When you’ve been lucky enough to find beef short ribs for your barbecue, you’ll want to make the most of the occasion. You’ll also need to plan ahead. Exactly how many short ribs per person should you serve? And does the answer depend on the trimming style?
How Many Short Ribs Per Person?
Depending on the size and weight of the short ribs, a per-person estimate of 1 to 3 short ribs is recommended. Some beef short ribs weigh nearly 2 pounds apiece, so even when the meat is cooked, a single rib would constitute a generous serving.
About Beef Short Ribs
The first thing you need to remember about beef ribs is that they’re made up of a high percentage of bone. That gives them a ton of beefy flavor, but it also means they yield less meat per pound than pork ribs.
Short ribs are one of two types of beef rib. The other type, back ribs, are fairly large—often 6 to 8 inches long. There’s not a lot of meat on them, however, and they’re difficult to find in supermarkets.
It’s easier to procure short ribs, although these can be further broken down into a couple of subcategories. The short ribs come from the front portion of the steer, and the bones are narrow and flat, with a sizable cap of meat on top.
Beef short plate ribs come from the lower portion of the rib cage, between the brisket and the flank. Although they’re meaty and flavorful, they’re harder to find than chuck short ribs.
The chuck ribs come from—you guessed it—the area of the rib cage that’s close to the chuck roast. The bones are shorter than plate ribs, sometimes as small as 3 inches long. However, there’s a lot of meat on each bone, making these a good option for parties.
Does The Rib Type Affect The Serving Size?
The type of short rib doesn’t matter as much as the size of each one. Depending on how the ribs were cut, a single rib might be sufficient for one person. However, if the ribs are particularly small, a per-person estimate of 2 to 3 ribs might be more accurate.
English Cut vs. Flanken Cut
If your local grocery store sells pre-packaged beef ribs, you might see the words “English cut” or “flanken cut” (or “flanken-style”) on the label. These distinctions might affect your serving sizes, so it helps if you understand them beforehand.
English cut short ribs are often sold in racks of 3 to 4 ribs, although they can also be divided into individual bones. They have a generous measure of meat on top—typically between 1 to 2 inches thick—and a visible fat cap.
It’s also possible to find English cut short ribs that have been trimmed of this exterior fat. If this is the case, they should be labeled as “lean” or “trimmed.” Since you’ll want to trim off most of this fat anyway, it’s fine to ask the butcher to remove it.
While butchers slice between the bones to make English cut ribs, their flanken-style counterparts are sliced across the bone. They measure about 1/2 inch thick, and the segments of bone are far less prominent than the beef itself.
This cut is popular in Asian cuisine, but you can use it in a variety of recipes. Just be sure not to confuse flanken cut ribs with the English cut ones, as this can affect your results.
How Many Short Ribs Per Person
For smaller, boneless cuts, we usually follow the rule of thumb of 1/2 pound per person. Beef ribs, on the other hand, are typically huge—and most of the time, the meat will still be attached to the bone.
One pound of beef short ribs should yield about 1 to 1-1/2 servings. Depending on what type of short rib you buy (see below), each rib should weigh between 1 to 2 pounds. That makes it easy to estimate your serving sizes—just use 1 rib per person as a guideline.
How Many Short Ribs are in a Rack?
While pork ribs are often sold in racks or half-racks, butchers usually separate beef ribs into smaller portions. You might be able to find a full beef rib rack—which would consist of about 9 bones—but it’s more common to find them in groups of 3 or 4.
With each rib weighing 1-1/2 pounds on average, a rack of 4 beef ribs should weigh about 6 pounds. Depending on the other factors that we’ll discuss in the next section, this rack should be enough to feed 4 to 6 people.
Of course, assuming that you’re serving the meat on the bone, it’s not logical to expect two people to share a single beef rib. That’s why we prefer to use the “one rib per person” template when we’re serving this dish.
Factors To Consider
When deciding how much meat to serve per person, you need to consider more than just the head count. The total meat yield should depend on the circumstances of the gathering.
While 1 to 1-1/2 pounds per person is a good rule of thumb to follow, here are the other factors you should take into account.
Before you shop for the short ribs, it’s a good idea to map out your entire menu. Obviously, if there are a lot of side dishes available, you can get away with providing a smaller supply of meat.
Also, consider what kind of side dishes you want to serve. Will there be a lot of heavy mayo-based salads? Or were you thinking more along the lines of marinated cucumbers and cole slaw? If it’s the former, consider scaling down your planned portion sizes.
Other Meat Dishes
Are the beef short ribs the only meat item on your menu? While they make an excellent showcase, you might want to grill up some chicken wings or sausages as well. When guests have more items to choose from, they tend to take a bit less of everything.
You can also cut down on your short rib supply if you intend to put out an equally impressive dessert buffet. When guests are tempted by the prospect of digging into a plate of brownies or cupcakes, they’re bound to save some room.
Age of Guests
Once you’ve taken the culinary aspects of the function into account, it’s time to consider the demographics.
On average, how old are your guests? Young adults and middle-aged attendees can be expected to put away more than children or elderly guests. In general, you can plan on stocking about half as much meat for each child under 13 and adult over 75.
Time of Day
People bring heartier appetites to evening gatherings than to daytime ones. If your party is around lunchtime, feel free to round down when estimating how much meat you’ll need. Conversely, for dinner gatherings, try to buy an extra pound or two.
Also, consider how long you expect the event to last. You’ll need more food if there will be guests present for several hours, especially if people will be arriving and departing at various stages.
It might seem stingy to contemplate serving just one rib per person, especially if you’re used to pork ribs. However, in addition to being larger, beef short ribs are quite rich. Some of your guests might have a hard time finishing even a single rib, let alone two.