If you’re planning on having friends over this summer, a big question you’ll need to know is how much meat per person for a bbq. Whatever the meat you’re serving, here are some guidelines to help in planning your next bbq.
As the temperatures warm up, thoughts go to cooking outdoors with friends and family. It’s so easy to throw some meat on the grill and invite friends over. As you start to organize your party, first on the agenda is how much meat per person for a bbq or cookout are you going to need.
Trying to determine the right amount of meat without making too much food can be a challenge.
The general rule of thumb is ½ pound of meat per person, but does that mean raw or cooked, and does it change depending on the type of meat. I’ve got some answers to these questions and more so that you can throw an effortless bbq or cookout without have to worry about whether you’ll have enough meat.
In North Carolina, we have “cookouts” and “bbq” is a noun which refers to pulled pork. For the rest of the country, a bbq refers to cooking or eating outdoors.
When planning a bbq you’ll want to consider what type of meat you’re going to serve but most importantly, what type of sides are going to be served with it. Starchier sides like potato salad or macaroni and cheese are going to be more filling then watermelon and potato chips.
Things to consider
Before you determine how much meat you’ll need, here are a couple of things to consider:
- Is meat the main attraction or will there be side dishes.
- What type of sides will there be, heavier sides will mean smaller portions of meat, where lighter sides will require a larger portion size.
- Are your guest big eaters – football players versus children who might eat less meat.
- Does your meat have a bone in it like chicken drumsticks.
- Is it being served on a bun, like burgers or sliders.
- The type of meat is also a big factor because a pound of raw meat will have different yields depending on the type of meat.
Once you have figured out the number of guests, the main course, and the types of sides dishes, it’s time to estimate how many pounds of meat you will need before you make that shopping list and head to the grocery store.
Type of meat to serve
Types of meat all yield a different amount once cooked depending on how much fat is in the meat, and whether it has a bone in the cut of meat or not. A pound of raw meat is not going to yield a pound of cooked meat.
The average adult will eat an 8 ounce portion of meat, which is a ½ a pound depending on what else is being served, for children it would be a ¼ pound. If you are serving side dishes, a safe way is to count on ⅓ pound of cooked meat per person, if sides are light or limited, shoot for ½ pound.
How much Beef per person
Burgers and Hot Dogs
Ground beef has about a 70% yield, which means a pound of hamburger will yield about ¾ of a pound of cooked burgers. Therefore, the portion size will be less than 8 ounces for each burger, assuming you make 4 burgers out of a pound of hamburger. Since burgers are generally served with buns, you can get by with less meat.
If all you are serving is watermelon with your burgers, then you’ll want to plan for two burgers per person. If you’re serving roasted potato salad, and corn on the cob, one should be enough.
If you go with footlong hot dogs, plan for two per person. If smaller, you should go with three depending on your side dishes. Have you tried spiral hot dogs, super fun for a cookout.
While a brisket looks huge in the grocery, it actually looses about half of its weight when it’s cooked. This means that a 10 pound raw brisket, has an average yield of about 5 pounds of cooked meat, or 10 servings. So don’t worry about how big it looks, you won’t have as much brisket as you think.
Steak is a little easier to plan for than some meat. The average adult will eat about an 8 ounce portion of raw steak. My suggestion is to get some larger ones for the big eaters and smaller ones for those who might not want as much steak as others. If using boneless steaks, it’s much easier to estimate the amount of meat you will have.
Steaks in general have about a 70% yield, but fatty meats will loose even more in the cooking process. So keep in mind the type of steak you are serving when choosing the weight.
How much Pork per person
Whether you’re making pulled pork or fall off the bone ribs, pork is great to serve at a bbq. Whether it’s a Boston butt or pork shoulder, they both will serve a crowd.
Pulled pork is generally made from either the pork butt or pork shoulder which usually contains a bone. The average pork butt or shoulder weighs between 5 and 10 lbs and will yield about 50%. This means that a 10 pound raw pork butt will result in about 5 pounds of delicious pulled pork. Where I come from bbq is pulled pork!
There is nothing better for a cookout than a rack of baby back ribs. A rack of baby backs contains about 12 ribs. A good rule of thumb is to allow for 6 ribs per person. If you’re cooking beef ribs, they are quite a bit larger and you can estimate about 2-3 ribs per person.
How much Chicken per person
Chicken is such a versatile meat which makes it great for cookouts. If serving chicken breasts, you can count on one boneless chicken breast per person, about 6 ounces. If you’re cooking chicken pieces, like boneless thighs and drumsticks, then count on 2 pieces per person. However, if you’re only serving drumsticks, you’ll want to plan on 3 per person.
Chicken wings are a little different since they don’t contain a lot of meat. If serving with other sides, then you can plan on about 6 wings per person. However, if you’re just serving wings, then plan on 12 per person, everybody loves wings!
Easy Side Dishes for a BBQ
While the meat might be the main attraction, I’m all about the sides, here are some favorites that will work with whatever meat you choose.
This simple to make potato salad has a sour cream and ranch dressing with cheese and cooked bacon. It will go great with any main dish.
With fresh produce around, you can’t go wrong with this light and delicious salad. It won’t weigh you down and goes great with any type of meat.
When it’s hot outside, and fresh fruit is abundant at the farmers market, a fruit salad is the way to go. You can adapt it to whatever is in season and adding a little honey and lime brighten it up for a refreshing side with whatever you’re serving.
More sides to round out a BBQ
- Mac & Cheese
- Broccoli Casserole
- Broccoli Salad
- Strawberry and Spinach Salad
- Mashed Potatoes
- Squash Casserole
- Corn and Blueberry Salad
Best Bread for a BBQ
My favorite rolls for a cookout are Hawaiian rolls. They’re easy to make and can be made ahead. You can even plan way ahead and freeze them. Keep them warm in a slow cooker and you can stay out of the kitchen and everyone gets warm rolls.
Since they have a slightly sweet flavor from the pineapple juice, they make a great roll for sliders or are delicious all by themselves.
Desserts for a BBQ
You can’t have a cookout without dessert, but there are so many options to choose from. I say, keep it simple and find something you can make in advance and don’t have to worry about.
There’s nothing easier than making a batch of brownies. This recipe is hard to mess up and can be thrown together pretty quickly.
Depending on the number of people, this easy fruit dessert takes full advantage of whatever’s in season. Served warm or at room temperature, they’re hard to beat.
This easy to make bundt cake with peaches and blueberries, is light and refreshing. Top with some whipped cream and it’s the perfect ending to your meal.
If you’re not sure what you want to serve, check out my post on sliders and what to serve with them at a party to get some ideas.
FAQs and Tips
Leftover meat freezes great. Let it come to room temperature and then freeze in an airtight container.
Depending on the type of meat, you can store most meat from 4-12 months. You could still eat it after that but it will be tough and not have much flavor.
If you are having children at your bbq party, estimate ¼ pound of meat per child.
If you have a small gathering, 6-8 people, then one heavier side and one lighter side should be enough to go with the main course. You could add bread if you are not serving burgers or hot dogs.
The best way to keep rolls warm is to wrap them in a slightly damp towel and place them in a slow cooker on low.