How Much Meat Per Person? BBQ Planning Guide

Are you hosting a huge garden party? Or are you panicking while getting ready to help with the catering of a BBQ event?

One of the first questions you are probably asking yourself is – how much BBQ per person should you prepare?

You don’t want to leave your guests hungry, not to spend too much time, money, and effort preparing way too much food, right?

The good news is that there are some simple guidelines for the right amount of food and the right amount of meat and the number of sides you should prepare for events like this.

Read on to find out more.

Guidelines for planning the meat

The first question you will need to ask yourself when planning the meat is whether the meat is going to make up the entire meal, or whether it is part of the meal and there will be other sides, appetizers, other foods, and snacks as well.

A rough guideline to get ready for barbecuing for a large group of people and for calculating how much meat you will need to cook includes:

  • If there are going to be three sides, then you should plan to make about 1/3 pound of meat per guest as the main dish.
  • Children under the age of 12 should be counted as eating about ½ of what the adults would eat.

With this rough estimate, you will be able to plan on how much meat to buy and prepare for an upcoming event. Of course, you will need to know how many people (adults and children) are expected to come. Plus, there is some fine-tuning which may need to be done for specific people and occasions or types of foods.

It is recommended to think about the side dishes for the party and how much BBQ per person should be prepared.

Different side dishes have different filling contents. While sides like grilled veggies or light salads are satisfying, creamy and cheesy pasta or potatoes are far less so. Therefore, depending on the type and quantity of side dishes, you may want to modify the amount of meat you had intended to serve each individual.

You might want to think about including chicken and brisket on the menu in addition to both light and dark meats. The visitors will then have the option to select the preferred variety of meat.

When you are cooking for a smaller group of people, especially people you know well, then planning on how much meat to prepare is a much easier task.

Factors to keep in mind when planning on how much BBQ per person to prepare

Here are some of the main factors to consider when planning the quantity of food you need to prepare for an event:

  • The number of side dishes which are going to be served, and how heavy or light they are
  • Are there going to be appetizers and desserts?
  • How long will this event last, and is it lunch or dinner (people tend to eat more food for dinner)
  • Who are your guests? Are there more men than women coming? What is the age of the guests? How many children are coming?
  • Will there be vegetarians or vegans at the event?
  • Is the event formal or informal? Will it be sitting down or milling around?
  • Will there be alcohol served (alcohol typically causes increased consumption of food)?

How much brisket should you plan per person?

If you will be making brisket, then it is a good idea to follow the above-mentioned rough estimate of 1/3 pound of brisket per adult as the main course. But this amount of brisket can decrease to ¼ pound per person if you have lots of filling sides or guests who eat little. On the other hand, it can increase to about ½ pound per guest if they are big eaters or if the sides are few and light.

Keep in mind that the weight and amount of the raw meat you buy will not be the same as once it is prepared. With brisket, you can expect to lose about ½ the weight of the meat due to the trimming of the fat and the loss of moisture throughout the cooking process. Check our informative guide and learn if should you cook brisket with the fatty side up or down.

So, calculate about a 50% loss when buying the brisket for an event, and you can be sure that no one will leave hungry.

Even though slow and low smoking and preparing the brisket is not the easiest task, it is better if you end up with more than less meat necessary to feed your guests. Plus, you can have the leftovers for yourself, and they can be utilized in a variety of delicious recipes.

How many ribs should you plan per person?

A rack of ribs consists of 12 ribs, but not all types are the same size. The baby’s back ribs are smaller than spare ribs, and spare ribs are smaller than back ribs.

When calculating how many ribs you should prepare per guest, again take into consideration whether there will be side dishes, what types of sides there will be, and whether there will be other meat, or the ribs will be the main course.

Plus, keep in mind the gender, age, and appetite of your guests as well.

Here is a rough guideline for calculating how many ribs you should prepare per person if the ribs are the main part of the meal:

  • If serving baby back ribs – count 6 ribs per person
  • If you are serving spare ribs – count 4-5 ribs per person
  • If you are preparing beef back ribs – count 2-3 ribs per person

How much pulled pork should you plan per person?

Like with the brisket, it is a good idea to plan to lose 50% of the raw meat weight once you prepare and cook it.

Then calculate an amount of 1/3 to ½ pound of meat per person if the pulled pork is the main dish.

If you are serving the pulled pork in sandwiches, then plan about ¼ pound per person.

Other useful tips for planning a barbecue party

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  • If the event is buffet style, then line up the secondary meats and sides first for people to fill their dishes before getting to the main meat
  • Serve secondary meats like sausages or chicken in small, bite-sized pieces. This will make the guests eat more of them along with the sides before getting to the main meat.
  • Prep as much of the food as possible on the day before the event so that you can avoid the panic and rush on the day itself. This includes trimming the meat, preparing marinades, rubs, sauces, and any sides which can be stored safely overnight.
  • Check whether you have all of the ingredients and tools you will need to prepare the food for the event a day or two prior to it.

How to ensure that everything is ready to serve on time?

Making sure that all of the barbecued meat and sides and everything else is ready on time is the most challenging part of planning and organizing a BBQ, especially for novices.

In order to preserve the meat juicy, tasty, warm, and safe, even if you end up cooking it earlier, you can get an insulated box, also known as a “faux cambro”, among pitmasters. You can buy a specially designed cambro if you host such events on a regular basis. For occasional use, you can use a good-quality beer cooler that has a sealable lid instead.

How to use the faux cambro:

  • Plan the cooking so that you are done with the cooking of the meat at least 1 hour before serving time. This will allow the meat to be on time, even if it takes longer than expected.
  • Fill the faux cambro or beer cooler with 3 gallons of hot water from the tap, and seal it. Let it heat up for about 30 minutes.
  • Empty the water and place a towel on the bottom of the cooler or cambro.
  • Wrap the ready meat in aluminum foil, and place it in an aluminum tray on top of the towel.
  • Cover the meat up with another towel and seal the lid.

To stay on the safe side, you should use a good quality meat thermometer and leave the probe inside the meat to monitor the internal temperature and ensure that it stays within the safe temperature zone for meat to prevent spoilage, bacterial growth, and other risks.

Another way to keep the meat ready and perfect for serving is to store it in an oven at a low temperature.

Final Words

So, the general rule when calculating how much BBQ per person to make is 1/3 pound of cooked meat per adult.

But as you can see, there are multiple other factors to keep in mind when planning a BBQ event, including the age and gender of the people, their appetite, the number and types of side dishes, the kind of event you are hosting, the time of the party, and many more.

In any case, we hope that we have helped you get a better idea about how to plan and prepare for a big barbecue event. Good luck, and enjoy!

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