Planning a BBQ for a big group can be tricky. It is frustrating when you run out of something mid-party. But you don’t want to buy too much food either. It is a delicate balancing act. So how much meat per person do you need to throw the perfect BBQ?
Luckily, chefs and caterers have been doing this kind of cooking math for years. In this post we will teach you how to estimate your portions of meat just like a professional. Whether you are hosting a party of 5 or 50 you will always have the right amount of meat for everyone!
- 1 Meal Considerations – Role of the Meat
- 2 How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?
- 3 How Much Chicken Per Person?
- 4 How Much Brisket Per Person?
- 5 How Much Meat Per Person for Tacos – Ground Beef
- 6 How Many Ribs Per Person?
- 7 How Much Ham Per Person?
- 8 How Much Steak Per Person?
- 9 How Many Burgers and Hot Dogs Per Person?
Meal Considerations – Role of the Meat
The first step to take when planning a BBQ is to decide on your menu. BBQ’s typically feature a meat-based main course and several side dishes. Once you know what you are serving it isn’t hard to figure out the ideal portion size for each person.
Don’t forget to factor in your appetizers and side dishes when you plan your main entree. If guests are filling up on potato salad, deviled eggs and chips they might not eat as much of your main course. If you serve light vegetable sides then they may eat bigger portions of the meat entree.
With your menu in hand you can now start thinking about your shopping list. Using the guidelines below, choose your portion-size and add it to the number of guests. This will give you the amount of cooked meat you are aiming to produce.
Be generous and add in a few extra portions to account for accidents. That way if you drop or burn something your guests won’t miss out. If you want to have leftovers add in a few extra portions for your family. I always give myself leftover-leeway.
Before you head to the store to buy meat there is one final thing to consider. Meat loses weight while cooking. Some cuts contain inedible bones or gristle. You have to factor your yield (see below) when determining how much raw meat you need to produce the right portion sizes.
That’s it! Using these tips you can quickly calculate how much meat per person you need to buy to throw the ultimate BBQ party.
Meat is the Main Part of the Dish
If you are serving steak, brisket or any entree based primarily around meat you will want to allow for fairly generous portions. Even with a nice mix of side dishes your meat entree will be the star of the party!
Generally, chefs recommend serving ½ pound (8 ounces) of meat per person. To feed a party of 10 you would want at least 5 pounds of cooked meat.
If you are making more than one meat entree then figure that most people will take an equal portion of each. So if you are planning on brisket and pulled pork, allow at least ¼ pound of each kind of meat per person. That same party of 10 would require at least 2 ½ pounds of cooked brisket and 2 ½ of pork.
Of course, you likely won’t be weighing out your portions as you serve your guests.
An easy way to eyeball portions of meat is to use your palm. The average 4 to 6 ounce serving of meat is about the size and thickness of your palm (fingers excluded). Two small palms-worth of meat should be about 8 ounces.
Meat is Just Part of the Dish
Sometimes your main dish is more than just meat. You might opt to make a curry or big batch of chili or stew. You won’t need as much meat per person to satisfy your dinner guests. The other ingredients (and side dishes) will stand in for the meat without leaving anyone hungry.
For dishes that contain meat as an ingredient, you should plan on ¼ to ⅓ pound of meat per person.
To make a batch of curry or chili for 10 guests you would want 2.5 to 3.3 pounds of cooked meat.
Children, Teens or Adults
Guests are not all equal when it comes to their appetites.
If you are hosting a party for a group of children you won’t need as much meat per person as you would for a party of teenagers.
I admit I don’t usually calculate kids separately unless they make up the bulk of the guest list. I just figure that I will have more leftovers. A hungry adult can easily make up the difference if you have a couple of light eaters at your party.
But don’t ignore a pack of teenagers or starving ball-players after a game or you may run out of food!
For bigger appetites I recommend increasing your portions and allowing for ¾ to 1 pound of meat per person (12 to 16 ounces). So you will need at least 7.5 to 10 pounds of cooked meat for a party of 10 big eaters.
Bone-in or Boneless
It is easy to figure out how much meat per person you need using the above guidelines. But how do you factor in bones or other inedible parts of your meat when you are planning a BBQ?
One option is to go boneless. If your cut is boneless your meat will have a greater yield (see below).
For things like a smoked pork butt or chicken, however, those extra bones can add a lot of flavor. They also help retain moisture while your meat is on the grill. You might prefer a bone-in cut.
When calculating how much meat per person you need from a bone-in cut, increase your portions upward a bit. I recommend using ¾ pound per person as your base portion size. Then you can adjust up or down from there to account for different appetites.
Meat Weight Loss After Cooking
There is one more thing to consider before you head to the butcher shop. Your meat is going to lose fat and moisture when you cook it. A raw 4-pound roast will not produce 4 pounds of cooked meat.
How do you determine how much raw meat you need to buy? You need to know the yield of the cut you are cooking. The yield is the difference between your meat’s raw weight and the amount of cooked meat it produces.
The yield takes into account the loss of weight from trimming, boning and cooking. It is the percentage of the meat that is left to serve your guests.
Ground meat, for instance, has a yield of about 70%. That means it loses about 30% of its weight during the cooking process.
You need to know how much each cut of meat will yield before you can calculate how much you need buy for your party. This is especially challenging because different cuts of meats (and cooking methods) produce different yields.
If you are making hamburgers for your party you will need to buy about 30% more raw meat to have the right portions of cooked. But if you are smoking a fatty brisket you may need to buy as much as 50% more to account for the yield!
Don’t stress these calculations too much. Just check out the yield of your meat and add in a bit extra raw meat to account for the loss. So if you want to produce 4 pounds of cooked hamburger (about 16 patties) then buy at least 5.2 pounds of ground beef.
For a fairly complete list of basic cooking yields you can consult this list or go to the USDA’s website for more detailed info. Below we have worked out the calculations for a variety of common BBQ meats for your convenience.
How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?
Pulled pork is a backyard favorite, and you will have some satisfied guests if you decide to make it. Pulled pork is commonly served on rolls slider-style. You can also serve the pulled or chopped pork as a plated meat with sides and a BBQ sauce.
Depending on the cut you buy and whether it is bone-in or boneless you can count of getting a yield of 50-65% from the average pork butt. A 10-pound bone-in pork butt will yield around 5.5 pounds of cooked meat. If you choose a boneless cut then you may get as much as 6.5 pounds of meat from a 10-pound pork butt.
When served as a slider you should plan on having ¼ to ⅓ pound of pork per person. Increase the amount of meat per person to ½ pound if you are going for a plated pork entree.
How Much Chicken Per Person?
Chicken is one of my favorite things to grill. There is nothing like the flavor of a well-roasted piece of chicken! You can find some of our favorite chicken-grilling techniques here.
How much meat per person do you need if you are serving chicken? It depends.
It is usually easier to count pieces of chicken rather than using the weight when estimating your portions.
The yield of your chicken will vary from about 65% for a whole roasted bird to as much as 75% for boneless, skinless chicken pieces. Generally, plan to serve about ¼ of a bird per person for a whole chicken. This works out to about 2 pieces of chicken per guest.
If you are serving smaller pieces of chicken, such as drumsticks, you may want to increase your portions. I like to allow for 3 pieces per person for drumsticks.
For larger bone-in chicken breasts a single piece will usually yield 6-8 ounces of cooked meat. This is enough meat for the average guest’s appetite.
For boneless, skinless cuts such as breasts and thighs aim for 1.5 to 2 pieces per person. This should average out to about ½ pound of cooked meat since these pieces have a greater yield.
Chicken wings are a special case. They are the smallest part of the chicken and usually yield about 60-70% depending on how they are cooked. If you are serving wings on their own then count on serving 7-10 pieces per person. Otherwise I usually count wings as a half-portion each when I am making my estimates.
How Much Brisket Per Person?
Nothing says BBQ like a smoked brisket. This is a popular cut to serve at a party and is a great option for feeding a large crowd.
Similar to pork butt, brisket has a yield of around 50%. It will lose a lot of fat and moisture while it cooks. You can expect about 5 pounds of cooked meat from a 10-pound brisket. The low-and-slow cooking method will produce a beautiful slice of meat that melts in your mouth.
Brisket is commonly served either sliced or chopped. You can serve it on its own sliced in a sandwich. For plated brisket, the standard ½ pound of meat per person is usually a good bet. Increase it to 1 pound per person for your super-brisket fans!
For brisket sandwiches plan on ¼ to ⅓ pound of meat per person and you should have plenty of meat.
How Much Meat Per Person for Tacos – Ground Beef
Taco parties are an easy way to feed a hungry crowd in a hurry. You can use just about any kind of meat for tacos. Beef, pork, chicken and fish are all good options for making tacos.
Ground beef tacos are one of the most popular versions and make a great choice for a party.
As we mentioned above, ground beef typically has a yield of about 70%. The yield will be higher for ground beef with a lower fat content. These may have as little as 5% fat. While they have a higher yield, I find they turn out a drier taco with a lot less flavor.
I prefer a richer mix myself and usually choose one with 15-20% fat. The yield for this higher-fat mix is around 60%. To account for the loss of weight during cooking I just buy twice the amount I need and freeze any extra.
For tacos, I usually count on having ¼ to ⅓ pound of meat per person. For a 10-person taco party, I would purchase about 8 pounds of 15%-fat ground beef or 6.5 pounds of a 5%-fat mix.
How Many Ribs Per Person?
Ribs are one of my absolute favorite things to grill. Like chicken, it is usually easier to count the ribs rather than using their weight when estimating portions for a party.
Ribs come in a variety of cuts and are usually pork or beef-based (although lamb ribs are also an excellent option if you can find them). The most common and popular cuts for grilling are the porcine baby-back and spare ribs.
Baby-back ribs are smaller and leaner than spare ribs. They produce more meat per rib but don’t have as much flavor as their spare rib cousins. Spare ribs are usually longer, with less meat but more flavorful fat marbled in. Both cuts usually have a yield of around 70-75%.
Ribs are most often sold as a half or full rack and can vary from 1.5 to 3 pounds per rack. When ribs are the star of my BBQ I usually allow for a half-rack of baby back ribs or ⅓ rack of spare ribs per person. This will average out to 3-4 ribs (about ½ pound of meat) per person. If you are serving other meats along with your ribs then allow for 2 ribs per guest.
How Much Ham Per Person?
Ham is a great option for a party because it is full of flavor and produces a lot of meat. You can carve a whole ham for your main course and serve it in slices. You can also use the meat as an ingredient in casseroles, salads, soups and sandwiches.
A typical grocery store ham comes cured and precooked. You just needs to warm it up before carving. Hams can be bone-in or boneless and may be anywhere from 3 to 20 pounds in weight. A precooked bone-in ham will have a yield of about 80-85%.
A typical serving of ham is about ½ pound of sliced meat. If you are using the ham as an ingredient in the main course then allow for ¼ to ⅓ pound of meat per person. You can expect to get about 8 to 8.5 pounds of meat from a 10-pound ham.
How Much Steak Per Person?
Steak is the meat-of-choice for many and we can understand its popularity. A properly grilled steak is a thing of beauty.
But how much meat per person do you need if you are serving steak at your BBQ?
It depends on the kind of steak you are serving and whether it is boneless or bone-in. In general, most steaks will have a yield of around 70%. Bone-in and fattier cuts, such as rib-eyes, will have a lower yield since they will lose more weight while cooking.
I admit I don’t stress too much about portions when serving steak. I buy a steak for each guest, with a few extras. I usually pick steaks that are at least 16 ounces a piece. If your steaks are smaller you may need more than one per guest.
Each 16-ounce steak will produce about a ¾ pound of cooked meat. This is more than a typical serving of meat. But I find most people will consume an entire steak at a BBQ without any trouble.
When making steak for tacos, fajitas or kabobs I usually shoot for serving ⅓ to ½ pound per person. When turning steak into sandwiches or sliders I aim for ¼ to ⅓ pound of meat per person.
How Many Burgers and Hot Dogs Per Person?
Burgers and dogs are the staples of the backyard BBQ. They are easy to prep, relatively inexpensive and cook quickly. They make a great option for any gathering.
As you have read above, ground beef has a typical yield of about 70%. Beef with a higher fat content will have a lower yield, however.
Hot dogs are all over the map. Some low-fat, all beef dogs may have a yield of 85%, while others are similar to ground beef. It depends on the size and brand of your dogs.
1 pound of ground beef will yield about ¾ pound of hamburger. Most people probably make 4 hamburger patties from a pound of ground beef. When served on buns and with sides, two hamburgers will usually contain between ⅓ to ½ pound of meat. I usually count on my guests eating two burgers each.
For hot dogs, I prefer to get the footlong kind you find at the ballpark. When served in a bun with condiments and sides I find that 2 dogs per person usually does the trick. For smaller hot dogs I would increase my estimate 3 per person to be on the safe side.
When it comes to hamburgers and hot dogs I usually err on the side of caution and buy extras. That way, if something slips through the grill, burns or falls on the ground I don’t run short on food.