How Much BBQ Per Person? Let’s Plan A Party!

How much BBQ per person do you need when planning a party? A good rule of thumb is to get 1/2 lbs to 3/4 of a pound of raw meat per person, and that is a decent starting point. However, when you’re planning a BBQ party, there are a lot of factors that will influence how much meat is needed and gets eaten. Pre-planning is essential before you stock up.

A BBQ meat platter perfect for one adult: half a rack of ribs next to a small serving of pulled pork, brisket, and traditional sides like coleslaw and pickles.
This BBQ platter is perfectly suited for one adult. Just enough of everything to sustain you through a party.

If you’re hosting a formal or informal BBQ party, whether it’s family or friends, there’s nothing worse than running out of food. It’s not as easy as just applying the 1/2 lbs to 2/4 lbs rule of thumb and multiplying by the number of guests.

The next worse thing is landing up with a mountain of meat left over after the party. Getting the right amount of meat means looking at factors you might not have considered.

How Much BBQ Per Person – The Planning Details

Before calculating how much BBQ per person is needed, check out the factors that will affect your calculations.

A whole hob being smoked for a BBQ party.
A whole hog BBQ will serve TONS of people!

What Time Of Day Is The Party?

Are you planning a lunch or dinner? If you’re intending to throw a poolside party, with your guests eating lunch casually throughout the afternoon, they’re going to consume less meat than they would at a dinner, when there are no distractions and eating is the main activity.

What Are Your Guest List Demographics?

How many children will be coming, and how many men and women are on your guest list? How many young adults? Children under the age of 12 eat about half an adult portion, men slightly more than women, and older people eat less than youngsters.

Also, are there any vegans or vegetarians coming – they will need to be catered for, and you’ll need less meat.

How Many Side Dishes Are You Serving?

The experienced planners recommend having three side dishes to accompany your meat. If you provide salads, grilled veggies, and other light sides, your guests will eat more meat than if it’s accompanied by heavy side dishes like baked potatoes or mac-and-cheese.

Are You Serving Dessert With Your Meal?

For some people, especially (but not only!) kids, dessert is the highlight of the meal. If you have dessert on your menu, you will not need as much of your entrée, as your guests will want to leave space for the sweet finale.

Are You Serving Alcohol With Your BBQ?

If beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages are going to be part of your BBQ, then it’s likely that more food will be consumed.

Are You Hosting Your BBQ Buffet-Style?

If you’re going to lay out your BBQ meal on a buffet table, here’s a tip – have your sides positioned first, then your secondary meats, and finally your main meat course. By doing it this way, your guests will take a balanced variety of food on their plate and less meat.

A BBQ goat leg ready for serving.
A large leg of goat, check out my article on the benefits of goat meat if you’re curious.

How Much BBQ Per Person – The Meat Course

There are several options when selecting the meat for your BBQ, and your choices will also impact how much you need to provide.

What Types Of Meat?

Variety being the spice of life, think of having two or even three entrees – white meat (turkey or chicken), pork (either ribs or pulled pork), and beef (brisket is a favorite choice, but you may prefer one of the many steak cuts.)

Remember our rule of thumb of allowing an average of ½ a pound of meat per person — with three or more side dishes that can be reduced to one-third of a pound.

Cooked meat can lose up to 50% of its raw weight, so you will have to provide two-thirds to one pound of raw meat per person. That amount is then divided by the number of entrees you provide, assuming that everyone will take equal portions of each.

To supplement your main meat course, your buffet table may also include secondary meats, such as hot dogs, chicken wings, or beef sliders.

But with light side dishes and only one main meat entrée, these are the guidelines to follow:

How Much Turkey Per Person?

If you’re doing a whole turkey, you must take into account, as you would with any bone-in meat, that you’ll need to provide more than our rule-of-thumb of ½ a pound per person.

A whole smoked turkey can vary in weight significantly as they come in a ll sizes.

Instead, aim for between 1 and 1 ½ pounds – it sounds like a lot, but it will lose some weight in the cooking, and a lot of the weight is in the bone.

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How Much Chicken Per Person?

A whole chicken will serve four people, so that’s an easy calculation. If you’re doing drumsticks, work on three per person, and with chicken wings, you will need six per person as a secondary meat and double that as the main meat dish.

How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?

The average ½ pound per person is required for pulled pork, unless you’re serving it in a slider, where one-third of a pound is sufficient. Remember that pork will lose about 40% to 50% of its raw weight when cooked, so ensure you’re buying sufficient amounts.

How Many Pork Ribs Per Person?

You can serve baby back ribs, side ribs, or spare ribs either as secondary meat or as a main course. Spareribs will give most meat and can be bought as a full rack containing ten to thirteen ribs.

As secondary meat, two ribs per person is ample, and three or four will provide a hearty main course.

If you’re serving baby back ribs, they’re more tender but smaller, and you should provide a half-rack per person, which is five or six ribs.

How Much Brisket Per Person?

If you’re going to have brisket as your main entrée on its own, you’ll need to buy a pound per person, as flat-cut brisket loses 50% of its weight when cooked.

If it’s one of two or three entrees, you can reduce the amount accordingly, but keep it generous – it’s a firm favorite, and if you have a few big eaters on your guest list, they will keep going back for more!

In fact, some planning experts recommend that you buy as much as two pounds of raw brisket per person, partly because of the portion size for each guest, but because enjoying leftover brisket the next day is one of the true pleasures of having it on your BBQ menu.

Point brisket is best if you’re doing pulled brisket, as opposed to sliced, but because it’s marbled with more fat, you might need to serve slightly larger portions. Putting it in buns means you’ll still get away with about ½ a pound per person.

How Much Steak Per Person?

That rule of thumb doesn’t always apply to steak, as some people can easily handle a pound of sirloin, whereas others are satisfied with half of that. We suggest catering for about 10 ounces per person and adding about 20% to that amount when buying to allow for shrinkage when cooking the steak.

Steak is a great favorite, but depending on the number of guests, it may be challenging to prepare each steak to everyone’s taste. Some people eat their steak well-done, while others prefer medium rare or rare. If you have a large crowd, that’s going to be a tall order.

How About A Hotdog?

Hot dogs are very popular with younger guests and can form part of the menu of any BBQ as main or secondary meat.

Gourmet hotdogs can be a whole meal in and of itself with different types of sausages.

If you’re going to provide foot-long hotdogs, two per guest is sufficient, particularly if you have three or more side dishes to accompany them. If the hotdogs are the standard six-inch version, you will need to double up on the quantity.

Hamburger Patties – How Many Per Person?

A good homemade patty will weigh about a ¼ pound, so if it is the main meat course, each guest will need two. That can be reduced to 1 ½ hamburger patties per person if accompanied by a hotdog and side salads. That sounds like a pretty good meal, especially if there’s a dessert on the menu.

A good BBQ platter for two featuring smoked chicken, ribs, brisket, a sausage along with coleslaw, beans, and mac and cheese with cornbread and pickles.
An example meat platter with sides that would be PERFECT for two adults, like a couple, sharing.

How Much Fish Per Person?

Smoked trout and salmon is a favorite dish of mine. I have a delicious recipe for whole smoked trout that can be used for either fish.

Salmon or trout is a perfect choice if you’re looking for a fish entrée, and it’s one of those fish that retains nearly 80% of its weight after grilling. A fish portion is around 1 pound for a whole fish, half- to three-quarters of a pound for cleaned fish, and about one-third to one-half of a pound for steaks and deboned, skinned fish fillets.

A large salmon fillet will suffice as a main for a dinner, or three kebabs per person.

For trout, a whole trout per person is best but if you have sufficient sides, half of a trout person will suffice.

And of course this will change depending on the size of the fish.

And while octopus isn’t technically fish, it’s in the seafood category, one 4 lbs octopus is good for two people as a main meal with side dishes.

(Check out my article on how long smoked fish lasts to properly store any leftovers.)

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What Side Dishes Can Be Served With BBQ?

We’ve looked at most of the options for the main course, and we know pretty well how much to serve per person and how much meat to buy. But a BBQ is not just about meat, and it’s also necessary to plan your side dishes and work out how much to provide per person.

I have great, easy recipes for smoked onions and smoked tomatoes, but your side dishes can and should vary. Try my traditional Croatian recipe for potato and Swiss chard blitva, as a delicious alternative to classic potato salad.

Potato Salad

An all-time favorite because it complements all other BBQ tastes, is easy to make ahead of your party, and helps counter the protein-rich main course. Depending on the side dishes you have, the ideal portion per person is between ¼ and ½ a pound.

Mashed Potatoes

It’s filling and tasty, making it a great side dish. Easy to prepare early, mashed potato requires around one to one and a half potatoes per person.

Mac and Cheese

You can’t go wrong with a good mac and cheese side dish, and it will go down well with your vegetarian guests as well as the carnivores.

As a main dish, you will need to provide about 8 ounces of mac and cheese and half of that as a side dish.

Cornbread

No better way to mop up the sauce or gravy from your brisket! It’s difficult to give you a figure of how much is needed per person, but an average skillet loaf will serve ten people, so use that as an indication of how much cornbread to bake or buy.

Corn On The Cob

Each guest should have one ear provided, but add a few extra for those who come back for seconds.

Related

Here are some of my side dishes that I love to serve at parties.

Apart from these starchy, filling sides, there are also light salads that many will prefer on a hot summer day.

Try my recipe for Nasturtium Salad for something different.

Grilled vegetable skewers with broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, and onion are a perfect side to meat dishes. Work on two per person, with a few extra.

Green salad with simple ingredients such as lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, feta, and a dressing is a staple side dish to any BBQ. You need to provide three ounces of salad per person.

Charcuterie & Grazing Boards

Charcuterie and grazing boards are simple and fun to put together and can tide guests over throughout the day. I love a butter board and cream cheese board for something different but simple. Both of these are cheaper then a meat-heavy charcuterie too.

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Dessert

The finishing touch to a successful BBQ is a sweet dessert to clean the palette after a protein-rich main course. The side dishes we’ve mentioned will impact how much meat your guests will manage to consume.

But because dessert is served at the end of the BBQ meal, only your most disciplined guests will have saved some space, and it won’t have too much influence on how much meat you have had to provide.

Related

Here are some dessert recipes of mine that would go great with your BBQ. Homemade ice-cream is a popular option and can be made well ahead of time.

Conclusion

Working out how much BBQ per person to provide is not too crucial when it’s just the family that you’re cooking for. But when planning a big BBQ party or event, and you’ve invited a large crowd, good planning is needed to ensure that everyone is well fed but that you haven’t landed up with enough leftovers to feed the neighborhood for a week. I hope this article has helped!

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