Pulled pork is a barbeque staple. And since it’s usually cooked in bulk, no one worries about how much pulled pork per person is needed.
It’s one of those things that you just can’t stop eating. Unfortunately, its moreishness means that it’s insanely difficult to estimate how much pulled pork per person you are going to need.
I mean, think back to the last party you were at that served pulled pork. There is definitely a huge difference between how much pulled pork per person you NEED versus what people actually WANT to eat of it.
What makes this problem even harder is that to make pulled pork you need a large cut of meat. Cooking a pork shoulder takes a long time and if you are just a little short, it’s a bit of a waste.
Getting the portions right the first time will save you time, money, and the irritation of hungry (or just gluttonous) guests.
(Admit it, pulled pork makes almost everyone a glutton!)
So, let’s take a look at how much pulled pork per person we ACTUALLY need and what we can do to stretch out portions if needs be.
General Rule For How Much Pulled Pork Per Person
Thankfully there is a generally agreed-upon rule. This is obviously dependent on the appetite of your guests and how you’re going to serve the pulled pork, but it works in general.
So, the rule of thumb is that you need about ⅓ of a pound of pork per person. So a pound of pulled pork will serve a person.
A pork shoulder tends to be around 6 pounds. At first glance, it would look like you can serve 18 people. However, you need to remember that pork will lose some of its weight when it’s cooked.
This is because moisture in the form of water and juices will be removed by the cooking process.
Once cooked, especially when cooked in a smoker or slow cooker, pork shoulder will lose up to 50% of its weight.
This means that a 6lb pork shoulder will weigh 3lb after cooking. So, you can actually only serve 9 people from a 6lb pork shoulder.
If you’re into math, here it is as a formula: (Number of guests / 3 ) x 2 = pounds of raw pork you need.
So, let’s assume you have 15 guests.
(15/3) x 2 = ?
15/3 = 5
5 x 2 = 10
So for 15 people, you need 10 pounds of raw pork shoulder.
Think of the Children!
Ok, that’s all well and good. We know how to feed a party of adults, but what if there are kids? How much pulled pork per person do you need when factoring a lot of kids into the mix?
Little ones have little tummies and don’t need a full ⅓ of pulled pork. You can reduce the measure to ¼ of a pound for children.
When we talk about children, we mean people under about 12 years of age. If they can eat off the kid’s menu then you can use the reduced portion size.
Teenagers should be treated as adults when working out pulled pork portions. They are going through growth spurts and need a lot of fuel (i.e. they can quickly become bottomless pits)!
How Much Pulled Pork Per Person for…
Main, Side, or Buffet?
How you plan on serving your pulled pork will affect how much you’re going to need. If your pulled pork is your main dish then go with the rule above. If it’s a side or part of a buffet you’ll need to adjust.
If you’re serving pulled pork as a side dish, perhaps to put in a jacket potato or potato skins you can half the portion size.
Pulled pork is a consummate barbeque food alongside burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and wings. That’s without even mentioning all the sides.
If you’re serving pulled pork as part of a buffet barbeque, you don’t need to plan ⅓ a person. It’s likely that not everybody will want a full portion of everything.
When serving pulled pork as part of a buffet, assume that only ⅔ of your guests are going to want a whole portion.
Lunch or Dinner?
If you’ve ever eaten off the lunch menu in a restaurant, you’ll know that lunch portions are smaller than dinner portions.
If you’re making some pulled pork for a lunch event, you can get away with reducing the portion size to a child’s portion of ¼ of a pound.
Again, this is going to depend on your guests. If you tend to eat the same sized meal at lunch and dinner then don’t reduce the portions.
Also, if lunch is going to be the main meal of the day then stick to ⅓ of a pound per person.
Essentially, be sensible about how hungry your guests are and whether they’re going to need a full portion.
Let’s pretend that you ignored all the wonderful advice in this article and you’ve realized you don’t have enough pulled pork for all of your guests. What do you do?
So, the first thing you can do is slim down the pork portions and bolster the sides. Add some extra potatoes, veg, or salad. We can’t promise that your guests won’t notice, but at least they won’t go hungry.
If you’re serving pulled pork as part of a buffet or walk around the barbeque and you seem to be running low, the best you can do is make sure you have more burgers and dogs.
One of the many great things about pulled pork is that it is versatile. If you find yourself with leftovers don’t despair! You have a whole world of options before you. The very first thing you need to do is store your leftover pulled pork safely.
Place the pork into an airtight bag or container and pour the cooking juices over the meat. Give it a bit of a shake to coat all of the pork. These juices will help keep the pork moist.
Once in an airtight container, you can keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. In the fridge, you can keep it for a few days. In the freezer, you can keep the pork for around 3 months.
When you’re ready to eat you could use the pulled pork in a sandwich, on a pizza, for nachos, or as a topping for mac and cheese.
There are literally hundreds and thousands of recipes online to give you some inspiration. Be bold and get the most out of your pulled pork.
Other Factors To Consider
What Type Of Party Or Event?
Food and drink at a cookout are all about balance. You want to make sure that your guests are having enough, but you don’t want them too stuffed either!
For sit-down dinners people tend to eat their fill so they can go back for seconds if there’s room left over; whereas in an active setting like pool parties or tailgates this often translates into smaller needs per person such as not packing away more than what one person would need – since it might get spilled before anyone gets done eating.
Time Of Day
You can get away with serving smaller portions at lunchtime. If your event is early in the day, consider dropping the per-person amount of pulled pork to one-third of a pound versus 1/2 – this will make it easier to serve more people without making them feel stuffed!
What Else Are You Serving?
Pulled pork is always a crowd-pleaser, but what else are you planning to serve? Will there be burgers or hot dogs as well for those who want more meat on their plate?
And how about side dishes – do most people like baked beans and coleslaw, maybe you should plan accordingly so that everyone has enough food without feeling too full from only having eaten one dish themselves!
Storing Pulled Pork Leftovers
Refrigerate the leftovers in a sealed container. If kept out, they can go bad quickly. It’s best to plan on using them within four days of making them. If you do have some leftover pulled pork with only a short time before it’s going to spoil, freeze those extras!
You’ll need to leave quite a bit of room for expansion as the meat will continue cooking as it freezes and be thawed by the oven when baked so use stacking bakeware or zip lock baggies with as much space around meat as possible.
You’ve probably been to a barbecue where you were served too much-pulled pork. It happens all the time because people don’t know how to gauge the amount of food they should put on their plates.
To help, we wanted to provide this quick-hit guide for determining how many pounds of pulled pork per person is appropriate during your next BBQ party event: Plan on ⅓ of a pound of pulled pork per person for an average adult meal, and ¼ pound per child meal. Remember that these are just averages so adjust accordingly based on your guest count and appetites!