How Many Ribs (and Other Foods) To Cook for a Crowd

If I got a pulled pork burger for every time I get asked “How many ribs should I cook for XYZ event” I would be a very fat man.

Catering for a crowd is hard if you have never done it before. It’s difficult to guess how much everyone is going to eat.

However, there is a way that you can calculate how much ‘XYZ’ you need to cook when you are catering for a party.

But before you make your calculations there are a few variables you need to think about first.

Let’s find out what the variable are out so you can how to cook for a crowd.

How Much Food Per Person

Party Planning Variables (Variables Are Key Here)

  • What is the occasion? What sort of occasion are you cooking for? Is it a baby shower? A graduation party? Super Bowl Party? An office party? A Christmas party? A business meeting?

  • How long will the event go for? You need to ask yourself how long the event will be because that will dictate how many meals you need to serve.

  • Do you plan on having a buffet or sit-down meal? You will find that people tend to eat more at a buffet as well as over-serve themselves.

  • What is the gender and age of your guests? You need to know how many women, men and children will be in attendance as well as the age groups. You will find that children and older people may not eat as much whereas young men and teenagers will dig right in!

  • What else is going to be served? Will you have appetizers passed around and how many will there be? Do your plan on serving any side dishes with your meal?

  • What time is your event? You need to take into account the time of day your event will be on. If you serve dinner you may find people will want to eat more than if you were serving lunch.

  • What equipment will you have? The quality and quantity of food you can produce will depend on your equipment. If you just have your small Weber grill you might find it hard to plan a meat-based menu around that.

  • Can you store hot food? It is recommended that you use a holding system for your food on the day, the last thing you want is hungry guests.This can be alleviated by using your cooler as an insulated food holder, otherwise known as a faux Cambro.

  • Dietary requirements: Make sure you find out if any of your guests have any dietary requirements. This could be a big problem if you don’t have anything for a person.
How Much Food To Cook For A Party

Measurements To Use When Cooking For A Crowd

Planning is the absolute key to do is ensure you don’t run out of food. 

Our roughest guess is to plan to serve .5 pounds or .25kg of meat per person. If you have a large percentage of men in the crowd increase that to 1 pound or .5kgs. 

When you are planning drinks we suggest allowing for two drinks per person per hour. 

The above is the baseline we have outlined below the specific measurements when planning to cook for a crowd. Remember always plan for extra, leftovers are always a bonus after a party.

Make more! The best thing to do is cook more than you think you need. The last thing you want is to run out. People also tend to take go into survival mode and take more if it looks like they won’t be enough. It is always good to have leftovers to eat later or send home with your guests.

How Much Chicken Per Person

How Much Chicken Per Person?

For each adult, count on having about 4 to 5 ounces or .15kgs of cooked chicken.

10 ounces of uncooked boneless chicken breasts will yield approximately 6 1/2 ounces cooked.

10 ounces of uncooked boneless chicken thighs will yield about 5 ounces cooked.

How Many Ribs Per Person?

Plan to serve three to four ribs per person.

Each rack, whether they’re country-style or baby-back, usually has 13 to 14 individual ribs on it.

So go ahead and prepare 4 slabs if you’re serving 10 people.

How Many Ribs Per Person

How Much Prime Rib Per Person?

You should allow approximately 0.5 pounds of prime rib per person if it’s not the main course.

If it is the main meal, then you’ll want to allow about a pound of prime rib per person.

How Much Steak Per Person?

You should allow for eight ounces (or half a pound) of steak per person. However, if you are cooking something that will significantly cook down like brisket go for 3/4 of a pound per person

How Much Steak Per Person?

How Much Brisket Per Person?

You will probably lose about 50% of the weight of your brisket after trimming and cooking it.

Therefore it is recommended you get about 2 pounds more per person. Besides, it is always good to have leftovers.

How Much Brisket Per Person?

How Much Turkey Breast Per Person?

Cooking and serving turkey breast is much different from serving a whole turkey.

Serving Boneless Breasts? Then allocate around ¾ pound per person.

Serving Bone-in Breast? Then allocate around 1¼ lbs of raw turkey of per person

We have more complex calculations for determining how much turkey breast you will need here.

How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?

When your smoking pulled pork for a crowd there are two rules to remember:

1st Rule: You need ⅓ of a pound or 5 ounces per person. To feed three people you need at least 1 pound of cooked pulled pork.

2nd Rule: You need to anticipate your meat to reduce by about 50%, so if cook 20 pounds of raw pork you will only have 10 pounds to serve.

We have more complex calculations for determining how much pulled pork you will need here.

Like the sound of caramel pulled pork?
All you need is 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar and 1/4 cup water. Add both of these to large skillet and boil over medium heat for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Use this caramel sauce to ensure you juicy and succulent pulled pork when it comes times to serving!

How Much Pork Loin Per Person

How Much Pork Per Person?

When you plan to serve pork tenderloin it is recommended you allow about 1/3 to 1/2 pound per person.

When you plan to serve pork tenderloin it is recommended you allow eight ounces or a half-pound for every guest.

How Much Salmon Per Person

How Much Salmon Per Person?

There are two main ways salmon is prepared and served, whole fish and single-serve fillets:

If serving the whole salmon – which means that the fish are exactly as they came from the water – you should figure each person will eat 3/4 pound to 1 pound.

If serving salmon fillets – which are ready-to-cook lengthwise slices of fish – on average each person will eat 1/3 to 1/2 pound. 

Here’s how much you’ll need if each person eats 1/2 pound: An average salmon fillet is 1/4 pound so allow 1.5 – 2 salmon fillet per person.

How Much Salad Per Person

How Many Ounces of Salad Per Person?

If you plan on having a salad with your meal try to allow for 4 ounces per person.

Further Guides on Serving Sizes

Rice or Grains: 3 ounces as a side dish, 6 ounces in a main dish such as risotto.

Pasta: 8 ounces for a main dish or 4 ounces for a first course or side dish.

Potatoes: 7 ounces per person.

Cake, Tart, or Pastry: 1.5 pieces.

Vegetables: 5 ounces.

Appetizers: 4 bites per hour.

Ice Cream: 6 ounces per person

Party Planning Resources

We recommend the following sites and resources to ensure your catering estimates are correct:

Fix: This site is always a handy go-to for us. 

Martha Stewart: She has fantastic tips on party planning checklists.

Wrapping it Up

Along with having good think about all the variables that will affect your catering, I recommend a few good days of prep.

The more you have done before the day will allow you to spend more time with your friends and family.

What is your favorite party dish to prepare?


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