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how many pounds of bone in short ribs do I need for a party of 20?

Buffet dinner for 20, which includes dips, crackers, veggies as starters. The short ribs, polenta, spinach & cheese strata, roasted brussel sprouts & cauliflower, and a salad are the mains. I was thinking i might try to "debone" the meat after cooking so it's easier to serve, but I'm wondering how much short ribs would be good (I have 9lbs now, thinking I might need more?)

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  1. If it were a sit-down dinner, I'd buy 12 to 13 pounds. In my experience, people eat somewhat less at a buffet so your 9 pounds might cover it. Depends how you feel about leftovers. And short ribs do freeze beautifully.

    I find that even if I don't specifically want to debone my short ribs, the bones nearly always fall out when I'm removing them from the Dutch oven. That's assuming English style short ribs, not cross cut.

    1. Without all the other offerings, I'd run with a pound per guest e.g. the bones, but with them I think you can get away with a few pounds more - maybe 5 more. Joan is right about them freezing nicely, for sure. They make the best base evers, for French onion soup and/or pulled short-rib sandwiches to dip into jus.

      8 Replies
      1. re: mamachef

        Really? A pound per person? That seems like an awful lot to me. I usually figure that 4 pounds will serve 6, assuming it's part of a full meal.

        1. re: JoanN

          Do you? Maybe my friends just have a bigger appetite. But yes; when something has a large bone, I generally run w/ a lb. per person, figuring in for bone weight. Then again, my perpetual horrifying nightmare is preparing a nice meal for friends only to discover that there's NOT ENOUGH FOOD. Almost as bad as the "bad waitress" dream, where I'm wearing lead boots, my pen doesn't work, and I can't find the kitchen. :)

          1. re: mamachef

            I have that same nightmare! I think I'll pick up some more, even if just for the fact that I definitely want leftovers :) That's the second best thing about a party - eating it all the following week too.

            1. re: mickeygee

              I just cooked short ribs for a largish crowd (8 adults) and went with about a pound per person. Two of the group aren't particularly big meat eaters, and there were a lot of other rich sides, etc. Even so, we only had enough leftover for a couple more portions. I would definitely do a pound per person and enjoy the leftovers if there are any!

            2. re: mamachef

              I agree. When half of what you are buying is bone and the meat itself shrinks quite a lot like short ribs do, I would do 15 lbs. for 20 people, especially of I were removing the bone for serving. Serving with the bone intact would probably help keep portion size down since it is visually a bigger serving. Of course, eating bone-in short ribs on your lap in a buffet situation might be awkward.

              I'd also be mortified if I didn't have enough of the main dish and would err on the high estimate. Nothing better than leftovers sometimes. The bones and leftover meat will make the best soup.

              1. re: mamachef

                When I was catering, I'd've ordered a pound per person. I still would today, I'm just less inclined to eat meat.

            3. re: mamachef

              Totally agree with Mamachef...... If you don't have left overs....You didn't have enough for your guest ~~ 20 lbs minimum!!

              1. re: mamachef

                I agree, with loss in bone and fat a pound per person is in order. We often do short ribs for large parties at work and that is what I order and rarely have excessive amounts left over.

              2. I'd go with at least 1 lb per guest for bone in, even with all those other dishes.

                5 Replies
                1. re: rasputina

                  Have to agree, at least a pound per person. More than half the weight of shortribs is bone.

                  1. re: twyst

                    Not to mention all the fat that will be trimmed or rendered.

                    1. re: twyst

                      Boy. Not the ones that I buy. I'm beginning to think I must have access to unusually meaty ribs.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        I just bought a few pounds this morning actually, I shall take a picture and weigh them to give this thread some perspective.

                        I have seen some very meaty ones on occasion, but most of the time at least half of the weight I buy is unusable.

                        1. re: twyst

                          I guess living in Manhattan has it's advantages. Of course, I pay a small fortune for them. But I think they're worth it.

                  2. The 1 lb per person is always a good start.

                    Also, another way to estimate is how many bones per person. I usually estimate anywhere from 1 to 3. With large meaty short ribs, you can probably get by with one bone per person while anything smaller would be 2 or 3 per person. Shrinkage is about 50% when braised.

                    1. Have you made this recipe before?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Terrie H.

                        Nope, but I've done similar braises. But I always try a new recipe for my Christmas party, and luckily the guest are a good crowd if something doesn't go well, I just improvise other things. It's happened before, and I'm sure it will happen again (this is the 20th year of having this party).

                      2. Starting with bone-in ribs will yield slightly more flavorful results, but for parties larger than 12, I prefer to debone before cooking. Logistics :) Those bones take up a lot of space in a pan.
                        Allow for 1/2 lb boneless or 7/8 to 1 lb bone-in, = 17 lbs.
                        Are you planning to slice the shortribs (across the grain, of course) for service? That would make it easier (than whole pieces) for guests to take smaller portions

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: KarenDW

                          good point about deboning before cooking. In all honesty, I'm winging it as I go, and had figured I'd pull the meat off the bone so it was more of a stewy type sauce that would be served over the polenta. But who knows how it's going to work. It's always an adventure when I cook :)

                          1. re: mickeygee

                            mickeygee, no matter what actual ingredients or flavor profile you run with, just remember that key for these is to brown them really well, and go low and slow. Really, the lower and longer the better. The beauty of it is it frees your hands for so many other things, and it's nearly impossible to mess them up.

                        2. I wound up doing about 13 lbs, and did wind up with lots of leftovers, which my husband is just heartbroken that he'll have to eat for lunch this week LOL. the ribs were flanken cut, so I cut them into single pieces, browned them, and then cooked them for about 4 hours, and most of them fell off the bone as I was serving them so it worked great.

                          I used this recipe, but maybe because I doubled it, I felt the chocolate and rosemary flavors were lost, but delicious in spite of that.

                          The polenta in the slow cooker, however was a bust, and we wound up putting it in the oven, which worked in the pinch, but it wasn't as creamy as I had wanted. But once the sauce from the short ribs was over it, it was yummy.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: mickeygee

                            thanks for reporting back. I think that sauce would be good on just about anything.
                            Your husband's lunches will continue to improve, too. I think braises are best on day 3 and 4.

                            1. re: mickeygee

                              So glad they worked out well!! So sad, for your husband. That's just AWFUL, LOL. Oh, next time, you can bake the polenta from the start in the oven - recipe/method on back of the Golden Pheasant Box - gleaned from another 'Hound, that one was!! Did you double the choccy/rosemary as well, or just the ribs? What an interesting combo.
                              And the best part is: a good time had by all, with delicious nourishment provided by gracious hands. Which at the end of the day is what it's all about. Goodonya!!

                              1. re: mamachef

                                I did double the chocolate & rosemary, but truth be told, guests were arriving at that point and I wasn't really paying close attention so I was eyeballing everything, and I might have under measured. Definitely going to do it again at the smaller scale.

                                1. re: mickeygee

                                  This recipe looks delicious - thanks for pointing it out! I think doubling the cocoa powder and adding either a bit of instant espresso or subbing coffee for part of the liquid would probably help bring out the chocolate flavor...