How Much Meat Per Person for a BBQ?

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 21, 2021

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When getting prepared to grill for a bigger number of people, you need to think carefully about what to buy and how much.

There comes a moment exactly like this in the lives of many of us where we need to buy a very large amount of meat, but you actually don’t know how much of it to buy to make sure it’s enough for everybody.

Buying too much is obviously a waste of money, which you won’t get back, but a much worse situation is simply not buying enough meat which results in many guests having nothing to eat.

How much meat per person for a bbq

Whether you’re throwing a party for 10 or 50 people, in this guide you’re going to find out how much meat per person you should buy to make sure that there will be enough for everyone.

The basics of planning meat buying

First and foremost, you should prepare a menu for the party, which is what the guests are going to eat.

Pay attention to how many appetizers and salads the menu includes besides the meat and what will be served as the main course and whether there will be a dessert.

Even the order of serving food makes a difference, which is why you should think carefully about the menu and about how important meat is in it.

Will the appetizers include meat as well, or will they be light? Will these be pasta/cheese recipes, which can be really filling.

Assuming that the main course will consist of meat and that the menu will also include three appetizers, we can safely estimate that it should be enough to buy 1/3 pound of meat per person.

When it comes to children aged 12 and below, you need to assume that in their case half of the amount for an adult will be enough.

When it comes to people much more physically active on the other hand, like athletes for example, you may consider adding 1 extra pound of meat per person.

In case of a smaller group of people, it will likely be an easier task since you know such people much better than in case of a party for a few dozen people, where you usually don’t know much about your guests.

When cooking for larger groups, you would do well to invest in a smoker recipe book like smoking meat for beginners or advanced smokers so you won’t get stuck mid-way through

What to take into account

In conclusion, there are plenty of things to analyze before buying meat, some major ones are listed below.

– What is the nature of the gathering, is this an important official meeting or maybe a casual party where it is going to last until the dawn with plenty of alcohol.

– How many children are there going to be at the party, or maybe it’s a birthday party for kids? Also take into account the number of men and women.

– How long is the party going to be, when does it start (around the dinner time?) and when is it planned to end.

– How detailed the menu is going to be, what role will be played by meat (main course) will there be plenty of appetizers and a dessert? Are they calorie-dense? Do the appetizers contain meat?

– Think about the type of meat, it’s a good idea to consider light and dark meat as not all people have the same tastes and it’s better to give the guests a wider choice.

How much meat per person to buy?

Do you already have your menu prepared? Time to move on to calculating carefully how much meat you should buy.

Depending on the type of meat, featured below are rough proportions for you to follow when calculating the actual requirement for a particular type of meat.

Keep in mind that, when buying raw meat, you need to be prepared that after cooking its weight (yield) will drop significantly. That’s because you’re removing fat, bones etc. from the meat you bought, and then the meat loses its juices during the cooking process.

Based on that, one can assume with confidence that, after full preparation and then cooking, meat loses on average about 30 to as much as 50% of its mass depending on the type of meat.

How Much Pulled Pork per Person

You need to know that pulled pork, even the moist one I make here will lose up to 50% of its weight after removing excess fat and cooking.

If you’re planing to use that meat in the main course then you can assume the 1/3 pound per person ratio after cooking. When it comes to using pulled pork for sandwiches, ¼ pound will be more than enough.

How Many Ribs Per Person

Some people look at the weight when buying, while others just count the ribs.

A full rack of ribs contains 12 individual rib bones but you need to remember that there are several types of ribs, which means it doesn’t always look the same. For example, the St. Louis pork ribs are bigger than the baby back ribs.

Just like with every other type of meat, start by analyzing whether the ribs are part of the main course and how many other appetizers are anticipated in the menu.

When it comes to ribs as the main course, you can go ahead and get half a rack or about 6 pieces of individual rib bones (half a piece).

If, on the other hand, the menu features many calorie-dense appetizers, lower the amount to 4-5 rib bones. Similarly, when planning to serve ribs as the next course, assume that one full rack is enough for as many as 4-5 people.

How Much Brisket Per Person

When it comes to the brisket, the situation looks similar to pulled pork (pork butt or pork shoulder).

After full preparation of the brisket and then cooking it, the final weight of the finished meat is going to be lower by as much as 50%.

Which means that, after buying 10 pounds of raw meat you get about 5 pounds of ready to eat brisket (just cutting through the brisket lowers the weight significantly). Assuming the ½ pound per person ratio, it gives you the ability to feed 10 very hungry people.

When it comes to the main course, plan 1/3 pound of ready brisket for every person. Of course for people you know slightly better (athletes or big eaters) you can increase it to ½ pound.

If, on the other hand, you have really anticipated a lot of filling appetizers, you can lower the ratio as much as down to ¼ pound per person.

Speaking from experience, I know that it is better to go a little over board when shopping as this is a type of meat that takes time. In the event that you end up with leftover brisket after the party, I believe that nobody will complain having the chance to eat it the next day.

How Much Beef Tenderloin per Person

This type of meat loses 15-20% of its mass and volume after being prepared and cooked.

Based on that you can predict that it’s enough to buy ½ pound of raw beef tenderloin per person. If the menu is extensive and this kind of meat is served as the next course, you can lower the ratio to 1/3 pound per person.

How Much Chicken per Person

There are several ways you can cut a whole chicken, thus getting 2 chicken breasts, 2 chicken wings, 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs.

It may not speak much to you, which is why I will move on to more detailed information.

Raw chicken breast is available in 3-8 ounce portions, out of which up to 30% of mass is lost after cutting and cooking.

When served as the main course, I suggest 1 to 1.5 piece per person, or a lower value in case of an appetizer-rich menu or chicken served as the next course.

In the event that you take into account a whole chicken as the main course, I recommend preparing 3 pieces per person. I’m talking about three pieces of any type of meat out of a whole chicken, out of which you get 8 pieces of meat (wings, breasts, drumsticks and thighs).

How Much Steak Per Person

In that case it all depends on the type of steak, or to be exact on whether the steak contains a bone or not and whether it has a lot of fat.

As you probably know, there are many great types of steaks, which is why the choice requires analyzing the situation a little.

For example, steaks with bone, which is T-Bone Steak or Porterhouse, have a bone in them, which makes the actual mass of the meat after taking out the bone much lower (about 15-25% of mass loss for the meat).

After removing the excess fat and cooking the steak, it turns out that in certain cases the actual mass of the cooked steak will be lower by as much as 30% compared to when raw.

New York Strip and ribeye have no bone which means that in this case the mass loss after cooking will only be about 10%.

Taking all of that into account, prepare for 15-17 ounces per person for bone-in steaks and 12-14 ounces for boneless steaks.


To make sure, add a little more meat in case of the most popular types of meats/dishes.

If the menu features several types of meat and plenty of appetizers then in such case you can indeed lower the servings a little. In other case, don’t cut corners because running out of food halfway through the party or towards the end doesn’t send a good message to anyone.

If you still have any doubts then try to talk to people with experience in the topic of parties or selling meat, who will definitely explain to you all the issues related to the topic within a few minutes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.