Meat Math: How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?

March 27, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

You should calculate around one-third of a pound for an adult and about one-fourth of a pound for a child.

I often get hurried phone calls from friends trying to figure out how much pulled pork per person they need to buy and prepare. Luckily, I have got this down to a science!

In this post I will show you what formulas to use and show you what other factors you should consider as well. Let’s get started!

How Much Pulled Pork Per Person

A Note About Cooking Pulled Pork

Before I get started, I want to inform you of one very important thing: cooked pulled pork shrinks during the smoking process.

This is because when making smoked pulled pork, the muscle fibers contract, forcing moisture out. As a result, you end up with a cut that is far smaller than what you started out with.

couple of friends cooking

Cooked pork can shrink as much as up to 40 percent boneless and around 50 per with the bone in. To be on the safe side, I always assume that the meat is going to lose up to half its weight in the smoker.

This means that you often have to double the amount of “raw” pulled pork that you are planning on buying.

Due to this, the following calculations will be based on how much raw pork shoulder or pork butt you are going to require:

How Do You Calculate How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?

Let’s face it, it is important to know just how much meat you are going to need when serving pulled pork. While you do want to make sure that everyone has more than enough to eat, you also don’t want to get stuck with more leftover pulled pork than you know what to do with.

This is where math comes into play. Now, I do want to warn you that this is all just an estimate. And, as you are going to find, every cook and pitmaster has their own idea of just how much pulled pork is enough for each individual.

The rule of thumb is as follows – you can consider it a pulled pork calculator:

One-third to half a pound of cooked pulled pork per person. This averages to about 11 ounces to one pound of raw pork for each individual.

The formula you can follow for this is:

(No. of adults x (1/3)) x 2

The above calculations are for adult guests. For kids, I would suggest:

One-fourth pound of cooked pulled pork per child. This would round up to half a pound of raw pork per child.

The formula for this would look like:

(No. of children x (1/4)) x 2

Remember, this does depend on the age of the child. For children in double digits, I would buy the same as for the adults, just to make certain there is enough pulled pork.

How Much Will 2 lbs of Pulled Pork Feed?

Based on the above math, this would mean that two pounds of cooked pulled pork would feed 3 adults and 4 kids. Two pounds of raw pork, however, will feed 1.5 adults and 2 children.

How Much Does 10 lbs of Pulled Pork Feed?

This amount of cooked pulled pork will feed 15 adults and 20 children. The raw meat, on the other hand, will feed 7.5 adults and 10 children.

How Many Pounds of Raw Pork Should You Buy?

If math isn’t your strong suit (is it anybody’s?), then you may be looking for a breakdown of the amount of raw pork needed per party. Here is a quick guide for you in raw weight:

  • 2 People: 1 1/3 lbs
  • 5 People: 3 1/3 lbs
  • 10 People: 6 2/3 lbs
  • 20 People: 13 1/3 lbs

Of course, I would suggest rounding up these numbers as it can be awkward to buy it in such amounts.

Other Considerations

As mentioned, this is just an average. The reason that it can be tricky to figure out just how much pulled pork per person to buy is because there are other factors to consider. These are the top ones:

What Else Are You Serving?

The first thing to consider is what else is on the menu. Is pulled pork going to be the star of the show? Then, you will need to follow the above rules pretty closely and buy picnic shoulder accordingly.

However, if you are serving pulled pork along with some pretty heavy duty side dishes such as hot dogs, burgers, baked beans, potato salad, etc. Then, there is a chance that people might fill up on these.

If you are offering a variety of other meats, then it doesn’t make much sense to have as much – less meat will suffice under these circumstances.

Who Will Be Attending?

There is a good chance that you will know most of the people attending your gathering quite intimately. As such, you may have a decent idea of their eating habits and the kind of foods that they like to indulge in.

Do you have a lot of pulled pork fans in the crowd? Then it makes sense to buy more meat. If people have a variety of preferences, though, then this investment is unnecessary.

Now, with a smaller crowd, you may be able to figure out how much each person might eat. Thus, calculate it accordingly. Add a bit more for one person and reduce the quantity for someone else.

How Are You Serving the Pulled Pork?

Are you planning on having a large plate of pulled pork and then letting each person serve themselves? Or, will they be served in buns, like pulled pork sliders? Depending on whether it is a large bun or small bun, you will need to calculate the filling portion accordingly.

grilling pulled pork

Of course, if you are serving smalller portions like this, then you can get away with buying pork in smaller quantities as well. This is because the bread can be quite filling as well.

What Kind of Event Is It?

The event type can matter quite a bit as well. This is because at a sit down dinner, people tend to eat more of everything, including more pulled pork. Therefore, you may want to calculate when deciding how much pulled pork per person.

At the same time, you should consider the above points as well, namely, what else is on the table? If you have lots of other sides, meats, and interesting dishes, don’t go overboard with the pulled pork.

What Time of Day Is the Event?

People have different appetites throughout the day. No one likes feeling too full during the day, but may not mind going full steam ahead at night. In this case, your lunch portions can be smaller than dinner portions.

Once again, it is a good idea to think about the crowd that you are inviting. Is lunch taking place after a particular event? If so, are your guests likely to be ravenous? On the other hand, if your dinner is on the same day as another event, then people may not be as hungry.

Before deciding how much pork shoulder to buy, I would ask you to consider all of the above factors and even come up with your own. There is no such thing as one specific quantity for each occasion or group. It is important to trust your judgement.

Is There Such a Thing As Too Much Pulled Pork?

On your quest to find how much pulled pork you should be purchasing, here is another interesting question: can you buy too much?

Now, naturally the answer is yes – buying more pork shoulder than you need is going to cost you more money. It also means that you are stuck with a lot of cooked pork which can be tricky if you don’t have the storage space or have a smaller family.

On the other hand, leftover pulled pork isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it can be pretty great!

This is because there are a lot of ways that you can use these pulled pork leftovers. This includes making pulled pork tacos, sliders, sandwiches, and lots more. Seriously, you can eat pulled in so many different ways. It can ensure that you take care of many weekday dinners.

How to Store Pulled Pork Leftovers?

If you are planning on eating your pulled pork in the next few days, then you can go ahead and refrigerate the meat. Not sure when you will use it? No worries, just freeze it instead.

If you have bought and cooked an extra pound or two of pulled pork, I would suggest not shredding it right away. This is because the best way to store this dish is as a whole shoulder. It retains more moisture and flavor this way. The texture is also better when reheated.

In case you have already shredded the meat that’s not a problem. Just place the pulled pork in freezer bags. If there isn’t much left, then you can place it in an airtight container.

If you are serving the pork and sauce separately, I would recommend storing them separately as well. Add the excess sauce in when you reheat the pulled pork for both flavor and moisture.

Make sure to squeeze all the air out of the bag before sealing it. This will prevent freezer burn. It is a good idea to label the bags and make a note of the date as well.

Once frozen, it is best to consume the meat within six months. I would suggest eating it sooner than this though.

How to Prevent Shrinkage?

You may want to look into cutting down the amount that your pulled pork shrinks when smoked. In doing so, you will not have to buy as much raw pork.

First, start off by buying pork shoulder or Boston butt without the bone in. This way, it will not shrink as much.

The other trick I would try is salting. This is where you rub kosher salt into the pork shoulder. Place it in the fridge for a couple of days.

The other thing that you can do is to smoke the meat at a lower temperature. Not too low – around 225 degrees should work just fine. Just be mindful of the fact that the raw pork will take longer to cook. Thus, you will need to take this into account.

So, there is some math and guessing involved but as you can see you can absolutely figure out how much pulled pork per person you should be buying and serving. Needless to say, this will involve a lot less hassle for you!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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