How many ribs in a rack of barbecued pork or beef ribs? This is definitely a question that has haunted many of us for many years. Every time we order a rack of ribs at different barbecue joints, we noticed that lack of uniformity in the number of ribs served is a growing concern.
So go and ask BBQ lovers out there, and for sure, you will hear the most common answers: 6, 7, 10 and 13! With so many numbers being thrown at you, it can get confusing. This is why it pays to do your research to get the facts straight.
But why should you bother to find out how many ribs are in a rack of your favorite BBQ beef or pork? For starters, it really helps if you know what you’re cooking, buying or eating. Second, these bits of tasty information will make sure that you will never get half a rack when you ordered a full rack, ever again.
Ribs 101: Get to Know Your Pork Ribs
Pork rib platters are definitely crowd favorites. They are commonly served not just in Texas but also in barbecue joints all over the United States. Of course, why should one rely on restaurants for their much-needed rib fix when they can have their own BBQ party at home? There are different cuts of pork ribs that you can use to make delicious barbecues.
- Spareribs – also known as side ribs or spares. This type of cut is from the ends of your favorite baby back ribs, all the way down the pig and up the breast. They are larger and can get a bit tougher to cook, especially if you do not cook it right.
- St. Louis Style Spare ribs – also known as breastbone-off spare ribs. These are the really meaty bits. This is similar to the spare ribs cut but the only difference is that the breast bones and the cartilage are then removed to give you a clean, rectangular rack of pork.
- Baby Back Ribs – also called pork loin ribs, loin ribs or back ribs. To get this cut, your butcher will usually cut the series of ribs that directly meets the pig’s spine. The loin will still be attached here, which he will remove after. These ribs are relatively smaller than your normal spare ribs. Personally, this is my favorite cut of pork ribs because they are really tender, lean and easier to cook.
- Rib Tips – These are the cartilage, excess meat, and gristle are actually cut off the spare ribs. They can get really tough if cooked the wrong way. You can marinade it and cook it sous vide before grilling.
Ribs 101: The Anatomy of Your Beef Ribs
While in the process of using the best spice rub for your barbecue ribs, make sure to use or choose the best cuts of ribs to use. There are actually several that you can choose from:
- Back Ribs – also known as Texas Ribs or Spare Ribs. These are very tender and can easily be cooked not on the grill but also on your stove top. This type of ribs is actually cut from the prime rib or the large rib roast for that perfect barbecue party.
- Short Ribs – are great because they are meaty! They are full of flavor since they are from the brisket and chuck parts. But you have to make sure that you cook them really well. These ribs need long and slow cooking as well. You can add them to stews or bake them in the oven with russet potatoes. They are also cut into smaller pieces to make plate short ribs! They are great for thick stews with roasted tomatoes as well.
It’s All in the Numbers: Beef and Pork Rib Count
Don’t be fooled by restaurants saying that you will get a whole rack but you end up only getting half. It is definitely time to start cooking and counting your ribs!
- Pork Ribs – Baby back ribs have an approved average of between 10 to 13 ribs and each bone is about 3 to 6 inches in length. Spare ribs weigh between 2 ½ to 3 lbs. depending on the size of the bone. They are smaller but will never disappoint in terms of flavor.
- Beef Ribs – according to USDA, your whole slab or rack of ribs should have 11 bones, at least. Originally, an untrimmed rib roast has around 13 pairs or ribs. The trimmed ones are from rib 2 down to 12 for a clean-looking cut. Each short rib is usually 3 to 4 inches long, while spare ribs are about 6 to 8 inches long per bone. They are also about the same size in width.
Call it a slab or a rack, these two things mean the same. And both need the right flavors, the right cuts and definitely the right number of bones to satisfy you.