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Sara Hansen

Properly Planning How Much BBQ Per Person You’ll Need

If you are planning on smoking or grilling for a crowd, one of the most important things to figure out is exactly how much BBQ per person you are going to need. The last thing you want is for people to start loading up their plates and you quickly realize that there is not going to be enough food for everyone. And, alternatively, you don’t want to waste money by overbuying and having too much leftover.

But, trying to figure out exactly how much to cook can sometimes get complicated fast, especially if you are going to be cooking multiple types of meat and having sides as well.

To help make things easier, we’ve put together this quick guide on properly planning how much BBQ per person to cook.


How Much Meat You’ll Need to Plan For:

There’s no exact, one-size-fits-all answer to exactly how much meat you’ll need for each person. It is largely dependent on factors such as what type of meat (or seafood) you are cooking, the time of day of your get-together, if you are going to have one or two sides or a whole spread of sides, if it is just adults or if kids are included also, etc.

But, generally speaking, when roughly three side items are being served along with the main dish, most adults will eat 1/3 lb of meat total and kids will eat roughly 1/6 lb of meat.

This gives you a starting point to think about when you start planning how much meat to get. But, there are some specifics to keep in mind when it comes to each particular type of meat:

(Important note: The amount of uncooked meat you buy will be more than the cooked amount you need to end up with. More on this below)


When Cooking Brisket

Smoked brisket is a popular BBQ favorite and a great way to show off your outdoor cooking skills. But, remember that brisket loses roughly 40%-50% of its weight once you trim off the excess fat and cook it. So, it’s better to play it safer and plan for a 50% weight loss. 

For example, let’s anticipate a 7 lb brisket cooking down to roughly 3.5 lbs pounds when it’s ready to serve. If you’ve got three to four sides, this brisket will serve about 10 people.


how much brisket per person | how much BBQ per person


When Cooking Pork Shoulder or Butt (For Pulled Pork)

Similar to brisket, you can count on losing roughly half of the weight of your pork shoulder or pork butt when it is cooked. And, again, most adults will eat about 1/3 lb of pulled pork. But, when served as a pulled pork sandwich with a bun and paired with other fairly heavy sides, smaller servings of pork can go a long way. In this case, you could safely plan for 1/4 lb of cooked pork per person.

So, if you buy a 6 lb pork shoulder, you’ll have enough pulled pork for 9 to 10 people. 


When Cooking Ribs

With ribs, rather than planning by the pound, it’s safer to think about the serving sizes in the number of actual ribs. For reference, a full rack of ribs is 12 ribs. But remember, some types of ribs are bigger than others. For example, beef back ribs are larger than pork spare ribs

So, if ribs are going to be the main meat you are cooking, you can usually plan for:

  • 6 ribs per person when serving baby back pork ribs. 
  • 4 - 5 ribs per person when serving pork spare ribs. 
  • 2 - 3 ribs per person when cooking beef back ribs.

As with all of these recommendations for the specific types of meat, also take into account the age, gender (it’s a simple fact that men usually eat more than women), and any inside info you have on your guests’ appetite to adjust your quantities as needed.


When Cooking a BBQ Seafood Boil

Besides smoking or grilling meat in your cooker, a seafood boil is another fun and delicious option you can do to feed a crowd. To help ensure that you have enough of the ingredients for everyone to get a fairly even amount, if you are doing a traditional shrimp boil, for example, you would plan for every 1 person you are serving:

  • 1/3 lb jumbo shell-on shrimp (21-25/per pound)
  • 1/4 pound smoked sausage
  • 1/2 ear of shucked sweet corn
  • 2 baby red potatoes, approximately the size of a golf ball 


how much seafood boil per person | how much BBQ per person


Have Burger Patties, Brats, and/or Hotdogs on Hand Too!

Most BBQ pros know that it’s a safe call to always have a package of beef burger patties and brats or hotdogs in the fridge just in case. Then you’ll be prepared in the event of unexpected guests and/or picky kids.


Additional Important Factors to Keep in Mind:

With the above portion size recommendations, you’ll have a good idea of how much meat to plan for each person. But, there are some additional things to keep in mind that may mean you have to slightly adjust those amounts up or down. These include:

  • The type of get-together that you are hosting: An all-out tailgate party/feast is probably going to require more food than a casual backyard get-together with a couple of people.
  • Time of day of the event: People aren’t going to eat as much at a BBQ get-together for lunch as they would at a dinner-time event.
  • Whether alcohol will be served: In most cases, when people are drinking, they will probably eat more.
  • Who is providing the sides: If guests are bringing sides, you won’t have to worry about those and you won’t have to worry about the meat being the only food option. But, if you are providing the sides, remember, when there are appetizers and/or more than three side options, people will probably eat less meat. So plan for closer to 1/4 lb of meat per person (versus 1/3 lb).
  • Type of appetizers, side dishes, and desserts: Light salads and veggies are going to be much less filling than carb-heavy or cheesy sides. And if you are going to be serving a dessert, you can probably anticipate most people to save room for that as well.
  • Cooking multiple types of meat: Remember, most people will eat 1/3 lb TOTAL. So, if you are cooking more than one type of meat, factor that into your planning for how much meat to buy.

Make sure to check out our article on cooking multiple pieces of meat at the same time to get your timing right and have everything finish at the same time.          


cooking multiple meats | how much BBQ per person


Proper Preparation = A Successful BBQ Get-Together

With the information we’ve provided above, you should have a good idea of how much BBQ per person you are going to need to ensure a successful get-together. Remember, proper preparation is key. This not only includes the meat you’ll need but sauces, sides, etc as well. Do as much as you can ahead of time (even the day before!). Then you won’t be rushed the day of your get-together and you can focus on cooking while confidently knowing that you’ve already got everything you need.

Pre-planning properly will ensure that everyone gets enough food and that you have time to enjoy the event as well. 

Have another tip to share for planning how much BBQ per person you’ll need? Have any other specific questions when it comes to planning the amount of meat for your get-together? Leave a comment below!


When you want to elevate your meat-smoking skills like never before, BBQ Champs Academy is your answer! With an All-Access pass, you can learn directly from the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters in our in-depth online BBQ classes. Unlike you’ll find anywhere else, these classes will show you exactly how to cook competition-caliber brisket, pork ribs, pork butt, and chicken step-by-step. 

In our virtual classes, you’ll not only learn how to perfectly cook each of these cuts of meat but you’ll also get valuable insider info and pro cooking secrets.

Make sure to also click “Subscribe” on the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss any of the latest competition BBQ news and insider information!

Sara Hansen

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