Barbecues and parties are a great way to socialize with family and friends, but if you’ve ever been to an event where the food ran out, you’ll appreciate that it can break that party atmosphere. When the food runs out, it creates an awkward situation, where no one wants to take the last chicken leg or people dance around the food table, trying to be polite. Unfortunately, unless you’re an experienced caterer or seasoned chef, it can be difficult to know how much meat you need to buy for your party. So, here we’ll explore how much meat per person you need to plan to ensure that your party goes off without a hitch.
The first thing that you need to understand before you start to plan your party menu is meat yield. When you order a ¼ pound burger, it doesn’t look like a ¼ pound of meat when it arrives in the bun. This is because of shrinkage during cooking. You may have noticed that little asterisk besides advertisements for burgers and steaks at restaurants and fast food places. In fact, McDonald’s state that “weight before cooking is at least 4 ounces” on their quarter pounder advertisements. Burgers can shrink by 31% due to moisture and fat loss during cooking.
This is an important thing to consider when planning your barbecue, as 30% shrinkage is an average for fatty meats. The yield number of meats is crucial, so you can accurately calculate how much raw meat you need to buy. While there is a USDA helpsheet that details the yields of different meats after cooking, but some examples include:
Pork Shoulder- 62%
Whole Turkey- 50%
NY Strip Steak-84%
Baby Back Ribs- 50%
As we’ve mentioned above, different types of meats have different yields, and it can vary a great deal. So, here we’ll explore how much meat per person for a roast, bbq or party to help you to plan your menu.
There are obviously lots of different types of fish, but for most finfish such as salmon or bass, the typical serving size is an 8-ounce portion. Since you’re likely to lose approximately 30% during cooking, you should plan for 11.4 ounces of raw fish per person for fillets or steaks.
To calculate how much crab meat per person, you should work on a serving size of ½ pound per person. For this, you will need to buy 1½ to 2 pounds for each person.
If you’re planning on serving chicken, it is easier to plan out how much meat per person by counting the pieces and parts rather than weight. Boneless chicken breasts range in size from 4 to 8 ounces, but bulk meat, such as boneless thighs are easier to calculate by the pound.
If you’re planning how much meat for a bbq, where you’ll be serving other meats and dishes in addition to chicken, plan for 1.5 pieces of boneless chicken breast for each person. If you’re buying bone in chicken, you should plan for two pieces or a ¼ of a chicken per person. This breaks down as a drumstick and thigh or wing and breast.
If you’re buying boneless thighs, a typical serving is 6 ounces of cooked meat per portion. Since this meat has a 70% yield, you’ll need a half pound per person when you buy your supplies.
Turkey is rarely eaten by itself, but if you’re planning a holiday dinner, you’ll need to work on a basis of an 8-ounce portion for every person. Unfortunately, once you discard all the bones and skin, you may struggle to get a 50% yield if you pull off every single scrap of meat.
Therefore, it is a good idea to plan for at least a pound of raw turkey per person. However, since most people will not be happy with the scraps from the wings or legs, and want a nice slice of meat, it is better to buy an extra pound or two. So, if you’re planning a dinner for 12 people, you should buy a 15 or 16-pound bird. This should provide enough for your guests, and you won’t need to face the prospect of turkey sandwiches for days after the dinner.
If you want to serve pulled pork, you’re likely to be using pork butt or pork shoulder. This can be bought bone out or bone in. There is up to 50% loss from the fat that melts during cooking or needs to be trimmed away and the bones. So, you’ll typically get 4.5 pounds of cooked meat from an 8-pound butt. Depending on side dishes and appetite, this should feed up to 15 people.
To calculate how much meat per person for pulled pork, you’ll need to think about how it will be served. If you’re planning on serving pulled pork sandwiches, you should plan on serving ¼ pound for each person, but you’ll need ⅓ pound if you’re serving plates.
Most people count the ribs rather than measuring the weight. However, you need to recognize the difference between baby back ribs and spare ribs.
A rack of baby back ribs typically contains 11 to 13 ribs, but the ribs are only 3 to 6 inches long. This typically weighs up to 2 pounds and will only serve two people. Spare ribs have bigger bones, are fattier, and larger. They typically weigh 2 ½ pounds and can feet 3 or 4 people.
If you’re planning a large buffet and serving other meats and sides, you should estimate three ribs for each person.
To calculate how much steak you need for your gathering, you’ll need to consider what type of steak you’ll be serving. A steak with bones, such as a porterhouse or t-bone, or those with a higher fat content like a rib eye will yield less, so you’ll need more for each person.
Assuming you’re buying pre-cut, individual trimmed steaks, you can base your calculations on the following yields:
NY Strip- 89%
If you want to make your calculations easier, use 70% for your average yield, and you’ll need 12 ounces per portion. So, if you’re buying boneless steaks, plan for 13 or 14 ounces per person, and for bone in steaks, you’ll need 17 ounces per person.
Tenderloin has little fat and so will not shrink too much during cooking. You’re likely to lose 10%, so if you want to serve 12 ounce portions, you’ll need to buy 13 ounce steaks.
Like a pork butt, brisket has fat on the inside and outside. This means that you can expect a 50% yield from a full untrimmed brisket after you trim and cook it. This means that to serve 6 pounds of meat, you’ll need a 12-pound brisket.
If you’re serving sandwiches, you’ll need to plan for 4 ounces per person, but for a big dinner, you may need a full pound per person.
To calculate how much ground meat per person, you’ll need to think about how you’ll be using it. The figure for how much taco meat per person is far different compared to how much hamburger per person.
Generally, most guest will have two or three tacos, which requires a serving size of 4 ounces of cooked meat. This will work out at 5 to 6 ounces of raw meat per person.
However, if you’re serving meatloaf, you’ll need a serving size of approximately 8 ounces per person. How much you need to buy will depend on your recipe, but typically 8 ounces of raw ground beef will provide this yield once you factor in the breadcrumbs, eggs etc.
As you can see, the answer to how much meat per person is one size fits all solution. It is important to plan for how much you need to be, and if in doubt, be generous and add a little more to ensure that everyone will be kept happy. Once you’ve gained experience as the host of barbecues and parties, you’ll start to feel more confident, but if you’re still struggling, ask your local butcher for further guidance.