How Much Meat per Person for BBQ? (6 Tasty Picks Assessed)

Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

During the decade I’ve been on a carnivore diet, I’ve tried every meat cooking method, but barbecuing remains a favorite. Although I’ve hosted many BBQ parties over time, I kept asking myself whether I’d got enough meat to feed every mouth.

I consulted my butcher and experimented with different meat quantities during my BBQ sessions until I finally got the hang of it.

Here’s what you need to know.

Quick Summary

  • For a BBQ, allocate between 8 to 12 oz of raw meat per adult, considering that meat loses weight during cooking due to moisture and fat loss.
  • The type of meat, its fat content, whether it's bone-in or boneless, and the age of the guests can affect the amount of raw meat needed per person.
  • Different meats have different yields when cooked, for example, a 10-pound raw brisket yields 5 pounds when cooked, and a 10-pound bone-in pork butt yields about 5.5 pounds of cooked meat.

How Much Meat per Person for BBQ?

A person cooks for a BBQ party and calculates how much meat there is per person

Allocate between 8 to 12 oz of raw meat per adult person for BBQ. Keep in mind meat loses weight during the cooking process.

On average, it loses between 15% to 45% of its weight when cooked because cooking makes animal protein lose moisture and fat.

How much raw meat you need per person depends on several factors, such as the type of meat, how much fat the meat has, whether you’re serving adults or children, and more.

On average, adults eat an 8 oz portion of meat, which is 1/2 a pound for adults and 1/4 for children. This means 9 pounds of meat can feed around 20 people, and 12 pounds can feed up to 35 people.

Here’s how much meat you need, depending on the meat type.

Also Read: How Much Ham per Person?

1. Burgers and Hot Dogs

Burgers are usually served with buns, so you get by with less ground meat. If you’re making your own patties, one pound of ground beef is enough for 4 pound burgers.

When you serve it with buns and sides, two hamburgers have between 1/3 to 1/2 pounds of meat.

Overall, if you have side foods, such as potato salad, baked beans, and corn on the cob, plan for two burgers per person.

The same goes for hot dogs - plan for two footlongs per person. If your hot dogs are smaller, plan for three.

“People love variety when it comes to barbecue. The important thing is to make sure you mix the order up a bit so you have a little something for everyone.”
- Peter Farrand, Smokey Bones’ Chief F&B Innovation Officer

2. Brisket

A juicy and hot brisket on a wooden board

Don’t be fooled by the size of the brisket in the grocery store - it loses half of its weight when cooked because it loses fat and moisture [1].

For example, this means a 10-pound raw brisket yields 5 pounds when cooked. This is enough for ten servings. If you need to serve 10 pounds of cooked brisket, you should buy around 17 pounds of raw meat.

If you’re serving brisket on a plate, you need half a pound per person. This is enough for two sandwiches.

How much brisket do you need if you want leftovers? In this case, plan for two pounds of uncooked brisket per person.

Also Read: How to Smoke a Brisket in an Electric Smoker?

3. Steak

How many steaks you need depends on the kind of steak and if it’s boneless or bone-in.

Most steaks have a yield of 70%. However, fatty and bone-in steaks, for example, rib-eye, have a lower yield because they lose more weight during cooking.

The best route you can go is to buy a steak for each guest, plus a few extras. Choose steaks around 16 ounces per steak, as they produce 3/4 pounds of cooked meat.

Pro tip: Get larger steaks for big eaters and smaller ones for people who don’t want as much steak.

4. Pulled Pork

A top view of pulled pork on a black plate

How much pulled pork you need depends if you buy bone-in or boneless and the cut you buy. It’s usually made of pork butt or pork shoulder, which have a bone.

Generally, your yield will be 50% to 65% of pulled pork after cooking an average pork butt.

A 10-pound bone-in pork butt yields about 5.5 pounds of cooked meat. A boneless cut will yield slightly more — around 6.5 pounds of meat.

If you’re serving pulled pork on a plate, plan on having 1/2 to 1/3 pounds of pork per person. Plan on a quarter of a pound per person for sandwiches.

To sum up: If you’re making pulled pork for 20 people, you need to cook 10 to 15 pounds of pork shoulder. 

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5. Pork Ribs

One rack of baby back ribs has around 12 ribs. Plan on three to four spare ribs per person. But, if you have many side dishes and other meats, you can get by with serving two ribs per person.

Note: If you’re cooking beef ribs, you need two to three ribs per person, as they are bigger.

6. Chicken

Chicken being cooked on a high-flamed grill

When deciding how much chicken you need, count the pieces rather than the weight. You need about two pieces of chicken per quest.

But, if you’re serving smaller pieces, such as drumsticks, increase to three pieces.

Chicken wings are the smallest part of the chicken, and you’ll need between seven to ten pieces per person. If you have bone-in chicken breasts, one piece is enough.

Also, keep in mind the chicken yield goes from 65% to 75% for boneless chicken.

Factors to Consider when Planning a BBQ

A woman putting different foods on the grill

Here’s what to keep in mind in order to have enough meat when planning a BBQ:

  • Are you serving just meat, or you’ll have side dishes?
  • What kind of side dishes will you have? Heavier ones mean less meat will be consumed, but lighter ones mean more meat will be eaten per person.
  • Do you have many adults who are big eaters and not many children? 
  • Do you have more bone-in or boneless meats?
  • Will you serve meat on a bun, sliders, or buffet style?
  • How long will the event last? Will the guests linger and come for seconds, or is it a short party?
  • Are you serving alcohol? Alcohol usually means more food is eaten.

Overall, consider the number of guests, their age, the types of meat, and side dishes before deciding how much meat you need.

And no matter the quantity, always ensure you get the best meat out there. I haven’t had a BBQ party in the last three years that wasn’t supplied by premium cuts I usually got from ButcherBox.


How Much Meat Do I Need for a 20-People BBQ?

You need around 6 to 7 pounds of each kind of meat you plan to serve for a 20-people BBQ.

How Do You Calculate How Much Food You Need for a BBQ?

You calculate how much food you need for a BBQ by calculating the number of adults and children, thinking about how much they usually eat, and planning the type of food you’ll serve.


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About the author

Gabriel Woods
Chef/Food Editor
Gabrielle Woods holds a BSc degree in Hospitality Management with a summa cum laude distinction from the University of Santo Tomas, majoring in Culinary Entrepreneurship. She helps clients achieve specific fitness goals through protein-based meal prepping. She believes cooking is both an art and a science best done with a balance of tradition and innovation.
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