With brisket prices skyrocketing in recent years, we know there’s a fine line between overcatering and having hungry guests.
Luckily, there are some easy formulas to work out how much brisket per person you need. That way, there’s less stress (on your bottom line and on the day), and no one goes home hungry.
We also share a few things you should consider when estimating the amount, so stick around for that. We guarantee your guests’s stomachs will thank you!
How much brisket per person?
As discussed in our post on how much meat per person, you want about ½ to ⅓ of a pound of cooked brisket per person. This is a great serving size if the brisket is the main dish or if you’re feeding hungry adults. But if it’ll be served with several side dishes or other proteins, you can easily drop it to a 1/4-pound.
If you’re an ounces person, a quarter of a pound is four ounces, a third is 5.3 (you can totally round this up to six), and half a pound is eight.
Don’t run away just yet! For a better estimation, you’re going to want to consider the below factors.
Now, depending on how many people you’re catering for, you’ll typically want to buy a whole-packer brisket or the flat. We’ll discuss this further below, but a whole brisket will feed anywhere from 10 to 40 people.
If you’re smoking the full brisket, you can separate the two cuts. However, our preference is to smoke the whole brisket and not split them.
The flat or first cut is what you’ll typically find in grocery stores. It’s leaner than the point (the fattier and more marbled portion), so it’s good for sliced brisket or corned beef.
Raw vs. cooked brisket
Now, the above measurements refer to cooked brisket. Uncooked brisket is a different story. Half a pound of cooked meat doesn’t equal the same as uncooked brisket.
For starters, what do you do to your brisket before smoking it? Hopefully, you trim the fat! That instantly gets rid of quite a bit of weight. Check out our guide to learn exactly how to trim brisket.
I like to leave about 1/4-inch of fat. This will render and melt down, contributing to weight loss.
Then, you also have to take into account meat shrinkage. It’s common for beef brisket to shrink between 30 and 40% while cooking. Dry heat methods like smoking and high temperatures can make the meat shrink even further, so we like to round this up to 50% to cover all bases and make our calculations easier.
Why does brisket shrink so much? Well, your cut of meat is made up of 75% water. Yes, really! The rest is 20% protein and 5% fat, carbohydrates, and minerals. So as you can imagine, when that water comes into contact with your smoker’s high temperature, it’s going to evaporate pretty quickly and your meat will instantly start to shrink.
While shrinkage is perfectly natural, the meat will shrink less if you braise or use the slow cooker versus smoking. This is because the added liquid can subtly replace the evaporating water.
Other factors to consider
Now, it’s easy to say a third or half a pound and walk away. But as you can see, the answer isn’t that simple. It’s important to consider the event itself when estimating how much brisket per person. Ask yourself these questions when planning for a better guess.
Who’s attending the event?
Is this a gathering full of big eaters like hungry adult males with healthy appetites, or are the main guests kids too busy having fun to eat? For adults, we recommend ½-pound. For kids, you can easily opt for ¼-pound or even less, depending on the ages.
What time of day is the event?
We find that people generally eat less during lunchtime gatherings. But they work up an appetite and eat more if it’s an evening event. So we recommend serving less for earlier events.
What type of event is it?
Opt for the standard half-pound portion size if it’s a sit-down event, as people tend to eat more. The same can be said for a buffet because we all go back for seconds and thirds… don’t we? If it’s a more casual affair with people mingling and grazing, you won’t need as much meat.
What else is on the menu?
If your brisket is the main dish and isn’t competing for attention from other proteins, it’s better to opt for a 1/2-pound. But if it’ll be served alongside pulled pork, ribs, and/or chicken, consider estimating a 1/4-pound for each person.
Serving size also depends on the side dishes. If the brisket will be served with creamy and carb-heavy sides like cornbread, potato salad, or mac and cheese, you could easily reduce the amount. In contrast, if the side dishes are light and refreshing salads, you might want to stick to a third/half.
How will you serve the brisket?
Will the meat be served sliced, chopped, or shredded? You wouldn’t think it, but the presentation can easily affect the portion size. Sliced brisket typically disappears faster than shredded or chopped brisket for a few reasons.
This includes slices being easier to eat and chopped meat looking like a larger portion on the plate when this isn’t the case. Plus, if you’re adding sliced brisket to a sandwich, most people will add more than one slice, but this won’t equal the same amount in pulled beef.
So, with shrinkage and fat trimming in mind, one pound of raw brisket essentially equals half a pound of cooked brisket. This makes it easy to calculate how much brisket per person you need:
- One pound of uncooked brisket will serve one person if the brisket is the main dish or two people if you’ve decided on a smaller portion.
- A typical packer (or whole brisket) is between 12 and 15 pounds. So this would feed between 12 and 30 people, depending on the weight and portion size.
- For five people, opt for between 2.5 and five pounds of raw brisket.
- 10 pounds of raw brisket will serve between 10 and 20 people, depending on the serving size.
- For 20 people, you’ll need 20 pounds of raw brisket. This will make 10 pounds of cooked meat.
Here’s a handy brisket calculator if you need a little extra help.
How to store leftover brisket
Don’t stress if you end up with leftover brisket. In fact, because it takes so long to produce smoked brisket, it’s better to be safe than sorry and to cook more than necessary. I love some leftover brisket on a grilled cheese sandwich the next day. But here are more ways to use leftover brisket:
- Make a big batch of brisket chili.
- Enjoy brisket breakfast hash, quesadilla, or burritos in the morning.
- Freeze it for future use.
- Send your guests home with leftovers (they’ll love you forever).
Leftover brisket will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days or the freezer for up to three months. When it comes time to reheat, check out our comprehensive guide to reheating brisket. We talk you through reheating via the oven, grill, or sous vide method.
Ready to go?
Now you know how much brisket per person, it’s time to get smoking! Remember, it’s better to have extra brisket than not enough. If you need a helpful recipe to get you started, check out our guide to smoking your first brisket.
If you also have any other brisket questions, leave a comment or visit our brisket archive. It’s brimming with tips and recipes that’ll see your barbecue being the best on the block.