Planning a meal for a few people can be difficult enough. When you have 100 guests to cater to, it gets complicated. As a keen barbecuer, I love to share this passion with people through food. Getting the portions right has often been a challenge. If I was making ribs for 100 people how many slabs would I need?
The straightforward way would be to consider how many ribs you’d consume and multiply that by 100. One problem with this is that not everyone will eat the same portion sizes as you. If you get it wrong it may end up with someone going without some ribs or having too much food.
The latter may not initially seem like an issue. However, when you consider that ribs can only be refrigerated for a limited time, you realize that they may eventually end up in the bin. The tragedy of your effort and money meeting this demise!
Off the bat, I estimate that you can feed two adults with 1 slab of baby back ribs. For spare ribs, you would need 1 rack of 12 ribs to feed 3 adults. If one rack feeds 3, you will need at least 33 racks of spare ribs or 50 slabs of baby ribs.
This article will help you figure out how many ribs you need for a crowd of 100. It will go into some detail of things that are worth considering when planning such a meal.
Table of Contents
Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Saying you are making ribs for 100 people does not begin to narrow it down for planning. It is important to know the make up of this group. For instance, the number of slabs of ribs that you would require to feed 100 children will not be the same for feeding 100 men or women.
While it may not always be possible to RSVP your meal, do as much as possible to find out who you are preparing the meal for. Granted, some guest will turn up with a plus one, or not turn up at all. Factoring in these possible issues makes for a better plan.
Once you have the numbers tallied up the numbers, you can move to the next stage.
What else will be served?
Having ribs as the center of your meal would require that they are somewhat substantial. However, if your meal will include slabs of ribs, as part of other things, you may not need that many. In most instances going with between ¼lb to ½lb of cooked meat per guest will be enough.
You will often find that the lower end of the estimate would be ideal. However, you can decide this when you know if you would rather have more food or be wary of having a surplus that may go to waste.
If you are going to base your calculation on the weight of the meat be mindful of weight yield once cooked. This is to say that the weight of your uncooked meat will not be the same as the cooked meat. There is significant loss of mass during trimming and smoking. Ribs will have a loss of about 15-25%.
For every pound that you plan to serve to your guests, you will need to purchase between 1.15lb and 1.25lbs of meat. This should work out well for you once the smoking is done.
No matter how well you plan, it would be useless if you do not consider the ribs. There are not all the same. How many ribs are there on each slab? You can figure this out by counting them. It is not something that is usually mentioned on the packaging.
The number of ribs that are on each slab will be a significant factor when considering how many it would take to feed a person. You may also want to consider the size of the ribs. Larger ribs will be more filling than smaller ones. Checking the fat content is usually beneficial.
In most cases, ribs will not have a lot of fat around them. This means there is more meat on the bone. Uniformity is important when choosing your ribs. You want them to be of a similar weight and thickness. That will ensure that your cooking times and results will remain similar.
Repetitive processes make for smoother cooking. It also means that things can be easier to evaluate and improve on.
Would you rather go under or over?
This is an important question when planning. It will help you figure out how much you would need to buy. If you would rather have more than is needed you should look to buy more than you estimate is needed. That would mean going slightly over the 33 or 50 that we estimated earlier.
If you decide that it is better not to have excess ribs you may take a chance and go with the exact number that we estimated. The fact that our estimations are based on adults gives you some wiggle room. This would be significant if you are working on a tight budget.
In line with avoiding food going to waste you should get some containers to pack some leftovers to go for your guests. Allowing and facilitating food to be taken away will reduce the chances of it going to waste.
Fall back Plan
What happens if you get more than 100 guests that you prepared for? This is where a fall back plan comes handy. You can place your contingency on having additional options for those that may not get some ribs.
This may mean ensuring that there are plenty of side dishes to go around. If there are a lot of children involved you can add some kid-specific side dishes to save the ribs for the adults. Pizzas are always a hit with this crowd.
The last fall back plan simply involves reconsidering your portions. You would rather serve your guests small portions that have some of them go without. Spread the ribs thin if you have to. Compensate the reduces portion sizes with some sides.
Cooking ribs to feed 100
Preparation is everything when you have a large group to cater to. How can you plan it well to ensure that all your guests are well taken care of? There are two key things that you absolutely must get right. These are the food and timing. We have already touched on the food.
Get the Shopping Right
We have already touched on why it is important to have ribs of the same thickness and weight. Creating a detailed list of all of the items that you will need on the day can never be overstated. Realizing that there is something missing when you require it on the day can derail the entire operation.
You can avoid this by creating a detailed checklist in advance. This list can be divided into categories based on dietary requirements, meat, and so on. Doing it this way will make the list easier to wrap your mind around without missing any key details due to information overload.
If you have a variety of dishes to be served on the day, you want to get as many of them done in advance. Which ones can you do? Well, you want to be the ones that do not pose a health risk when stored below or above certain temperatures. Most side dishes and salad would fit into this category.
The ribs and any other meat can also use some preparation. You must get them marinated and ready to go in advance. If you have rubs and injections to use, get them sorted a day or so before unless the manufacturers advise you to do otherwise. This tick another task off your list.
One of the reasons why advance preparation is important is the duration that some things require to cook. Some cooks (not all) even boil the ribs before grilling them. Consider pork ribs would need to be cooked for close to 4 hours on low to moderate heat. If your smoker is small, this means 4 hours where nothing else can be cooked.
This may require getting some of these things started early in the morning or in the evening before the event.
Setting the right cooking temperature for your barbecue will not only save you time but it’ll minimize accidents when things get hectic. The amount of food that you will need to prepare will put you under a lot of pressure to get things done. Going with a consistent temperature means that you can also have a consistent cooking time to stick to.
An ideal temperature range to go with is between 265-280°F. There are instances where you might consider lowering the temperature. I usually advise against this, as it would complicate things for very little benefit. If you are going to be cooking other things besides the ribs, you may want to figure out the perfect timings in advance.
This is even more significant if you are using a smoker that you are not accustomed to. You can do a trial run with a rack or two for yourself leading up to the day. Use your timer to gauge how long it is taking to cook the ribs and at what temperature.
When cooking for a large number of people safety standards are at risk. It is easy to start cutting corners at such events. One of the things to remain vigilant is the use of your temperature thermometer. This ensures that the meat is cooked to the right temperature to make it safe for human consumption.
Pace yourself. Part of the reason why I place emphasis on planning is that it reduces the chances of things going wrong. Seeing as we are dealing with high temperatures when cooking, accidents are one rushed moment or lapse in concentration away.
As the saying goes, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” This couldn’t be more true for cooking on an open fire for a large number of people. The fewer the people who are involved the better. If you have to get help, it should be on the serving side of things. This much lower risk.
Size of the smoker
Consider the size of your smoker. Unless you have a commercial smoker, you will need to cook your food in batches. The last thing that you want to add to your list is having to warm the food up for guests later on. This is why you would do well to get yourself a hotbox. It will ensure that each batch of ribs maintain a safe temperature before it is served.
While this may seem like something of a downside, you will find that meat is usually much easier to slice when it has cooled down. Once sliced, it can be warmed up and served.
There are certain things that will require several hours to cook. To make this flawless you want to consider this sort of food from the end backward. Think about what time you would like to serve this food. Once you have figure it out, choose a starting time that will give it enough cooking time.
Be as detailed as possible in your planning phase. This will mean planning when the smoker will be switched on for pre-heating and at what temperature. You would then progress to consider when each time that you are preparing will go into the smoker, and when it will come out.
Where possible make use of reminders or alarms to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks when things get hectic. Plan what will happen at each stage. For instance, what will happen to a batch of ribs when it comes out of the smoker? Will it go through a cooling period?
It is also worth looking at when you will be serving your guests. Based on 100 people, you may want to consider serving them in groups of 20 or so at a time. This will allow the smoker to finish cooking the next batch while serving is in progress.
Another reason to have a detailed plan is to make it easier for anyone that assists on the day to follow a foolproof plan.