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How Much BBQ Per Person? Simple Meal Planning Guide

How Much BBQ Per Person? Simple Meal Planning Guide

BBQ is one of my favorite meals, and for me, grilling season is a year-round passion! Unfortunately, when I started grilling, I wasn’t sure how much BBQ to make and often ended up short-handed.

This left a hungry husband and boys, which raised the question of how much barbecue should I be making for each person? Below is what I’ve found to be a quick, general set of guidelines to use.

Meat TypeAmount per Person
Pulled Pork1/2 pound
Ribs3-4 ribs (1/3 slab)
Brisket1/3 – 1/2 pound
Steak1
Hamburger / hot dogs2

Clearly this is making a LOT of assumption, so let’s take a look at what else to consider when deciding how much barbecue to prepare for each person!

#1 Have An Estimated Count

You don’t need an exact count. After all, focusing too much on exact numbers can be stressful and take the fun out of grilling!

Instead, plan for the number of people you are expecting and possibly a few more. The standard portion per individual is usually about 6-8 ounces per person when meat will be the main feature (and it usually is when we’re talking BBQ!)

When deciding how much BBQ per person, a more general estimate will yield about a third-pound of meat per person, possibly a quarter-pound with the addition of side dishes.

But this IS a barbecue, so that’s what we are going to plan for! 

#2 Plan Your Menu Accordingly

Start by thinking of what you want to serve, how many guests you will have, and what type of appetites you will be accommodating. You may need quite a bit of meat or not that much.

You can also assure everyone will have enough to eat by providing a couple of light appetizers before the actual BBQ meal. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a good dip with chips, and it’s super casual.

I also opt for a nice charcuterie board. It requires little effort with a big wow factor that offers a lot of variety for the taste buds 🙂

#3 Decide If Meat Will Be the Main Course

Usually, the meat will take center stage in the meal, but of course not always!

If the meat is the main event along with sides, you’ll again opt for planning on preparing half a pound per person, possibly a little more for larger appetites.

So for a group of, say ten hungry people, you’ll want to have at least 8-10 pounds of cooked meat prepared.

Preparing a large roast versus individual steaks or breasts can also give you more flexibility if you are worried about how much people may eat. This option can yield you more portions without doing a whole lot of extra work.

#4 Remember That Meat Shrinks

When deciding on how much BBQ per person, keep in mind that all meats will shrink a bit after cooking, but fattier types like brisket or hamburgers will render down quite a bit more.

Also, consider if you will serve meat with more bones and solid fatty portions, such as chicken or pork shoulder. Bones and fat add a significant amount of moisture and flavor but may not necessarily get eaten.

A safe estimate upon trimming is that 7 out of 10 pounds will be salvaged and available to serve.

Another option might be to go boneless altogether. With this option, you can minimize some of the waste. 

#5 Include Side Dishes

The number of side dishes you end up making is up to you, but 3-4 sides is usually a safe amount to start with. Potatoes can go a long way and are also quite filling, hence the barbeque staple of a good potato salad.

If you’re looking to offer a more balanced meal, a garden salad or grilled veggie skewers are great options and an excellent alternative for any guests who don’t eat meat. 

#6 Kids Will Usually Eat Less

Since children typically eat less than adults, counting kids in your meal planning probably won’t affect how much you need to prepare.

If your guest list includes a large number of kids, such as teens, I recommend that you stick to adult portion sizes, even if this means you end up having leftovers. This way, you can assure both light and heavier appetites are satisfied.

It’s been my experience that small kids usually want to play as much as possible before committing to sitting down to eat something.

With a plan in place, you’ll be able to make sure that there will be some food left for them once they have worked up their little appetites. 

#7 Send Home Leftovers

It’s safe to say that most of your guests will not mind taking some extra, delicious BBQ off your hands, should you have some leftover. Having some homemade food to nosh on the next day (or in the middle of the night) is always a bonus!

For this reason, how much BBQ per person doesn’t need to be overanalyzed, and I think you will also appreciate not having to cook the following day!

Plus – if you’re going to put in the time to barbecue all of that meat to perfection, you might as well give yourself a chance to enjoy them later as well 😉

closeup of pulled pork sandwich

Preparing Different Types of Meat

When preparing and serving different meats, the amounts that you’re left with can vary.

Option #1 – Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is an all-time favorite and can satisfy the appetite of many guests. You can serve it pre-made as small sliders or in a dish to be plated out.

How much actual meat you yield will depend on the cut. A boneless pork shoulder of 10 pounds will give you about 6-7 pounds to work with, giving your guests about 1/3 pound per person when served as sliders.

Anticipate ½ pound per person if you just want to have the pork plated. 

Option #2 – Ribs

It’s just not a BBQ without the ribs!

Beef ribs are the largest, followed by spare ribs and baby backs. Both spare and baby back ribs will yield you about 70-75%, with spare being more moist and flavorful due to the fat marbling.

You can plan on serving an average of 3-4 ribs or 1/3 slab per person.

However, if you’re serving a hungry table full of rib lovers like my husband, you may want to bump that estimate up to a half rack per person 😉

Option #3 – Beef Brisket

There is nothing like a melt-in-your-mouth smoked BBQ brisket to please the masses!

You’ll want to cook it low and slow to achieve that classic, buttery texture and it will lose a good amount of fat and moisture as it cooks. You can expect to yield about 5 pounds from a 10-pound cut.

Brisket is great, both sliced and served on sandwiches!

For plated, a ½ pound per person is a pretty safe bet. Adding bread for sandwiches will bring it down to 1/3 pound per person.  

Option #4 – Steak

You can never go wrong with a well-executed, grilled steak. Depending on the type of steak you are preparing, you can expect to generally receive a yield of about 70%.

Bone-in or fattier choices like rib-eyes will give a little less since they will shrink while cooking. Expect about ¾ pound for each 16-ounce steak.

A good strategy is to buy a steak for each person, with the addition of some extras just in case of larger appetites or unexpected guests.

Option #5 – Burgers & Hot Dogs

Both hamburgers and hot dogs are staples when it comes to backyard BBQ. They are inexpensive, cook quickly, and require little preparation. They are the popular choice of children and picky eaters.

I usually plan on guests having two hamburgers. Paired with buns and sides, hamburgers will normally give you about 1/3 – ½ pound of meat.

For hot dogs or links, shrinkage can depend on the size or brand. Two hot dogs usually do the trick for most people. If they are on the small side, I would bump it up to three per person.

Final Thoughts

Figuring out how much BBQ per person doesn’t need to be complicated or over-thought. You can tailor the results to any preference easily with a little preparation.

This will ensure everyone has enough to eat at your cookout without the added stress that nobody wants!

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