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How many ribs in a half rack?

Ribs are a popular choice for barbecues and cookouts. While full racks of ribs contain a standard number of bones, half racks can vary. So how many ribs come in a half rack? The quick answer is typically between 6-8 ribs.

A full rack of pork spare ribs contains 13-15 ribs. Beef short ribs and back ribs also contain 13-15 bones in a full rack. Since a half rack divides these evenly in half, you can expect around 6-8 ribs in a typical half rack of these cuts. However, the exact number can vary slightly depending on the size of the ribs and how they are cut.

Counting Ribs in Different Cuts

The number of ribs per rack differs between cuts of ribs:

Pork Ribs

Cut Full Rack Half Rack
Baby back ribs 12-13 ribs 6-7 ribs
Spareribs 13-15 ribs 6-8 ribs
St. Louis-style ribs 12-13 ribs 6-7 ribs

Beef Ribs

Cut Full Rack Half Rack
Short ribs 13-15 ribs 6-8 ribs
Back ribs 13-15 ribs 6-8 ribs

As you can see, pork baby back ribs and St. Louis-style ribs tend to have slightly fewer ribs per rack compared to pork spare ribs and beef short ribs. But in general, a half rack will contain 6-8 individual ribs regardless of the cut.

Factors Affecting Ribs per Rack

While these rib counts are typical, the exact number of ribs you get in a full or half rack can vary slightly. Here are some of the factors that affect ribs per rack:

Rib Size

The size of the ribs plays a role in how many fit onto a rack. Larger, meatier ribs will result in fewer ribs per rack compared to smaller, trimmer ribs.

For example, a rack of large beef short ribs may only contain 12-13 ribs versus 15 smaller ones. Similarly, leaner spare ribs may have 15 ribs in a full rack, while fattier ribs would max out at 13.

Butcher Cuts

How the butcher or meat processor cuts the ribs also impacts the number per rack. Some butchers carefully cut between each rib bone to provide the maximum number of individual ribs.

Other butchers may cut more randomly or in thicker sections, resulting in fewer ribs on a rack. This can cause slight variances from typical rib counts, especially when dividing into half racks.

End vs. Middle Ribs

Full racks include both ribs from the upper and lower ends as well as the middle section. The ribs on the ends tend to be smaller with less meat.

When cutting half racks, some butchers may divide them vertically to include only middle ribs. These meatier half racks would have fewer bones than if smaller end ribs were also included.

Rack Size

Restaurant supply racks designed to hold slabs of ribs often hold 8-12 ribs. If a full rack contains 13-15 ribs, the butcher may trim certain ribs to fit the rack size, reducing the total count. This would also affect half racks cut from the full set of ribs.

How to Count Ribs in a Rack

If you want to verify the number of ribs in a rack you purchased, here are some tips for counting them:

Visually Inspect the Rack

Look closely at the ribs from top to bottom and count each individual bone. This works well for unseasoned racks that haven’t been cooked yet. The bones are easy to differentiate when raw.

Run Your Finger Down the Bones

For seasoned or cooked ribs, running your finger slowly down each bone makes it easy to keep track of the count. The coating of spices or sauce can make visual counting tricky.

Divide in Half

Cut the rack in half widthwise, separating the top from the bottom. Then count the ribs on each half and add them together for the total.

Separate the Ribs

For the most definitive count, carefully separate each rib bone and lay them out individually on a baking sheet. Count them one by one for an exact total.

Weigh for Estimates

Since most ribs weigh 1-2 ounces each, you can get an estimate by weighing the rack. Divide the total weight by 1.5 ounces to guesstimate the ribs.

Cooking Times for Half Racks

When grilling or smoking half racks, the cook times will be shorter than full racks due to the smaller quantity. Here are estimated cooking times for half racks:

Half Rack Cut Estimated Grill Time Estimated Smoker Time
Pork spare ribs 2-3 hours 4-5 hours
Pork baby back 1.5-2.5 hours 3-4 hours
Beef short ribs 1.5-2.5 hours 5-6 hours

The meat on half racks cooks faster since heat can penetrate from both sides. Cook times also depend on thickness. Check ribs for doneness toward the end of these time ranges and adjust as needed.

Typical Serving Size

So how many people can you feed with a half rack of ribs? Here are the typical serving sizes:

– A half rack of pork spare ribs (6-8 ribs) feeds 1-2 people

– A half rack of baby back ribs (6-7 ribs) feeds 1-2 people

– A half rack of beef short ribs (6-8 ribs) feeds 1-2 people

In general, allow for 1-2 ribs per adult serving. Larger ribs may yield 1 serving each, while smaller ribs could provide 2 per person. Half racks make perfect individual portions or meals for couples.

Buying Individual vs. Half Rack Ribs

Many grocers sell ribs individually as well as in full and half racks. So should you buy loose ribs or a pre-packaged half rack? Here are the pros and cons of each:

Individual Ribs

– Pick specific number of ribs needed
– Often cheaper per rib compared to racks
– Mix different cuts like short ribs and back ribs

– Harder to estimate portions
– Individually packed ribs may dry out faster
– Pre-seasoned rack flavors are lost

Half Rack

– Convenient pre-counted portion
– Ribs stay together for easier cooking
– Get rack-specific flavors from seasoning

– Less choice over exact rib count
– Can be more expensive per rib

For most home cooks, pre-packaged half racks provide the right amount of ribs for smaller gatherings without tons of leftovers. But individual ribs allow more flexibility. Pick what works best for your particular needs.

Cooking Methods for Half Racks

Half racks provide the perfect amount of ribs to feed 1-2 people. Here are some top cooking methods:


Grilling over direct medium heat renders the fat and creates a nice char while the ribs cook through. Turn the ribs every 10-15 minutes to prevent burning.


For tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs, smoke them slowly over low indirect heat for hours. Wood chips or chunks add great flavor.


Baking in the oven at 350°F allows the ribs to cook evenly in their own juices. Place them meat-side down on a baking sheet.


Braising ribs in broth, wine, or barbecue sauce makes them super tender. Bring the liquid to a simmer before adding the ribs.


Broil ribs 4-6 inches from the heating element for a crispy exterior. Coat them with sauce first but avoid burning.

Instant Pot

Pressure cooking ribs makes them done in 1 hour. Add liquid like broth or water to create steam. Release pressure naturally.

Popular Rib Recipes for Half Racks

Here are some mouthwatering recipe ideas perfect for half racks:

BBQ Half Rack Ribs

– Remove membrane
– Apply rub
– Smoke at 225°F for 4-5 hours
– Brush with BBQ sauce, finish 1 hour

Asian Half Rack Ribs

– Marinate in soy sauce, rice wine, and ginger
– Grill 20-30 mins per side, glazing with marinade

Braised Short Rib Halves

– Sear in batches on all sides
– Braise in red wine, broth, garlic 2-3 hours
– Make sauce from braising liquid

Garlic Parmesan Half Rack

– Season with garlic powder, salt, pepper
– Grill until nearly done
– Brush on melted butter and parmesan
– Broil 2-3 minutes to melt cheese

Cola Half Rack Ribs

– Remove membrane
– Bring cola, spices, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard to a boil
– Add ribs and simmer until tender, 1-2 hours
– Grill ribs with cola glaze last 10 minutes

The smaller size of half racks lets you experiment with different flavors without being stuck with huge quantities of leftovers. Half racks also provide the perfect single serving.

Storing Leftover Half Rack Ribs

Leftovers from half racks still make for great meals later on. Here are tips for storing them:

– Let ribs cool completely before refrigerating.
– Wrap tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. This prevents drying out.
– Place ribs in a container or bag to contain any juices or sauce.
– Refrigerate for 3-4 days maximum.
– Frozen ribs last 2-3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before reheating.

To reheat, unwrap the ribs and place them on a baking sheet or plate. Cover loosely with foil. Warm in a 300°F oven for 15-20 minutes until heated through. Microwaving makes the ribs rubbery.

Slice or chop leftover rib meat and use it to top salads, nachos, baked potatoes, or pasta dishes. The possibilities are endless!

Common Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about half racks of ribs:

Are half racks worth it?

Half racks provide a perfect individual portion, ideal for 1-2 people. The smaller quantity means faster cook times while still enjoying delicious ribs.

Should I trim half racks?

Trimming is optional but helps remove excess fat. Leave a thin layer for moisture. Remove the membrane for maximum tenderness.

How long do uncooked half racks last in the fridge?

Raw ribs last 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Cook them within this timeframe for best quality. Discard if they develop an off smell or color.

Can you re-freeze previously frozen ribs?

It’s not recommended to refreeze thawed ribs. Refreezing causes more moisture loss, resulting in dry, lower quality meat.

How do you know when half rack ribs are done?

Ribs are done when fork-tender but not falling off the bone. The meat should pull back from the ends. Internal temp should be 185°-205°F.


A half rack of ribs typically contains 6-8 individual ribs, providing 1-2 servings. The exact rib count can vary based on the cut, rib size, butcher technique, and rack dimensions. Pork spare ribs, beef short ribs, and back ribs are common half rack options. Half racks cook faster than full racks and allow experimenting with different flavors. Store leftovers properly for enjoying again later. With the right cooking method, half racks deliver big, bold barbecue flavor in a portion size ideal for smaller crowds.