How Many Ribs to Cook Per Person? All You Need To Know

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baby back ribs

Entertaining can be difficult enough without worrying about whether you’ll have sufficient food on hand to feed everyone. When it comes to ribs, the issue can get even trickier. You’re in luck, though—there are guidelines to help you ensure that your guests won’t go home hungry. Read on if you’re wondering just how many ribs to cook per person.

How Many Ribs to Cook Per Person

A good rule of thumb to follow is 3 to 4 spare ribs per person, especially if you’re serving a variety of dishes. For baby back ribs, which are smaller than spares, plan on 5 to 6 ribs for each guest. Since there are usually 10 to 13 ribs in a rack, one rack of spare ribs can serve 2 to 4 people, and a rack of baby backs should serve 2.

Preliminary Questions

The key to good planning is to ask yourself plenty of questions in advance. When it comes to deciding how many ribs to cook per person, these are the questions you’ll want to ask:

How many side dishes am I planning to serve, and what are they?

Plan your entire menu in advance to establish the correct parameters. As a rule of thumb, the more side dishes you have, the less meat you’ll need to provide per person.

Also bear in mind that not all sides are created equal. Heavy sides, such as potato salad and macaroni and cheese, will fill guests up faster than green salad and cole slaw.

Will dessert be provided afterward?

Similarly, remember that guests will want to save some room for whatever sweet treats you’re offering up. Consider scaling back on the amount of meat per person if you’re planning on serving a particularly rich dessert.

Are ribs the only meat on offer?

In addition to providing guests with more choices, adding chicken wings or beef brisket to the menu will take some of the pressure off the rub supply.

Who have you invited, and are you acquainted with their eating habits?

Don’t forget to take the demographics of the party into account. Your Frisbee golf partner is probably going to consume more meat than your elderly aunt. Also, bear in mind that children under the age of 13 will probably consume about half as much as grown adults.

What time of day is the gathering?

Will your barbecue take place at lunch or in the evening? People will typically consume more food if the party is held during the dinner hour. Also, how long are you expecting the party to last? If the guests will be hanging around for hours, they’ll probably make more than one pass at the buffet table.

Will alcohol be served?

The more people drink, the likelier they are to overeat. Plan on boosting your meal preparation by 15 to 20 percent if you think it will be a wild party.

How Many Ribs To Cook Per Person: The Basics

Once you’ve figured out the full menu, it’s time to determine how many racks of ribs per person you’ll need.

You’re probably familiar with the standard rule of 1/2 pound of meat per person. For obvious reasons, that doesn’t apply to bone-in meats like ribs. In general, you can expect a pound of ribs to yield about 1 to 1-1/2 servings. While this is useful information, it should only be one factor in your decision.

If you’re serving several side dishes plus dessert, three or four ribs per adult should be sufficient. Because a typical full rack will have 11 to 13 individual ribs on it, this means that you should plan on buying four racks for a party of 10 people. This will give you a little bit of wiggle room for guests with larger appetites.

On the other hand, if ribs are the main attraction and you have lighter side dishes planned, you can go a bit higher. In these cases, plan on about a half-rack (six or seven ribs) per person.

Note: Don’t forget that baby back ribs are smaller than spare ribs. Plan on at least a half-rack per person when baby back ribs are on the menu, even if you have plenty of filling sides to go with them. If you’re having a hard time deciding which kind to serve, here’s a video tutorial to help you understand the difference.

Tips On Throwing a Successful Gathering

These pointers will help to ensure that everything goes smoothly once you’ve pulled those succulent, meaty rib racks off the grill.

  • Set out the food on a long table, buffet-style. Arrange the side dishes and any secondary meats like chicken wings at the starting point, next to the plates and napkins. Save the ribs for last so that the guests will have semi-full plates by the time they get to the main attraction.
  • Cut sausages or chicken tenders into small pieces to encourage people to take a little bit of everything.
  • Prepare your sides and sauces the day before so you won’t be rushing to get everything ready at the last minute.

How To Keep Ribs Warm When Cooking For Large Groups

If you’ve ever tried to barbecue meat for a large gathering, you may have noticed that it can be difficult to pull off. This is especially true if your grill is too small to cook all the meat at once. Fortunately, there’s a way to keep the cooked ribs warm while you grill the secondary meats.

grilled bbq tasty smoked marinated pork ribs

Fill a regular, well-insulated cooler with a few gallons of hot water. Close the lid and let it heat up for about 30 minutes.

Next, dump out the water and place a clean towel on the bottom of the warmed cooler. Set a disposable aluminum tray on top of the towel.

When the ribs are done, wrap them in foil and set them in the aluminum tray. Set another towel on top of the wrapped ribs and close the lid of the cooler until you’re ready to serve.

For best results, don’t leave the ribs in the warmer for longer than one hour. If you have a meat thermometer with a long cord, use it to keep an eye on the internal temperature of the ribs while you prepare the secondary meats.

In Conclusion

Advance preparation is the key to a successful party. Next in line is ensuring that you’ll have enough food to keep all the guests happy. By following these guidelines, you should know just how many racks of ribs per person to provide for your next backyard bash.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

Related article: 3-2-1 ribs method (what it is & how to perfect it)

Darren Wayland Avatar


2 thoughts on “How Many Ribs to Cook Per Person? All You Need To Know”

  1. I have a group of 35 coming & would like to BBQ ribs. How many racks do you suggests. There will be approx 4 sides & appetizers along with alcohol & birthday cake. I’m stumped

  2. I have 12 adults and 4 children coming for dinner and am planning on serving barbequed pork backribs. Also plan on having scalloped potatoes, baked beans, and salad or coleslaw along with raspberry cobbler\with ice cream for desert. Hoping you can tell me how many racks of ribs I need to have or how many lbs.


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