How Much Does A Rack Of Ribs Weigh? And Other Questions

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peaces of raw meat with butcher's saw and an old fashioned scale

When it comes to smoking meat products, the weight of the product can affect the total cooking time. Smaller cuts of meat cook through more quickly, while larger ones need more time in order to reach the right temperature.

How much does a slab of ribs weigh? That’s a question that many amateurs never think to ask. When you know the answer, you’ll be able to gauge your cooking times with greater accuracy.

How Much Does A Rack Of Ribs Weigh?

The overall weight of the rib rack depends on what type of ribs they are, as well as how many ribs are included. A typical rack of baby back ribs weighs 1.5 to 2 pounds. A rack of spare ribs, which are larger, could weigh up to 4 pounds.

Slab of BBQ spare ribs with beans and dipping sauce

Understanding Pork Rib Types

Spare Ribs

These large, fatty ribs are cut from the underside of the hog, around the sternum. They’re meaty and very flavorful, and usually inexpensive.

A typical rack of spare ribs weighs between 3 and 4 pounds. When serving, you should plan on about 1.5 pounds per person, depending on their ages and how hungry they are.

St. Louis-Style Ribs

These are spare ribs that have been trimmed of their excess cartilage to make them more presentation-worthy. The sternum and rib tips are removed as well. In addition to being more attractive, these ribs are easier to handle during cooking.

Since St. Louis-style ribs have undergone so much trimming, they weigh less than spare ribs. Expect a single rack to weigh about 2.5 pounds.

Back Ribs

Cut from the top portion of the rib cage around the spine, back ribs consist of leaner, tender meat than St. Louis-style or spare ribs. As a result, they cook at a faster rate. They also weigh less—often between 1.5 and 2 pounds per rack.

Back ribs are sometimes labeled as “loin back ribs,” or more commonly, “baby back ribs.” These designations all refer to the same cut, and have nothing to do with the age of the animal. The “baby” label refers to the fact that back ribs are smaller than spare ribs.

baby back ribs with barbecue sauce

How Many Ribs Are In Each Rack?

Depending on the breed, pigs have 15 or 16 ribs. However, that doesn’t mean that you can expect to get that many ribs when you purchase a rack at the supermarket.

Butchers don’t often include every rib in the rack, as a couple are usually left behind on the carcass. Some of the ribs also might get damaged during processing. A full rack may have 10 to 13 ribs included, possibly less.

When a rack consists of fewer than 10 ribs, it’s called a “cheater rack.” Die-hard carnivores use this term because they feel like they’re being shorted if the rack doesn’t have the full amount of ribs.

When you think about it, though, meat products are typically sold by the pound. That means you aren’t losing money by purchasing a rack that consists of fewer ribs.

If you’re trying to buy a specific amount of ribs for an upcoming gathering, you might need to buy an extra cheater rack or two to make up the difference. In the end, though, you’re still getting exactly what you pay for.

What Is A Half Rack Of Ribs?

As you might expect, a half rack of ribs refers to a full rack that was divided into two sections. Since the full rack doesn’t always include every rib from the carcass, the size of the half rack can vary accordingly.

When you buy pork ribs from the butcher, there should be 7 or 8 ribs in each half rack. Restaurants, however, will sometimes label a serving as a “half rack” even if there are only 3 to 4 ribs included.

A half rack of baby back ribs should weigh between 12 ounces and a full pound, depending on the weight of the full rack. If you’re talking about spare ribs, meanwhile, the half rack should weigh in at roughly 1.5 to 2 pounds.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Rack Of Ribs?

Because a rack of spare ribs is larger than a rack of baby backs, we recommend a cooking time of about 6 hours. Set the smoker to 225 degrees, and wrap them in foil after 3 hours if you’re following the 3-2-1 technique.

5 hours should be sufficient for a rack of baby back ribs. Again, the smoker temperature should be set to 225. The 3-1-1 method, which involves wrapping the ribs for 1 hour during the smoke, is a good choice for baby backs.

It shouldn’t take any longer to smoke multiple rib racks, as long as you space them out properly and keep an eye on the smoker temperature. When the racks are crowded too close together, they won’t cook evenly.

How Many Ribs Should You Serve Per Person?

Plan on a full rack of spare ribs for every 2 to 3 people. That should give everyone 4 to 5 ribs apiece, depending on how many ribs made it onto the racks.

Because baby back ribs are smaller, you should adjust the ratio to allow for more ribs per person. A hungry adult can easily consume 7 or 8 baby back ribs. One rack should feed 1 to 2 people, although once again, this is dependent on the total rib count.

The Bottom Line

The weight of a rib rack depends on the type of ribs you buy and the number of ribs in the rack.

Because the number can vary so greatly, make sure to check the labeling on the packages every time you purchase ribs. This has the added benefit of telling you the price per pound, so you can ensure that you’re getting a good deal.

If you’re concerned about how many ribs you’re getting, it should be easy enough to count them beforehand. Any questions you have regarding the weight or total rib count can be addressed to the butcher.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar


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