So, you have a big event coming up and you’re scratching your head wondering how much pulled pork per person. Well, fear no more. We’re going to tell you exactly how much you need with our handy formula.
But before you fire up the smoker, stick around. There are a few things you need to consider when estimating the amount of pulled pork per person and we’re going to share them all with you.
How much pulled pork per person?
The short answer is a third to half a pound of cooked pulled pork is perfect if serving it as a main dish. If you’re going to serve pulled pork sandwiches, reduce this even further to a quarter-pound.
In ounces, this equals four, 5.3 (round up to six to make life easier), and eight ounces respectively.
Yes, that’s the short answer. But look, there are a lot of things to consider when deciding how much pulled pork per person. So let’s break them down.
We answer this question for more types of meat in our guide on how much meat per person.
Uncooked vs. cooked pork
Did you notice above that we said cooked pulled pork? This is because pork can shrink by up to 30 percent during cooking. So, to be safe, we recommend adding a little extra on top and estimating the shrinkage to be around 50 percent. This covers your bases when you trim the fat or skin before cooking, too.
This rule encompasses all cuts of pork and all cooking methods, including smoking, braising, and slow cooking.
Why does pork shrink?
If you didn’t know, meat is made up of about 75 percent water, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent fat, carbohydrates, and minerals. We eat meat for the protein. But when these protein molecules hit the heat, they contract and expel all that moisture. Without the water, your meat is naturally going to shrink.
Cooking methods also impact how much your pork shrinks. Smoking is a dry heat method, so you can expect extra shrinkage. You can also expect more shrinkage on high heat versus low heat.
Meanwhile, if you braise or slow-cook your pork in liquid, it will shrink but not as much. This is because the liquid subtly replaces the evaporating water.
Another reason pork shrinks is because of the rendering fat. The excessive heat causes the fat to melt (slash drip) away.
Boneless versus bone-in pork shoulder
Another important fact to consider is the cut of pork. This might be a Boston butt, pork butt, picnic roast, picnic shoulder, or pork shoulder. As you can imagine, a bone-in pork shoulder will weigh more than a boneless pork shoulder. Therefore, you’ll need to adjust your calculations.
Stick with the aforementioned pulled pork serving size for boneless pork shoulder. Here’s a calculation to break it down further:
(The number of guests x 1/3) x 2 = your number of uncooked boneless pork pounds.
(12 x 1/3) = 4. 4 x 2 = 8
For example, if you have 12 guests coming to your event, a third would be four. Double that and you need eight pounds of uncooked boneless pork shoulder to cook for your guests.
Bone-in pork shoulder
We’re going to use a similar formula for bone-in pork shoulder. But because it includes extra fat and bone weight, we’ll do half a pound instead of a third. Let’s use the same example as above:
(The number of guests x 1/2) x 2 = your number of uncooked bone-in pork pounds.
(12 x 1/2) = 6. 6 x 2 = 12 pounds of uncooked bone-in pork shoulder.
How easy is that? 12 guests equal 12 pounds of bone-in raw pork shoulder.
You can also use this handy pulled pork butt servings calculator. If you do, remember that a third of a pound is roughly six ounces.
As for percentage yield, 50 percent is the safe bet. As it says, the yield reduces the more you trim the meat and the longer the cooking time.
Consider the event itself
While we can easily give you an estimate of how much pulled pork you need per person, this heavily depends on the event. Here are some questions to consider before determining the amount:
Who are the attendees?
For example, if you’re serving smoked pulled pork at an event with lots of children, you’ll want to reduce the amount. Children under 12 will easily eat about half of the adult serving size. On average, this would be about a sixth of a pound.
In contrast, if it’s a gathering with lots of adult males, over-estimating works. What adult male will say no to leftover pulled pork, right?
What type of event is it?
People typically eat more if it’s a sit-down event and you serve portions to each individual. The same can be said for buffets. Don’t deny that you’ve gone back for seconds (or thirds) at a barbecue buffet.
If it’s a longer event with no certain eating time or excessive snacks, people will probably put a bigger emphasis on socializing rather than eating.
When is the event?
The type of event also relates to the time of day. People typically eat less at lunch compared to dinner. We all work up an appetite by dinner.
What else will be on the menu?
If you’ve got three or more barbecue side dishes lined up, you might want to offer less pork. This is particularly important if the side dishes are on the heavier side. We’re talking creamy mac and cheese, cornbread, and potato salad compared to a light salad or grilled veggies.
You might also want to reduce the serving size to a quarter-pound if it’s a potluck and there will be several main dishes available.
Another reason to reduce your serving amount is if the pulled pork is battling with other proteins. If there’s other barbecue meat or chicken on the menu, you could get away with a quarter-pound for each adult guest.
How will you serve the pulled pork?
As mentioned, if you’ll be serving it in pulled pork sliders, you might want to go for a quarter of a pound only. But if you’re using larger or longer buns, I’d recommend going for a third. Hamburger buns hold about five ounces and as established, this is a little less than a third of a pound.
Alternatively, if the pulled pork is the star of the show with less than three side dishes, opt for a third to half a pound.
Pulled pork calculations
Let’s answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the pork needed in certain situations using the above formulas:
- For 10 people, you’ll want about 6.5 pounds of boneless and 10 pounds of bone-in pork shoulder.
- For 20 people, you’ll need approximately 13 pounds of boneless and 20 pounds of bone-in raw pork butt.
- For 50 people, you’ll need about 33 pounds of boneless and 50 pounds of bone-in pork shoulder.
- One pound of cooked pulled pork will feed about three adults, as they’ll have roughly a third each.
- One pound of cooked pulled pork makes between three and four pulled pork sandwiches, depending on the bun size.
- To make 10 pulled pork sandwiches, you need 2.5 to three pounds of cooked pulled pork.
How to store leftover pulled pork
So, your calculations were off and you have leftovers. Really, this is only a good thing because, look, there are so many delicious dishes you can make with leftover pulled pork.
Here are some other suggestions:
- Freeze leftovers.
- Vacuum seal portions and give them out to guests before they leave.
- Make a Mexican feast with pulled pork nachos, tacos, and enchiladas.
- Add it to a slow-cooker main dish, like chili or curry.
Now, we have a comprehensive guide on how to store and reheat pulled pork. But we recommend vacuum sealing. Alternatively, your cooked pulled pork will last three days in the fridge when stored in an airtight container. It will also last up to three months in the freezer.
We hope this guide helps you estimate how much cooked pulled pork you need per person for your upcoming event. We told you there was some sneaky science behind our formula! But keep it in your back pocket and you’ll be set.
To get started, check out our easy BBQ pulled pork recipe. Remember, if you have any other questions, leave us a comment below.