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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
Everyone loves going to a barbecue with family and friends, drinking cold beer, and eating delicious, slow cooked pulled pork. If it’s your first time hosting your own grill party, tailgate, or cookout, you may wonder how much pulled pork you’ll need to make to serve all your guests.
The last thing you want is to spend money, time, and effort planning a glitzy dinner party or large-scale backyard gathering and then run out of pulled pork servings halfway through the evening.
Fortunately, there are some simple tips to remember that can help you calculate how much pulled pork you’ll need to satisfy all your friends and family members’ hunger at your next event.
1. What is Pulled Pork, and Why Should You Try It?
Pulled pork is a delicious and highly nutritious traditional southern barbecue meal. You can produce your own iteration of this dish at home by buying a cut of boneless pork (normally the shoulder), kneading a spicy rub into the meat, then putting it in the slow cooker for several hours before shredding off the tender flesh and dipping it in some homemade barbecue sauce.
The slow cooking process lends the pork a uniquely soft and tender texture.
Although most recipes call for a shoulder cut, you can use any pig’s fatty section to make a high-quality pulled pork dish. It’s also easy to use the leftovers from a pork or hog roast if you don’t want to buy a fresh cut. Once you’ve made your pulled pork, you can use this meat in many recipes, from ragu sauces to oven-cooked lasagnas to chilis and mac ‘n’ cheese.
2. How Much Pulled Pork Should You Serve Per Person?
When you’re trying to determine how much pulled pork per person to serve at your barbecue, the general consensus is that, on average, one serving should equate to 4-6 oz. for an adult. This roughly translates to a standard portion of ¼ lbs.
However, it’s not always quite as simple as that. You also need to consider that raw pork shoulder reduces by around 40% when cooked. This means that if you’re planning to invite a group of 20 friends and family members to a cookout, you need a slab of pork meat that weighs between 6½ to 8 lbs. when cooked.
Buy a raw shoulder joint that weighs somewhere between 10½ and 13 lbs. It doesn’t matter if there’s some cooked pork left over at the end of the meal. You can pop it in the fridge and eat it later on in the week.
Of course, this value is just an average, and there are several variables to consider if you want to evaluate how much pulled pork per person you should serve in your specific situation.
Children and Teenagers
Children, while sometimes voracious eaters, cannot usually eat as much as an adult. Even active children may only consume 2 oz. of pulled pork, especially if you serve it as a sandwich and have additional sides.
On the other hand, a group of athletic teenagers can consume much more than this. Expect teens to eat at least 6-8 oz. of pulled pork in one sitting.
Adults and Seniors
On average, a healthy adult can consume 4-6 oz. of pulled pork. This may vary on several factors, including appetizers, activity levels, stress, and time constraints.
As adults age, their appetites decline around 65-70 years old. This is because we need fewer calories as our activity dwindles with age. If you are throwing a barbecue with several older guests, they may each only eat 2-3 oz. of pulled pork.
3. Planning Your Portions
You also need to consider the amount of pulled pork that your specific recipe calls for. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular pulled pork recipes and some advice on how much meat you should buy for each one.
Pulled pork sliders or sandwiches
Pulled pork sandwiches are a staple in the South, and sliders are a modern twist on this delightful recipe.
The amount of pulled pork you need largely depends on the size of the bun. If you’re making pulled pork sandwiches in burger buns (4”), expect to use 4 oz. of pulled pork per sandwich. Larger sub buns (5”+) may require 6-8 oz. of pork. Since sliders are smaller (2½”), you can split this amount into 2-3 oz. per slider.
One standard-sized pulled pork sandwich is enough for many of your guests, but for sliders, expect to provide at least 2 sliders per person.
Get a raw pork shoulder that weighs around 10 lbs. When you roast this joint, it will decrease in weight by 40%, ending up as 6 lbs. Bearing in mind that the standard portion for pulled pork in a sandwich or bun is ¼ lbs., this joint of cooked meat should be enough for 24 sliders and serve 12-14 people.
Pulled pork tacos
If you plan on hosting a Mexican-themed party in your backyard, you’ll likely serve homemade pulled pork tacos. You’re expecting 20 guests, but you think each invitee will only eat 2 tacos because you’re serving some particularly filling side dishes, like flavored rice, grilled corn, jalapeno cornbread, and lots of chips and guacamole.
This means you’ll need to produce enough pulled pork for 40 tacos. If you’re using the ¼ lbs. (4 oz.) measurement of meat on a plate as your standard pulled pork per person portion size, you need a pork shoulder that weighs between 13-14 lbs. when cooked. Aim to buy a raw cut that’s between 22-24 lbs.
If you’re struggling to choose between different weights, it’s always best to go with the larger one. When you’re hosting a barbecue, it’s better to have too much cooked meat than too little. There are plenty of delicious recipes for leftover pulled pork that you can use for yourself and the family during the working week.
Pulled pork stuffed peppers
While pulled pork is packed with protein, sometimes you want to forego the bread and tortilla in favor of a healthier option. Pulled pork stuffed peppers are a tasty option, especially if you’re Keto.
The most important consideration for a stuffed pepper is its size. Smaller stuffed peppers such as chili or mini sweet peppers hold less pulled pork and cheese, making them an excellent appetizer option but less so for dinner. Aim for the large bell peppers that can hold 2-3 oz. of pork each.
For a group of 10 friends, expect each person to eat 3-4 peppers each. This means that you’ll need 80-120 oz. of cooked meat, or 5-7½ lbs. of pulled pork. Since the pork reduces by 40% during the cooking process, buy a shoulder joint between 8-13 lbs.
The Final Word
Pulled pork is a tasty and nutritious meat option that’s versatile and succulent, making it a great option for your dinner parties and family barbecues. With a little time, prep, and careful portioning, you can ensure you have plenty of pulled pork for your next event.