When people ask me how much brisket they need per person the standard answer I give is that you want one pound of uncooked packer brisket per guest. I like that answer because it is easy for folks to remember and results in a generous portion size for your guests.
Let’s take a look at where that number comes from so you can adjust it for your event if you desire.
A whole packer brisket (grade Choice or Prime) is going to have a lot of fat that needs trimming. Between trimming the fat and general shrinkage, a brisket can loose up to 50% of its weight by the time it is ready to serve.
I want folks to have a half pound of brisket as a serving. To get a half pound of finished brisket then I need to start with one pound of raw brisket assuming the 50% loss.
So let’s check some assumptions here. A packer brisket losing 50% of its weight is a bit extreme. The more likely scenario is 35-40%. My serving size of a half pound per person can also be adjusted. For example, most catering outfits assume 1/3 of of pound of meat per person while my both me and teenage son can polish off a pound of brisket.
I am also assuming that you are working with a packer brisket and not a trimmed flat. If you are dealing with a trimmed flat then the loss will be less (15-25%) and you won’t need as much per person.
The quality of your side dishes will also effect how much brisket folks will want. Some classic sides that you could consider are:
- Pinto Beans
- Potato Salad
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Stuffed Jalapenos
- Cole Slaw
Smoke More Brisket Than You Need
If you have the chance, I suggest smoking more brisket than you need to feed your crew. There is always the chance that one of your guests is going to be a heavy hitter and running out of food sucks.
It is also a lot of work to smoke a brisket and I like having a little extra to have as leftovers for all of my troubles.
A trick I use to stretch how much brisket folks eat is to supplement the menu. I like to cook a pound or two of nice sausage (smoked brats, Italian, etc), slice them along a diagonal and place them on the same serving platter as the brisket. Folks will often skip taking a whole sausage but they can’t help but grab some when it is sliced up.
Another way I stretch things out is to make a separate tray of quick and easy fake burnt ends. You can make these by smoking a chuck roast or boneless beef ribs. Using the smaller cuts lets you get these ready in just a few hours. You could also make a platter of pork belly burnt ends and watch people really go nuts.
A final tip to consider for brisket consumption is how the food is laid out. You can place the plates on one side of the buffet and have the brisket on the other. In between will be all of your side dishes. This will encourage people to fill up more room on their plates with the side dishes before they even get to the brisket.