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Barbecuing Ribs for a Party

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I want to make babyback ribs for a 4th of July party - but not sure how to do it for 25 people. I estimate half a rack each person so 12 full racks (at least 1 vegetarian). All of the recipes I've seen use only 2-3 racks at most since this is what you can smoke on a grill (using a Weber Genesis Gold gas grill). I'm also willing to oven bake them and then finish on the grill if necessary.

Any good tips for trying to barbecue in bulk??

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  1. Your amount is probably about right, I would roast them in a slow oven - you can even do it the day before 275 for 2 hours - I use a dry rub and then all you have to do is finish them on the grill on the 4th. Turns out perfect every time - you can even smoke them as a finish as well. Enjoy!

    1. There's a number of ways to get them cooked but, considering the number of people and the potential for screwing up "baby-backs", I'd recommend getting some nice meaty spares from your butcher and, maybe, have him trim them St. Louis or KC style. More forgiving than backs. More meat and cheaper, too.

      1. If you have a Costco nearby, they carry cooked baby back ribs made by Curly's for about $13.00 for 3 lbs. Packed in cryo vac and will keep months in the fridge. Several times for big parties I have put the cooked ribs on the gas grill to warm up...lied to my guests. For a large group, can't beat it. Uncooked ribs will cost you about $4.00 lb. In fact, most supermarkets now carry cryovac packed cooked ribs.

        2 Replies
        1. re: OldTimer

          Gotta agree with OldTimer here. Cooking ribs for a large group is a skill acquired through a lot of practice. As grampart says, the screwup factor is pretty substantial.
          It's time to cheat with some good pre-cooked ribs. You can rationalize it as a do-it-yourself version of calling a caterer for your main course.
          I've even found some pretty darn acceptable slabs at Safeway - I think they're called St. Louis Reds or something like that. Pretty gloppy sauce which you should wash off. Hide the packaging in the trash and get it out, out, out of your house so nobody sees it. Then make your own good sauce which you can mop on as you finish the ribs on your grill the day of the party. You can tell a white lie, saying you precooked them in the oven or on the grill the day before. Or fess up and say you got them from a caterer.

          1. re: MakingSense

            The absolute best pre cooked ribs I've ever had are from Niman Ranch. They have no fat, are perfectly tender and the sauce is surprisingly good. The one drawback is that they are so expensive, but I still buy them because the quality and taste are superior, bar none.

        2. There was a recent long thread about doing ribs. All the BBQers had good suggestions, but (I thought) not practical for large groups. Twenty-five is boderline. When I first accidently BBQed ribs for a wedding party of about 150, it was a big sweat, with people waiting and wanting more--until finally people were grabbing off the grill as I held em back with the slicer. I repeated the mistake once more before going to browning and then braising. I've had no complaints. Yes, not quite as good as BBQ, but still fall-off the bone delicious covered in your favorite BBQ sauce sticklily integrated onto the ribs.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Sounds like you're used to cooking for crowds, Sam. If Avazora hasn't done it before, ribs may not be the way to start - especially not for 25 people.
            Grilling brings out some sort of primal instinct in guests. They'll reach out and grab a taste right off the hot grill when they decide it looks ready. Others get into the action and mayhem ensues. Guess it saves on dirty plates...
            Maybe pre-cooking as you suggest and finishing on the grill is the way to go. Or buying pre-cooked if the OP can find a good source.

          2. I know this will be hard to believe, but I do BBQ and baby backs specifically for groups of 25-150 often... every single time, they average about 2 bones per person. This assumes you have at least two or three meats/entree items, along with sides, and some apps first. If you were sitting down with your family around a table, yes, you would go through 1/2 rack pp. But it's a party, and they graze, or they take a plate, but some will take 3 or 4 ribs, many will take two, some will take one, and some will take none. For 25 people, you only need six racks = 72 bones. Assumes you do something else too... some chicken, burgers and dogs, whatever. If it were just ribs, I would still figure only 3.5 ribs pp. Just my .02. You can cook the ribs the day before, refrigerate, they gently reheat on indirect heat on your grill. It can work very well.

            6 Replies
            1. re: woodburner

              woodburner, I enjoyed your calculations; but for Colombia when there are ribs, you're talking just ribs (and no burgers and dogs anyway). I have to calculate 1.5 lbs per person (and that's counting the kids). People don't know BBQ ribs as you and I do, so go wild when they get the chance.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I like ribs as much as the next guy, but for a large BBQ, just ribs is really boring. You need chicken, links, even brisket to round it out.

                1. re: OldTimer

                  That might be fine in San Francisco but for the Sons and Daughters of the Southland? If I served ribs and more ribs, enough that everyone could eat their fill and maybe take a few home, I would be considered the Hostess with the Mostest. No one would care if there was anything else. Just a regional difference.

                  1. re: OldTimer

                    Agree with the OldTimer that it's wise to have at least a couple of choices, since there's always folks who may not like one thing or another. Sam: which Colombia are we talking about here?

                    1. re: OldTimer

                      True in the US. True for the international crowd here.

                      But for 150 Colombians, I stick to pork & beef--plus the greatest tiny potatoes not present elsewhere done skin on, rice, salads of any of our 100s of tropical fruits, artichokes, asparagus, ... If I'm cooking and everyone is happy--OK. And Colombians don't BBQ as you do in the US, so aren't bored with my ribs.

                      Anyway, come on down for the next big party in which I'm asked to BBQ and you're more than welcome to take over: for years I've said that I cook but don't BBQ. I broke down for a friend's wedding and got trapped.

                      wb: Colombia, South America

                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Wifey volunteered me to cook ribs for 22 adults on my Weber Bullet - 11 racks ????? I refused and did a couple of Brisket Flats and beans- Everyone was pleased ;-)