: 13
  • A full rack: 7-8
  • A half rack: 3-4
  • 4 ribs per person is a serving

Beef

  • Actual amount of ribs: 13
  • A full rack: 9
  • A half rack: 4-5
  • Full rack of baby back ribs: 4
  • 2 to 3 ribs per person is a serving

Pork 

  • Actual amount of ribs: 15-16
  • A full rack: 10-13
  • A half rack: 7-8
  • Full rack of spare ribs: 11-13
  • Full rack of baby back ribs: 8-13
  • St. Louis style: 3
  • Full rack of spare ribs: 3
  • 4 to 5 ribs per person is a serving

Which Ribs are the Best?

Each cut has different pros and cons, and they can all be good depending on your needs. For example, if you like fattier, more flavorful meats, beef may be a better option. Pork has a milder flavor and therefore adjusts to different flavor profiles and accompaniments better, and takes less time to cook than others.  

Spare ribs are often the most sold, but short ribs can be good if you want to save a little money and have a lot of time to cook them down. St. Louis ribs are the most flavorful as they are meaty and pre-trimmed. 

Lamb is a more unknown style of meat in the United States. It has a distinct flavor if you want something that stands out, and it often doesn’t take as much time to cook. 

Final Thoughts

Generally, it is a good idea to buy a minimum of four ribs per person to fill up your guests. With the difference in the number of bones and meat in each rack, it can be hard to get the right amount to feed an entire party, but you should be able to get a general idea of how many orders you will need. Generally, in a full rack, you can expect anything between 8 and 13 ribs, depending on the animal and cut, though some may vary in size.

However, the amount of ribs doesn’t matter when it comes to price. Most butchers charge for ribs based on weight. So no matter how many ribs you get per order, you should still get the same amount of food per order. Fewer bones may offer more meat, as there aren’t as many bones to add to the weight.

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