How many lbs is a 1/2 rack of ribs?

A rack of ribs typically refers to a full slab of ribs containing multiple ribs still attached to the backbone. Ribs are usually cut into either full racks, half racks, or individual ribs before being sold. So when you see a half rack of ribs on a menu or in a recipe, how many pounds of ribs are you actually getting? There are a few factors that determine the weight of a half rack of ribs.

Typical Rib Rack Sizes

Ribs come from pork or beef rib cages, which can vary in size depending on the animal. Here are some typical full rack sizes:

  • Pork spare ribs – 12 to 13 ribs per full rack
  • Beef short ribs – usually 8 ribs per rack
  • Pork loin back ribs (aka baby back ribs) – usually 10 to 13 ribs per rack

So a full slab can contain anywhere from 8 to 13 connected ribs depending on the cut. A half rack is simply cutting that full slab in half.

Average Rib Weights

The average weight of a full sparerib rack is around 3 to 4 lbs. Back ribs weigh a bit less, around 2 to 3 lbs per full rack since the ribs are shorter.

For beef short ribs, a full rack can weigh up to 5 lbs or more since the ribs are larger.

So if we cut those full rack weights in half, a typical half rack would weigh:

  • 1.5 to 2 lbs for a half rack of pork spare ribs
  • 1 to 1.5 lbs for a half rack of pork back ribs
  • 2.5 to 3 lbs for a half rack of beef short ribs

The exact weight can vary a bit based on the size of the animal and how meaty the ribs are. Heavier hogs or cattle tend to produce meatier ribs and racks.

Typical Serving Size

So now that we know the approximate weight of a half rib rack, how many people would that feed?

As a general guideline, a half rack of ribs weighs enough to provide a full serving for 1 average adult. Ribs are usually considered the main protein/meat portion of a meal rather than a side dish.

However, the serving size can vary a bit depending on appetite and what else is being served alongside the ribs.

Serving Size Factors

Here are some factors that affect the serving size of a half rack of ribs:

  • Type of ribs – Beef ribs are often more meaty and filling than pork
  • Appetite – Teenage boys or large men may eat more than petite women
  • Side dishes – Less ribs may be needed if serving alongside hearty sides
  • Leftovers – Some may want ribs for multiple meals, requiring a larger half rack

As a general rule of thumb, plan on 1 pound of ribs per average adult serving. So a 1.5 to 2 lb half rack would feed 1 very hungry person or 2 modest eaters.

Cooking Shrinkage

When calculating how many a recipe will serve, you also have to account for cooking shrinkage. Raw ribs weigh more than the finished cooked ribs due to moisture loss.

How Much Do Ribs Shrink?

On average, ribs will shrink by around 25% during cooking as moisture evaporates, fat renders, and the meat tightens up.

So if you start with 2 lbs of raw ribs, you’ll end up with around 1.5 lbs after cooking.

This cooking loss needs to be factored in when portioning ribs for the desired number of servings. You’ll need to start with more raw ribs than final cooked servings.

Shrinkage Factors

Here are some factors that affect rib cooking loss:

  • Cooking method – Grilling causes more moisture loss than braising
  • Cooking temperature – High heat increases shrinkage
  • Cooking time – The longer they cook, the more moisture is lost
  • Pre-seasoning – Salt draws out moisture, increasing shrinkage

So a good rule of thumb is to increase the raw ribs by about a quarter to account for cooking loss.

Recommended Half Rack Serving Sizes

Taking typical half rack weights, expected serving sizes, and cooking shrinkage into account, here are some general recommendations for half rack serving sizes:

For 1 Hungry Adult

  • 2 lbs raw pork spare ribs or back ribs
  • 3 lbs raw beef short ribs

This will provide 1 very generous serving of ribs after cooking loss.

For 2 Average Adults

  • 3 lbs raw pork spare ribs or back ribs
  • 4 to 5 lbs raw beef short ribs

This will provide 2 modest servings after shrinkage.

For 3 to 4 Average Adults

  • 4 to 5 lbs raw pork spare or back ribs
  • 6 lbs or a full rack of raw beef short ribs

This will give each adult 1 average-sized serving from a half slab.

Serving Size in Recipes

Many recipes simply call for “1 rack of ribs” without specifying a weight or serving number. Here are some tips for adapting recipes:

  • For 2 servings, get a 2 lb pork half rack or 3 lb beef half rack
  • For 4 servings, get a 4 lb pork half rack or 6 lb beef half rack
  • Add 1 lb more raw ribs than the desired servings to account for loss
  • Cook extra ribs if unsure and save leftovers

Getting the right rib amount for a recipe takes some estimating, but it’s better to have extras than not enough.

Nutrition Information

Ribs are a high-protein, meaty cut that also provides some beneficial nutrition:

Calories and Macros

Here are the macros for a typical 3 oz cooked rib serving:

  • Calories: 221
  • Fat: 15g
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Protein: 21g

So ribs provide a good amount of protein along with healthy fats.

Vitamins and Minerals

Ribs also contain:

  • Iron – 3mg or 15% DV
  • Zinc – 2mg or 15% DV
  • Selenium – 14mcg or 20% DV
  • B Vitamins – Ribs provide B12, niacin, riboflavin

So ribs deliver vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, B12, and selenium.

Comparing Pork and Beef Ribs

Pork and beef ribs have some distinct differences:

Pork Ribs Beef Ribs
Less fat than beef Higher fat content than pork
Milder pork flavor Richer beefy flavor
Typically more tender Can be chewier with more connective tissue
Back ribs more uniform in shape Short ribs vary more in shape

While both make delicious ribs, pork may be better for those watching fat intake while beef is favored by beef lovers.


So in summary, a half rack of ribs generally weighs 1.5 to 2.5 lbs and will feed 1 very hungry person or 2 average adults after accounting for about 25% cooking shrinkage. It takes some estimating to purchase the right rib amount, but leftovers can always be used for another meal. Whichever type of ribs you choose, proper portioning ensures you get the most out of this flavorful, protein-packed cut of meat.

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