Pulled pork is one of the least expensive barbecue meals you can make and is also a fan favorite. If you need to feed a crowd then serving up a bunch of pulled pork is a great way to get the job done. The big question though is how much do you need?
The quick answer is that one serving of pulled pork is about a third of a pound. This means you will need a pound of pulled pork for every three people that you want to feed. Let’s take a closer look at this estimate and see how you can use it to make your gathering a success.
Who Are You Feeding and How Are You Serving?
You should adjust the third of a pound per person rule depending upon the situation.
Cooking for Fundraisers
A common reason folks like to cook up a bunch of pulled pork is for fundraisers. You can sell barbecue box meals and make quite a bit of cash for your church or your kid’s sports team. The trick with fundraisers is that while you want to raise as much money as possible you also need to make sure that your customers feel like they got what they paid for.
The two most common ways of selling pulled pork for fundraisers is by selling sandwiches and plate lunches.
When you make sandwiches you have complete control over portion size and can easily stick with the third of a pound per person guideline. You can make the sandwich look impressive by either using a small bun that is overflowing with meat or by using a large bun and topping the meat with a bunch of coleslaw.
The sandwich pictured below shows what exactly one third of a pound of pulled pork looks like on a standard size hamburger bun. I think this makes for a very generous serving.
When you make plate lunches you are often stuck using three compartment Styrofoam boxes that are designed to have the main dish in the primary large compartment and two side dishes in the smaller compartments. The problem here is that a third of a pound of pork is not going to look like a whole lot of meat in the primary compartment. In this case you might need to increase the amount of meat to half a pound per plate lunch.
Cooking for a Party
If you are having a big crowd come by your house for a party then you might need to budget for more meat. Folks will usually serve themselves at a party and you will not have control over portion size. Some guests will take a lot more meat than is considered a serving and some will go back for second or third servings. For backyard gatherings, etc. I suggest increasing the amount of meat to half a pound per guest.
A trick that I have seen caterers do to reduce the meat consumption of guests is to strategically align the serving line. Caterers will place the plates and utensils on one side of the serving line and have them followed by salads, vegetables, and other side dishes. After the guest has had a chance to fill their plate with side dishes then they reach the serving station that has the meat. Since their plate is already partially full, they end up taking less meat.
Speaking of side dishes, your choice of side dishes will also impact how much meat your guests are going to want. Side dishes like macaroni and cheese, potato salad and baked beans are going to fill people up faster than light sides like broccoli salad and watermelon slices.
Another suggestion is to make up a bunch of sandwiches before the guests arrive so you maintain control over portion size. You can go with the standard size hamburger buns, use King’s Hawaiian buns for sliders or some big Kaiser rolls for monster sandwiches. the pulled pork sliders only use 2.5 ounces of meat so you can get about six generous sliders per pound. The Kaiser roll sandwich uses a half pound of meat .
How Much Meat to Buy
Figuring out how much meat to buy is a straightforward affair but depends upon how you are making your pulled pork.
If you are buying premade pulled pork like you can get from Costco then life is easy as you can buy the exact quantity that you need. However, if you are going to make your own then you need to factor in how much finished product you will get form the cut of pork that you are starting with.
The three most common cuts people use to make pulled pork are the butt, picnic shoulder and loin. If you are starting with a butt or picnic shoulder then you are going to lose about half the weight of the raw product. If you start with a loin then you will only lose about 10% of the weight.
Example #1: If you start with a pork butt that has a raw weight of eight pounds then you should expect to end up with four pounds of finished pulled pork. If you multiply four pounds by the three servings per pound guideline then you will see that you will have enough meat for about 12 people.
|Pounds of Raw Pork Butt||Feeds How Many People
(1/3 pound serving)
|Feeds How Many People
(1/2 pound serving)
Example #2: If you start with a pork loin that has a raw weight of eight pounds then you should expect to end up with a little over seven pounds of finished pulled pork. If you multiply seven pounds by the three servings per pound guideline then you will see that you will have enough meat for about 21 people.
Since pork butts and loins cost about the same on a per pound basis and you get more finished product from the loin the loin looks like the better value. The downside to making pulled pork with a pork loin is that it will never taste as good as that made from a butt. Loins can dry out and do not develop the beautiful bark you get on a butt.
Pulled Pork Calculator
Here is a link to a Pulled Pork Calculator that I put together for you that is located in a Google Sheet. The sheet is locked for editing but you can make a copy of the sheet and make your entries and calculations in the copy. To make a copy you will need to go to the “File” dropdown in the top left of the sheet.
You will need to make three entries into the spreadsheet.
- Number of Guests
- Portion Size
- Average Number of Portions
I would start with a portion size of 0.33 pounds but you can adjust it as high or low as you like.
The Average Number of Portions per Guest helps you take into account people who go back for seconds. For example, if everyone only gets one serving then the value should be “1” and would be typical if you are selling sandwiches for a fundraiser. However, if you are having a party and think that half of your guests are going to go back for seconds then you should set the value to “1.5” because 50% of your guests are getting an extra portion. You can adjust this value to whatever you like.
After you make the three entries the calculator will show you how many pounds of finished pulled pork you need along with how many pounds of pork butt you will need to start with.
What To Do With Leftovers?
I always end up making way more pulled pork than I need. I figure that if I am going to spend 10 hours or so smoking a pork butt then I might as well throw on some extra.
I store the leftovers by placing the shredded meat in a vacuum seal bag along with just enough of the pan juices to get the pork damp but not soaking wet. I vacuum seal the bag with my Food Saver and keep them in the freezer. I aim for about a pound of meat per bag as that is an easy amount to thaw and is a decent sized portion to work with for a dinner of leftovers.
As far as using the leftover pulled pork goes you have some amazing opportunities. Some of my favorite ways of using leftover pulled pork include:
- Use as a topping for Stuffed Baked Potatoes
- Blend into the mix for Twice Baked Potatoes
- Use as a filling for Breakfast Burritos
- Make a Barbecue Pizza
- Pulled Pork Nachos
Here are a few other articles I wrote about making pulled pork that you might find helpful.