BBQ Week: How Many People Do Ribs Feed?

All to often we are asked how we figure the amount of food to feed people at our barbeques.  This is a tough question, simply because appetites vary and so do portion sizes.  Of course when you add in multiple items (chicken, ribs, brisket) it just complicates the equation even more.  So my hope is that I can help figure this out with some simple math.  We hope to be adding a nice “Rib Calculator” soon to help people out with some of these problems, but until then… let me give you the math.

How Many People Does a Rack of Ribs Feed?

Well this depends on a few things.  First, are ribs the only thing you are going to be BBQing?  Secondly, how many people are going to be attending your BBQ?  Once you have those two things answered, we can move on.

Lets say you are only BBQing ribs on this occasion, then you need to figure about 3-4 ribs per person.  This is about to get confusing, so it will be best just to use an example.

So if you had 10 people showing up, then this is your math problem. 

10 (people) x 4 (ribs per person) = 40 (total ribs)

Now that you have the total amount of ribs, you can take that number and divide it by the estimated ribs per rack and round up.

40 (total ribs) / 12 (estimated ribs per rack) = Ceiling(3.3) or 4 (total racks of ribs)

I know this is nerdy as hell, but you get the idea.  Of course if you want, you could always go to the store with the total ribs number (40 in this case) and hand picked your ribs based on the final number adding up to your total ribs number… more power to ya.  But remember, this is an estimate – so if your friend brings his friend and his friend brings his girlfriend and his girlfriend is a cookie monster type chick… you are going to be under-supplied.  So I feel it is best to over supply a bit and who can gripe about leftover BBQ right?  Not this kid.

Now of course if you are feeding a crapload of dudes and you think your estimated ribs per person might be a bit higher… then adjust the equation accordingly and you should be fine.  If you are like me and are going to be making several items… then you need to adjust for that as well.

How Do I Determine How Much Meat To Cook At My BBQ?

So your not just doing ribs, you are going to do a brisket and some chicken to tag along with the ribs.  Or maybe you are doing some sausage and some chicken legs, you know… just a bbq buffet of sorts.  This can throw anyone off their rocker when it comes to math if you don’t know what you’re doing.  So let’s try to hash it out the best we can.

Ribs are a staple at our BBQs, so we want to make sure to do the math on that first.  I like to bring it down to 2 ribs per person in this case, so use the equation above and modify it accordingly.  This should get that figured out quickly.  Then depending on your other items you can figure it up.

Let’s just say you are doing a brisket to accompany your ribs, so how do you figure that?  Usually if I am doing both a brisket and ribs, then I will buy a smaller brisket – something in the 6-12 lbs range.  Then you can slice it when it is all said and done and you have a nice compliment to go along with your rib selection.  Now if you are doing a large number of folks, then grab a bigger brisket, or possibly two small ones.  I like to figure about 1/4 to 1/2 pound of brisket per person just to be safe.  If, of course, you are feeding ribs as well.

Now let’s throw one more thing into the equation.  Let’s say you have some chicken fans showing up, so you are going to put a few birds on the grill.  You can choose a few options… beer can chicken is a great option, but also you can go with chicken legs.  My suggestion for smaller groups would be a beer can chicken, if you are having several people over, then I would do chicken legs.  The cool thing about chicken legs, you can just judge 1 per person for the most part.  So if you are having 12 people, grab a 12 pack of chicken legs.  Simple.

If you are going to do beer can chicken, I would judge it as about one small chicken will feed 4-6 people (if you are serving other meats as well).  So use that to best gauge your chicken supply. 😉

What about those jalapeno popper things you always talk about?

These are tricky, since you probably will be eating a few as you go and people will flock to grab some the minute they see you have them on the grill.  The cool thing though it is easy to figure how many a batch of jalapenos will make.  If you make them like I do, you can get two out of each jalapeno – so 15 jalapenos will make… you guessed it >> 30 armadillo eggs.  That is what they are called by the way, armadillo eggs.  If you do not know how to make them, then look at our How to make armadillo eggs article.  I figure about 3 per person, then I round up 10 more.  Reason being is because these get CONSUMED quicker than anything and you will look down and all of a sudden you have eaten 4 and the meal isn’t even started yet.  haha  They are THAT good.  So if you have 15 people coming… here is your math problem of the day.

15 (people) x 3 (armadillo eggs per person) = 45 (armadillo eggs total)


45 (armadillo eggs total) + 10 (inflation) = 55 (total armadillo eggs FOR REAL)

Take that…

55 (total) / 2 = Ceiling (27.5) = 28 (total jalapenos needed)

You can then pick up a 50 pack of pre-made bacon, and a bag of stick cheese or two.  You are good to go!

Planning food for BBQs isn’t easy, but hopefully with a bit of math and know how you can do it on your own.  The good thing is that if you mess up by over supplying your party… no biggie, you can send some home with people or you can eat it the next day!  Leftover BBQ is AWESOME, trust me.

One last thing… and you used to ask your teacher… when will I EVER USE THIS MATH STUFF IN REAL LIFE!  With BBQ of course. 😉

6 thoughts on “BBQ Week: How Many People Do Ribs Feed?”

  1. “I know this is nerdy as hell,” you totally stole my comment.

    but still, this is GOOD math, if there be such a thing.

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