If you’re buying lots of ribs for an upcoming event, you probably have a general idea of how many slabs you need. Buying in bulk can help you save money, especially if you target a big-box store that specializes in such things.
But how can you tell how many slabs of ribs come in a case? The answer may vary, but we can give you a general idea so you won’t come up short-handed.
How Many Slabs of Ribs Come in a Case?
The average case of ribs will contain between 8 to 18 slabs. The actual number will depend on the retailer, as well as the rib type. Since baby back ribs are smaller, you can expect to get 15-18 slabs per case. Spare ribs are often sold in cases of 8 or 9 slabs.
What Is A Slab Of Ribs?
When you buy a slab of pork ribs, you’re getting a row of rib bones connected by meat, cartilage, and fat. You should be able to find muscle meat both on top of the bones and between them.
Pork ribs come in several different types. Spare ribs are taken from the lower section of the rib cage, around the belly. These ribs are on the larger side, and their meat is fatty and flavorful.
St. Louis-style ribs are spare ribs that are trimmed to make them more presentable. The rib tips and cartilage are removed, so the racks have a rectangular appearance.
Baby back ribs, which come from the upper spinal region, are lean, tender, and very popular. They may also be called loin back ribs because they’re taken from the area around the loin. The term baby refers to the fact that the ribs are smaller than spare ribs.
Rack vs. Slab: Is There A Difference?
You’ve probably also seen the term rack used to refer to a portion of ribs. Is there any difference between a rib and a slab?
The general consensus is no. A rack of ribs is the same as a slab, with both terms referring to a whole section of ribs taken from one side of the hog. This is the case when referring to pork ribs, although a rack of lamb ribs has a slightly different definition.
Some grilling aficionados will use the term slab to refer to untrimmed ribs, while reserving rack for ribs that have had some of the fat and cartilage removed. For example, a whole portion of spare ribs would be considered a slab, whereas a St. Louis-style portion would be called a rack.
How Many Ribs Come In A Slab?
A whole slab of ribs will usually have 10 to 13 bones included, depending on how many survived the butchering process. Slabs with fewer than 10 bones are called cheater racks because of their smaller size.
Restaurants and butchers will sometimes advertise “half-slabs” or “half-racks,” which are whole slabs divided into two portions. Depending on what type of ribs they are, the half-slab should consist of 5 to 8 ribs.
Be aware that while the term cheater rack makes it sound as though you’re getting less bang for your buck, it’s customary for ribs to be sold by the pound. So you’ll still get what you paid for, there will just be fewer ribs on the rack.
How Much Does A Slab Of Ribs Weigh?
Since baby back ribs are smaller, the slabs don’t weigh as much. You can expect a whole slab of baby backs to weigh anywhere from 1.5 to 2 pounds.
Spare ribs, on the other hand, come in larger slabs. These should weigh 3 to 4 pounds on average, with St. Louis-style racks coming in a bit lower due to the fat and cartilage that’s been removed.
How Many Slabs Come in a Case?
There’s no hard and fast answer to this question. The number of slabs per case depends on the retailer. Fortunately, the information is usually available upon request.
It also may depend on what kind of ribs you buy. At Sam’s Club, for example, you can get a case of baby back ribs containing 18 slabs. Inside the case, you’ll find 6 bags of 3 slabs apiece, with each slab consisting of 10 to 13 ribs.
Retailers might also advertise 8- or 9-slab cases of spare ribs, with each slab weighing in at about 4 pounds. Again, they may be divided into smaller packages–2 slabs per vacuum-sealed bag is standard for spare ribs.
How Much Does A Case of Ribs Cost?
Again, pricing may vary depending on where you buy the ribs.
At Sam’s Club, a case of spare ribs sells for around $3 per pound, while the price for baby backs is about $5.50 per pound. That translates into a case price of around $100 for spare ribs and about $200 for baby backs, depending on weight.
Other specialty retailers might charge more per pound, but on the plus side, they may also be able to tell you about the provenance of the pork itself. Some might offer seasonal discounts, or have frequent-buyer plans in place that can save you even more money.
If you want to purchase ribs in bulk on a regular basis, it pays to shop around. Ask your local butcher what they would charge for a case of ribs, and then look online to see if you can procure a better deal.
How Many People Can You Feed With A Case of Ribs?
Since a full slab of baby back ribs is usually sufficient for 2 people, a case of 18 slabs may be enough to serve up to 36. If your guests are big eaters, the case might only serve 25 to 30.
A spare rib rack serves 2 to 3 people, so if there are 8 slabs in the case, expect to get about 15 to 25 servings out of it. Remember that serving sizes depend on the age and eating habits of your guests, as well as other factors like the time of the gathering and how many side dishes you’re serving.
The Bottom Line
If you’re not sure how many ribs come in a case, check the fine print before making a purchase. The retailer should have that information available so you’ll know approximately how many ribs you’re getting.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!