You may be planning to cook ribs on a barbecue or you want to order one in a restaurant and you wonder how many ribs there are in a half-rack so you don’t get cheated.
Most people do not know how many ribs there are in a full rack or slab and they get served much less than what they ordered.
The number of ribs in a half-rack depends on the breed of animal it came from. Pigs can have either 15 or 16 ribs in a full rack while cows have about 9 ribs in a full rack.
Either way, you will need to know how many people you are serving to understand how many ribs you should order or cook.
In this post, we will discuss the different rib types and how many ribs you get in a full rack or a half-rack of ribs so you will know which and how many to expect.
What Is A ‘Rack’ Or ‘Slab’ Of Ribs?
A “rack” is the same as a “slab” of ribs; both define the entire ribs taken from the animal’s side, and that means that they have the same number of ribs in them.
For some purists, the two terms are different. A “slab” means that the entire rib section is not trimmed while a “rack” is the whole rib section that has had its fats and cartilage removed.
Nonetheless, whether it is a rack or a slab of ribs, they have the same number of ribs in them. 15 to 16 for pigs, and 9 for cows.
When you buy a rack or a slab of ribs, you will be getting a whole row of ribs that are connected by meat, cartilage, and fats. The meat is on top and in between the bones.
Some animals like pigs have a few ribs removed at the discretion of the butcher and leave the full rack with 10 to 13 ribs only which is what typically happens in butcher shops.
So, even if pigs have 15-16 ribs, you only get 10-13 for consumption and the rest is removed.
What Is A Half Rack Of Ribs?
Normally there are 10 to 13 ribs in a full rack that is being sold in a butcher shop or in a restaurant. That means that a half-rack has 5 to 7 ribs.
There can be 13 ribs in a full rack of ribs but sometimes the 13th rib is removed as there is little to no meat left in it.
Removing the 13th rib also makes the half-racks more even with 6 ribs each. If the 14th to 16th ribs are not trimmed, you will get 7 or 8 ribs in a half-rack or ribs.
Since there is an average of about 6 ribs in a half-rack, what about those half-racks that only have 4 or 5 ribs in them?
What Is A “Cheater Rack”?
A “Cheater Rack” is not justified by its name, and it is actually a rack that has fewer ribs in it but it is not a way to one-up you by the butcher.
Note: The term “cheater rack” is applicable to animals that usually have 10-13 ribs on a full rack. That means that cows, which normally have 9, are not considered “cheater racks”
Usually, a rack of ribs is defined as a cheater rack when it has less than 10 ribs in it. The reason for most cheater racks having less than 10 ribs is because the full rack has been damaged.
This prompts the butchers to remove the damaged ribs and sell a rack that has fewer ribs. That means it is either less than 10 ribs for a full rack or 4 to 5 ribs only on a half-rack.
Most people would think that they are cheated when this happens, hence the name “cheater rack” but that is not true at all.
You will be paying for the weight of the meat. That means that a “cheater rack” will weigh less so you will be paying less instead of paying for a full rack of ribs.
If a cheater rack is sold, that means that the butcher intends to sell you the best meat quality instead of giving you a full rack with the complete number of ribs but the last few ones are damaged.
Half Rack Of Ribs Vs Full Rack
A full rack has 13 ribs in it if the quality of the ribs is good meaning there are no ribs that are removed because they are damaged.
So a half-rack contains 6 to 7 ribs in it. I say a half-rack of ribs is a good portion of serving for one person but it can also be too big or too small for some.
When ordering ribs, I would always go with a full rack so I can do the portioning at home myself. That is to make sure that everyone gets equal portions.
Since you are paying for the weight of the meat, it is best to look at the quality of the meat you are planning to buy whether it is a full rack or a half-rack rather than the number of ribs in them.
How Many Ribs In A Half Rack Of Ribs?
In a complete rack of ribs with 15 to 16 ribs, there are 7 to 8 ribs in a half-rack. However, more often than not, a few of the ribs are removed and left on the shoulder.
That means that a full rack will only have 13 ribs in it. That is why most half-racks contain only 5 or 6 ribs in it.
Depending on the breed, type of animal, and processing, there can also be differences in the number of ribs in a half-rack. Here is a chart to understand it better.
The number of ribs in a rack of pork ribs depends on the butchering process, and a pig can have 15 to 16 ribs in a full rack.
However, some butchers leave 2 to 3 ribs in the shoulder of the animal, and this is why some full racks are sold with only 13 ribs in them.
There can also be damage to some of the ribs during the butchering process which can even get the number of ribs down to 10 ribs or 5 ribs in a half-rack.
Do not be surprised if you get 3 to 4 ribs in a restaurant for a half-rack since they usually ensure that each rib’s sizes and meat content are exactly the same.
Spare ribs are taken from the chest or lower part of the rib cage. They contain a lot of fats and can be chewy unless cooked with a low and slow cooking method.
They are flavorful because of the fats and are less expensive than the other racks of ribs. A full rack of spare ribs usually contains 11 to 13 ribs.
Since spare ribs are not as meaty as baby-back ribs, and the volume usually comes from the fats, a full rack of spare ribs only weighs 3 to 4 pounds.
Baby Back Ribs
Baby-back ribs come from the back of the pig. Baby-back ribs often come with the backbone of the animal.
You will know that you have baby-back ribs when you see the iconic bend near the backbone where there is a slab of meat right where the rib cage and spine meet.
Since baby-back ribs are carved from the top back of the pig, most butchers do not leave the ribs on the top shoulder so it is possible to get 15 to 16 ribs in a full rack of baby-back ribs.
They are smaller than spare ribs but are certainly more flavorful and meatier. Baby-back ribs also take less time to cook than spare ribs.
Cattle has 13 ribs but when butchered, a full rack contains only 9 ribs. This is because the bottom ends of the ribs are cut off to be sold as short ribs.
That means you will get 4 to 5 ribs in a half-rack of beef ribs. They are flavorful and cheaper than other cuts since they have larger and heavier bones.
Lamb ribs are typically smaller and lighter than the other ribs on this post. A full rack only has 7 to 8 ribs and usually weighs only 2 pounds.
It has 3 to 4 ribs for a half-rack and the whole rib can even become smaller depending on the butchering process.
For other racks of ribs, a half-rack would be enough for one person but considering the shrinkage when cooked, a half-rack of lamb ribs might just be enough for one person.
St. Louis-style ribs are spare ribs that are trimmed down meaning they have the sternum bone, cartilage, and rib tips removed.
The trimming down of the cartilage, bone, and tips is to make the rack of ribs more presentable.
This makes the St. Louis ribs proportioned in size meaning each rib has a rectangular shape which helps in portioning and cooking the ribs evenly.
There are usually 10 to 13 ribs per rack and 5 to 7 ribs for a half-rack of St. Louis ribs. You can cook a full rack of St. Louis ribs in a grill or oven and get that amazing browning on the meat.
Can One Easily Cook Half-rack Of Ribs In An Oven?
Yes, you can easily cook a half-rack of ribs in your oven. I would, in fact, usually portion my ribs first before putting them in the oven to make sure they fit.
On average, a full rack of ribs is 16 to 24 inches, which can be too long for your oven. So cutting them in half first will make sure that they bake evenly and will fit in the oven.
Just allow the ribs to cook at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 1/2 to 3 hours (spare ribs) and 1 1/2 to 2 hours for baby-back ribs in the oven.
Wrap the ribs in aluminum foil halfway through to ensure they do not dry out. I usually finish the cooking process by grilling them quickly to get that beautiful crust.
Full Rack Of Ribs Feeds How Many?
Usually, 4 ribs are enough for an adult person so depending on the rack of ribs you have, a full rack can feed 2 to 3 people.
A full rack with 13 ribs will be enough for three people if it is spare ribs. Baby-back ribs, which are smaller, might need more to feed three people than only one full rack.
How Do You Serve Ribs According To The Rack Size?
You should look at the weight of the ribs to see how much you should serve. A single adult will most likely be full with a pound or 3/4 pound ribs.
If the rack of ribs is large like spare ribs, perhaps 3/4 pounds is the right serving size, about 4 ribs.
Baby-back ribs are smaller and a full rack can feed about two people. A full rack of spare ribs can weigh 3-4 pounds so it can feed about 3 people.
How Many Ribs In A Quarter Rack?
A full rack of ribs can have 10 to 13 ribs so when you do the math, a quarter rack can have about 3 ribs.
That may seem like the serving is too small but it is a good portion for kids since 4 to 5 ribs can be too much for their appetite.
Full racks that have no trimming or no ribs that are removed can have up to 4 ribs in a quarter rack. You can get that on a baby-back rib, although the ribs will be smaller.
How Many Calories In A Half Rack Of Ribs?
A half-rack of baby-back ribs contains about 670 calories. 400 of those calories come from fats so if you want to cut some of those calories, you have to trim off the fat from the ribs.
Even the larger spare ribs that have about 1800 calories can have the calories reduced if you trim off the fat cap from them to ensure that it does not have too many calories.
Ribs are healthy and delicious, but you must ensure that you prepare and cook them the right way.
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