A BBQ is something we all look forward to, particularly the part where we feast on all that meat after hours of smoky hard work and sweat. Given the chance, everyone would eat the meat until they can barely walk, regretting it shortly afterward of course! However, there’s nothing more mood-dampening on such occasions than running out of meat pre-maturely. As such, it’s the grill master’s responsibility to ensure that there’s enough meat to last the whole occasion without being stingy on the serving sizes too!
Planning to fire the grill up sometime soon? Find the best gas grill with searing burner for the best results if you’re yet to buy one. With your grill all set, the next step is to determine exactly how much meat per person your BBQ is going to need, whether it’s for a small group of friends, family, or a large gathering on some occasion. Let’s just quickly explore how best you can ensure the meat locker doesn’t run out without also leaving your guests bloated. Make sure to look into some electric smoker or pellet grill models as they are among the most popular types for grilling.
Establishing a menu for your event is the first sensible step to ensure you don’t run out of meat or remain with loads of unused portions at the end of the day. The main course, of course, is the various meat grills but it’s always best to add a variety of other dishes, from salads to snacks and beverages.
The meat portions can then be established once you have settled on the accompanying side dishes. If you’re operating on an uncapped budget, you can lean towards a meat-heavy menu with only light salads and appetizers as side dishes. This way, they have more tummy space for all those meat varieties being laid out. A leaner budget may, however, require heavier side dishes such as potato salads and deviled eggs to reduce your guests’ ‘tummy volume’.
Now that you have your budget figured out, consider how many guests are coming. Here is a comprehensive guide to determining the ideal portion sizes which you can then multiply by your number of guests to get the exact volume of meat to shop;
Factor in the meat ‘losses’
You can never really determine accurately the meat quantity to be consumed so it’s better to err on the surplus side. Whatever number of confirmed guests you have, always allow for a 10% spike because where there’s a BBQ, there is bound to be a few uninvited guests that you can’t chase away.
You are also probably going to experience some meat losses on the grill, from the portions that drop into the fire and are beyond recovery, the ones that get burnt when you get distracted, and the ones that just get dropped on the grill-to-plate route. You may also want to have a few extra portions for your family to enjoy after the crowd disperses or on a later date.
Another commonly overlooked meat loss factor is the inedible and fatty parts. Most grill meat portions are sold with fatty portions, bones, and some cartilage. This will affect your portion sizes and need to be factored in, either by increasing the portion sizes or selecting better meat grades. While at it, it’s worth mentioning that extra bones in your meat aren’t a bad thing at all. Your grill will actually taste better because of those extra bones.
How much your meat will shrink (yield) depends on the type of meat. This means that you will end up with less weight after grilling than you started with as the moisture and fats leave the portions. A general yield average is 70%, meaning that after trimming and grilling, you will be left with 7 pounds of meat from a raw 10-pound parcel.
If your menu includes some burgers, add 30% more meat. Fatty portions like briskets will, however, lose a lot more weight so you will need about 50% more meat then your calculated total weight. If you have various meats on the menu and prefer to be super-accurate, the USDA’s website has a lot more info on the various meat yields to be expected from all sorts of meat portions.
So we’ve already established that the meat is the main dish for the barbecue, right? In fact, if you are going to invite people for a ‘barbecue’ then you better make it the main dish otherwise you’ll be crucified for false advertising! You can have as many side dishes as you want but, trust me, your guests will mostly gravitate towards the meat.
The standard serving per individual is half a pound of meat in total. This means that the sum of all the meat portions consumed by every attendee of your BBQ must be in that range, assuming that meat is the main course. Now, a great barbecue always has more than one type of meat being served. So, it follows that you should size each portion of each meat entrée so that the sum of the portions are in the half-pound range.
Oh, one more thing, never attempt to cut these portions in the eyes of your guests after grilling the meat. It ruins the perfect shape of each portion and can be difficult to do if the meat is hot. A general estimate technique is to assume that your palm size and thickness is about 5 ounces of meat.
Stingy Grill Master portions
Ok, so if you insist on making the grilled meat a mere part of the menu and not the man entrée then you will need smaller meat portions. Instead of the standard half pound, you can cut it down to only half or even a third of an ounce for every guest. If you have several types of meat on the table, the individual portions served per guest should, likewise, add up to that half-pound.
Consider the age ranges
Naturally, children eat much less than adults so the portions should reflect the targeted guest. If there is only a sprinkling of young guests this may not make much of a difference. However, if the attending guests contain a larger proportion of kids, you may want to consider it. Children in the 6-11 years age range will generally take in only 60% of the food consumed by the adults. However, those in the 12-20 range can easily consume 150% of a ‘normal’ portion. As such, make sure you accommodate the mild and voracious appetites of your guests when considering those portion sizes.
Top Grill Choices
Now that we have the general details out of the way let’s take a quick look at some of the most common grill choices and how much of each is enough to satisfy your guests. Remember to source the best oil for flat top grills, or whatever variety you have to ensure great non-stick qualities when grilling.
Pork is a top grill choice all over the globe and it’s not by coincidence. It is easily the tastiest meat choice for most people, offering less cooking time and great immersion characteristics for grill sauces and seasoning. Pulled pork will provide a great main dish for your guests, best served with some innovative sides, rolls, etc.
Note, however, that pork offers a pretty low meat yield due to its high-fat content, regardless of the cut. Expect to lose as much as 60% of the meat weight after grilling so keep that in mind when calculating the portion sizes. The popular pork slider often requires about a quarter of a pound of pulled pork per guest.
Chicken was traditionally shunned when it comes to grilling due to its tricky nature but any seasoned grill master will tell you that it’s a must-have! It provides a distinct taste and flavor for your guests’ palettes, especially if you are serving various foods and going for a diversified spread.
Chicken offers a great general yield of up to 70% for de-boned portions. For standard-sized chickens, a full one should serve 4 people so you don’t have to weigh the portions individually or worry about sizing. However, avoid having huge chicken chunks. Instead, cut each quarter into two or three pieces.
Many people also prefer to grill either wings or drumsticks only and avoid the rest of the chicken portions. This is not such a bad idea considering they make your life much easier by eliminating the need to cut up and divide whole chickens. However, if you’re serving wings, you will need at least five of them for each guest due to their minimal flesh content.
This is another BBQ champion, never to be left out on any grilling occasion. It is very easy to cut, easy to cook, and quite tasty when grilled. They also come in large chunks which is quite convenient for large parties. Since brisket tends to crumble, it’s good to remember that you get the best compact bbq with gas. Expect a low yield, however, of about 50% and go easy on the heat when grilling to avoid a raw core.
Can we really call it a grill without some ribs? Whether pork, beef or mutton, ribs make a perfect addition to any grill session. Expect a high yield of over 70% for almost all rib cuts.
Steak is also a must-have unless you’re operating with a limited budget. The yield is also suitably high, north of 70% so you don’t have to worry much about portion sizing. A great rule of thumb would be to get a single steak for every guest, weighing at least 12 ounces. That should satisfy each guest enough, less if you’re serving several meat types.
Burgers & Hot Dogs
Last but certainly not least, no barbecue is ever complete without some spicy hot dogs and burgers, or at least one of the two. Yield is pretty high to nearly 90% n most cases for ground beef. A pound of beef will produce at least 6 burgers which should feed at least 3 people, 2 burgers each.
As we wind up, strive to have leftovers rather than have people end up rationing the little meat available. An otherwise awesome barbecue party can be easily ruined towards its ending if your meat runs out and your guests will leave with that sorry memory, forgetting all the prior fun. Remember to also stock up on the best commercial bbq rubs you can find, a variety of sauces, and spices to cover all the loot, keeping in mind that some of your guests may have allergies to certain ingredients. Enjoy!