How Much Meat Per Person? – Practical Planning For Any Event

A bunch of meat, from steaks to sausages, on a table
© Belokoni Dmitri -

Food plays an important role in any party. Besides socializing, people also need something to eat. Nothing destroys a BBQ cookout faster than not having enough food for everybody.

Many casual backyard cooks often run into this problem. But, you know what, it can be solved by simply knowing how much food to prepare for, especially how much meat per person. After all, meat can be the main dish or served alongside other dishes.

In this article, we’ll help you out with a practical planning guide for any event you may want to host. A successful event depends on many variables so we’ll start with those first. Then, we’ll list out the average amount per person for different types of meat. That way, you’ll have a general foundation to build on.

Hopefully, this guide will help you avoid all the pitfalls and ensure that everybody is well-fed and having a good time.

So, what do you say? Let’s dive in.

Factors To Consider First

The Yield

Meat loses roughly 25% of its total weight on average after cooking. That’s because of all the moisture evaporating and fat melting during that time. Not to mention if you trim off the fat beforehand as in the case of beef brisket or throw away the bone as in the case of pork butt. 

What you’ve left after all the shrinkage is the yield. It is calculated in percentage. According to USDA, the formula is…

Yield (%) = [Cook Meat / Raw Meat (in weight)] X 100

The fattier the meat, the lower the yield. For example, bacon only has about 32% of cooking yield whereas pork chops retain up to 80% of the yield after cooking. 

It’s important to know about this number when planning out your event, especially if it’s going to be big. Buy more meat than what you have in mind. That way, it compensates for all the losses before and after cooking. 

A Standard Portion Size

The next variable to consider is a standard portion size for different types of protein. Why is this important? Let me explain.

Having a standard portion size allows you to control the cost and minimize any food waste. It balances out between different types of eater (small, medium, and big) as well as the people who don’t show up. So, in the end, it ensures that every guest is happy and not leaving your event feeling hungry.

With that in mind, a good rule of thumb for any meat is ½ lbs (8oz or 227g) of raw weight for one adult person. If your event has a few big eaters (young teens, athletes, etc.), don’t be afraid to double that number to 1lb (16oz or 454g). In the case of young children, reduce the portion to about half.

Another thing to pay attention to is that the standard portion size for most meats goes by weight. But there are some types of meat that go by pieces.

The Role Of Meat

You should also think about whether or not you’re going to serve meat as the main dish. If it is, you can use the standard portion size mentioned above. 

Don’t forget to mix in different types of meat so your guests have options. To quickly estimate how much meat per person in this case, simply set your portion size based on what you know of your guests. Then divide that by the number of meats to find out how much to buy for each.

However, if you’re planning to serve meat alongside other dishes or to be part of a bigger dish, you need to lower the portion. Aim for ¼ to ⅓ lb (4 to 6oz or 113g to 170g) per adult person. 

Other Secondary Factors

After knowing all the numbers and how you’re going to serve the meat, there are still a few extra variables you need to consider.

The Type Of Event

Is it a tailgate party on game day? Or cooking for the church? Some events will require more meat than others. Not to mention the different types of meat in each one.

Furthermore, is it formal or informal? Buffet or sit down? You probably need to serve more meat for a buffet. Because people tend to fill up their plate more often.

When Is It?

Then, think about the time that your event will take place. Is it during lunch? People will eat less since they don’t want to feel sleepy for the rest of the afternoon. People however will eat more if it’s dinner.

Also consider if the event will be during the week or it’s going to be in the weekend.

Guests Demographic

Your guests’ gender and age are another important factor. Young teenagers, especially male, tend to eat more. Even more if they’re growing athletes. 

If there will be many kids under the age of 12, you probably don’t need to serve a lot of meat since they don’t eat that much anyways.

Dietary Restrictions

Find out if any of your guests doesn’t eat meat. Then assign other people to cook the non-meat dishes. Remember to reduce the portion size to make up for those guests.

Side Dishes & Beverages

Oftentimes, you would want to serve meat with other dishes. If the side dishes have a lot of carbs in them, cut down on the meat portion. If they are light, such as chips or salad, then you need to bump it up to ensure everybody is full.

Also think about alcohol if you’re planning to serve it. People eat more to avoid getting too drunk. Don’t forget other “things” that can also cause the munchies and possibly some paranoia :).


Last but not least, cook a little more than what you plan for. Nothing awkward than not having enough food for people during an event or a party. 

It’s always better if you have some leftovers. You can save them for later so you can relax and don’t have to cook the next day. 

How Much Meat Based On Weight

Below are a few recommended portion sizes for some typical meats. Keep in mind that these apply to the average eaters. Use these as general guidelines then adjust accordingly.

How Much Brisket Per Person?

Brisket is a fatty cut of meat. An untrimmed or “packer” brisket has the point and flat still together. Depending on how you trim the fat beforehand and the amount of moisture loss during cooking, a “packer” can have a yield of 50% to 60%. That’s about half of its original weight.

Therefore, you need to buy 10lbs of raw brisket to have about 5lbs of cooked meat. For the average portion size for one person, aim for half a pound (8oz or 227g). If you’re planning to serve brisket sandwiches, cut that down to a quarter pound (4oz or 113g).

How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?

You can use pork butt or pork shoulder to make pulled pork. They’re both from the shoulder of a hog. Though pork shoulder is smaller than pork butt.

Similar to brisket, they shrink quite a bit after cooking, having about 50% of yield. Now, one thing to pay attention to is the bone. Of course, you can buy the meat without the bone. But if you buy it with the bone, add an extra 2lbs to the total weight just for the bone. Let’s use an example, shall we?

By the way, plan for ½ lb per person. Say, you want to cook for 10 people. With ½ lb per person, you want 5lbs of raw meat. Add an extra 2lbs for the bone, you need to buy a 7lbs pork butt. 

For pulled pork sandwiches, aim for 4oz per person.

YouTube video

How Much Turkey Per Person?

Compared to brisket and pork butt, turkey doesn’t have a lot of fat. However, it does have a lot of bones, not to mention the skin. Because of that, the yield on turkey is also roughly 50%. 

Shoot for 1lb of raw meat per person. That way, most people will have a nice piece of the breast meat instead of bits and pieces from the wings and legs.

How Much Beef Per Person?

So we already talked about beef brisket. But there are also other cuts of beef. They’re either boneless or bone-in, with or without a lot of fat. Obviously, the more fat and bone a piece has, the less yield we get. 

To simplify things, assuming the average 25% shrinkage, aim for 1lb of raw meat per person for bone-in beef (porterhouse, prime rib, etc.). That way, you end up with 12oz of cooked meat. 

For beef that is boneless with a small amount of fat (beef tenderloin, other lean steaks, etc.), you’re not going to lose a lot after cooking (about 15%). So go for 8oz of cooked meat per person. That means 10oz of raw meat.

How Much Lamb Per Person?

Similar to beef, there are many cuts of lamb. For example, an entire leg of lamb weighs around 5.5lbs (2.5kg). And that can feed about 8 people. If you do the maths, that works out to be approximately 11oz of raw meat per person.

YouTube video

How Much Fish Per Person?

When you purchase a fish, there are four ways it is prepared: as a whole, dressed, steaks, and fillets. Assuming a 25% shrinkage after cooking, here are the recommended portion sizes per person.

  • As a whole – aim for 12oz of cooked meat, meaning 16oz of raw meat.
  • Dressed (some parts of the fish are removed) – aim for 8oz to 12oz of cooked meat, meaning 11oz to 16oz of raw meat.
  • Steaks (cut widthwise) & Fillets (cut lengthwise) – aim for 8oz of cooked meat, meaning 11oz of raw meat.

How Much Meat (NOT) Based On Weight

How Much Chicken Per Person?

Similar to turkey, chicken has bones and skin. Boneless chicken breasts are a bit bland even with the skin. Therefore, plan for 1 piece of breast plus 1 piece of wing per person for extra flavor. 

When it comes to bone-in chicken, we’d recommend serving a whole quarter chicken leg instead of just 2 thighs or 2 drumsticks per person. The reason is because the whole leg still has the back bone in it. It also cooks better, retains flavor, and shrinks less. Besides, it looks more presentable and appetizing on the plates.

How Many Ribs Per Person?

For ribs, people always go with the number of ribs rather than the weight. Keep in mind that there are different types of pork ribs as well as beef ribs. 

Let’s start with pork ribs. We have baby backs and spares. Baby back ribs are smaller, with about 10 to 12 ribs per rack. For one adult person, it’s about 6 ribs so 1 rack can feed 2 people. Spare ribs are bigger, which can feed up to 3 people. So aim for 4 to 5 ribs per person. 

Beef ribs are different from pork ribs. Let’s use beef back ribs as our example. You only need about 2 to 3 ribs per person since they have a bit more meat than pork ribs.

Other Food Items Besides Meat

Here are the portion sizes for some of the common food items besides meat.

  • Appetizers – 4 bites per hour
  • Hamburgers – 2 per person, at 4oz of meat per burger
  • Vegetables – ¼ lb (4oz or 113g) per person
  • Pastry – 1 slice per person
  • Beverages – 2 per person every hour

Bookmark This Page For Future Planning

To know how much meat per person when planning out your event, you first need to pay attention to the yield because meat shrinks about 25% after cooking. Don’t forget to have a standard portion size for meat as well. Different types of meat will have their own portion based on their yield. But, generally, aim for about half a pound of raw weight meat per person if you’re unsure. 

Once you have that figured out, adjust accordingly based on your guests, the type of event, and a whole host of other factors. Keep in mind that you also need to determine the role of meat before making the final menu, whether you want it to be the main course or served with other side dishes.

In this article, we have some recommended portion sizes for different kinds of meat. Therefore, we’d recommend bookmarking this page so that you have a reference point for any future event planning. 

Finally, we hope you find this article useful. If you think we miss anything, please feel free to comment down below to let us know.

Thank you for stopping by!

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Thinh Phan

Thinh Phan

Thinh Phan is a barbecue enthusiast who fires up his grill regularly, at least 3 times a week. Combining the experience and his passion for outdoor cooking, he put together where he shares recipe ideas along with his knowledge of grilling and barbecuing techniques.

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