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If you’ve ever smoked pork shoulder, or any type of meat for that matter, you know that all of your attention is best spent on the main task at hand – smoking a delicious pork.
The last thing you need is to be doing math in your head and second guessing yourself as to whether or not you made enough food to feed your guests.
That’s why we’ve created an article solely dedicated to help you understand how much pulled pork per person you should prepare your next cookout. We also have a handy pulled pork per person calculator that you can easily use. Read on to take out all of the guesswork out of your next cook!
Pulled Pork Per Person Calculator
How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?
When you calculate how much pulled pork per person you need to buy, there are really two principles that you need to be aware of.
The first principle is that generally speaking, you should plan for 1/3 pounds per person of cooked pulled pork. In other words, 1 pound of pulled pork is generally enough to feed 3 people. Obviously this number can vary depending on how hungry your guests are, if you have kids, how what you’re serving with the pulled pork. But from our experience, 1/3 pound per person is a great rule of thumb.
The second principle to understand is that cooked pork weighs less than raw pork. In fact, the yield of a cooked pulled pork in weight will only be about 50% of the weight of a raw pulled pork.
During the cooking process, moisture from water and other juices evaporate out of the pork – leaving the end result weighing significantly less than the pork was in its raw state. So if you have 4 pounds of pork shoulder or pork butt that go onto your smoker, expect a yield of about 2 pounds of smoked pulled pork.
With both of those principles in mind, the formula for how much pulled pork per person looks like this:
(Number of Guests x (1/3)) x 2 = Amount of Raw Pork You Should Buy
Say you have 12 guests coming to your cookout and you want to make sure you buy the perfect amount of pork to prepare.
You’d take your 12 guests and multiply by 1/3 (or divide by 3). That makes 4 pounds of cooked pulled pork as your end goal.
4 pounds of cooked pulled pork times 2 equals 8 pounds of raw pork that you should buy.
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In most situations, the above formulas and principles will work perfectly. But there are definitely a few things you should take into consideration when making your calculations. From time to time, it might be best to adjust the amount of pulled pork per person that you make to best accommodate your eaters.
Time of Day
Is your smoked BBQ feast being served for lunch or dinner? Generally speaking, lunch portions are smaller than dinner portions – so if you’re serving at lunch time maybe consider dropping your cooked pulled pork per person to 1/4 of a pound instead of 1/3.
Type of Event
The setting of your cookout also plays a big role! Are you cooking for a sit down dinner or a poolside cookout? When cooking for a sit down dinner, people tend to eat more and go back for seconds if they have extra room.
If your cookout is a little bit more of an active setting like a pool party or a tailgate, from my experience this often translates to a smaller need for the amount of food per person. Since people are up and walking around, they tend to err on the side of not overstuffing themselves with food.
What’s on the Menu?
Is pulled pork the main event? Or are you also grilling burgers or smoking other types of meat to go along with your pork? If you have other main course style foods for your guests to choose from, it might not make as much sense to plan for a full 1/3 of a pound of cooked pulled pork per person.
If your guests have a lot of options to choose from, consider slimming down on the total amount of each type of food you offer.
On a similar note, what kind of sides do you plan to serve along side the main course? Are you serving sandwiches or tacos? Or are you offering a fully loaded BBQ plate with potato salad, coleslaw, and baked beans?
If you have a bunch of delicious sides to go with your pulled pork, you probably don’t need to create a mountain of pork for your guests.
How About the Kiddos?
Unless your kid is going through a major growth spurt, odds are they’re going to eat less per person than your adult guests.
Obviously each kid is different, but generally we like to plan for 0.25 pounds of cooked pulled pork per child for any of our cookouts.
When in Doubt… Leftovers Aren’t A Bad Thing
If you’re ever in doubt of how much pulled pork per person you should make for your party, make a little bit more than you think you need to. One of the beautiful things about pork shoulder is that it’s an extremely cheap cut of meat, so buying an extra pound or two translates to only a few extra bucks.
Plus, pulled pork makes for some incredibly delicious leftovers. Whether it’s tacos, BBQ pizza, or sandwiches with pickles and a little bit of onion, I guarantee you’ll be able to find tasty ways to enjoy your leftovers.
We’ve written an entire article about how to reheat pulled pork right here. Head on over to that resource for tips, tricks, and everything you need to know to get the most out of your BBQ leftovers.
Storing Leftover Pulled Pork
On that note, it’s important to know how to safely and effectively store any leftovers you do end up with. Proper storage is the key to delicious leftovers and preserving the flavor of your pulled pork.
Grab a sealable, airtight container or plastic freezer bag. Place your leftovers inside of the container and be sure to spoon in any excess juices that remain in your serving pan. The juices are key to being able to have moisture and reheat your leftover BBQ properly.
From there, place your airtight container into the refrigerator or freezer. If refrigerated, you should plan to consume your food within 48 hours to ensure that it is safe to eat.
Frozen pulled pork can technically last indefinitely, but in practice it will keep for about 3 months. After 3 months, your frozen food will start to deteriorate in flavor due to the dreaded freezer burn.
I hope this guide to how much food you should plan on preparing for your guests has cleared up the air for you! At the end of the day, choosing the right amount is a little bit of art and a little bit of science.
There are a few guiding principles to follow, and generally speaking 1/3 of a pound of cooked pulled pork per person is great. But depending on your audience and your setting, you might need to tweak that up or down.
And just in case we’ve put the cart ahead of the horse here, check out our guide on how to pull pork next if you want to learn the fundamentals of pulled pork.
Thanks for stopping by, and let us know if you have any other thoughts or questions for us about the best way to serve your future BBQ feasts! Get in touch with us in the comments section below.