Pulled pork is a barbeque staple. It’s one of those things that you just can’t stop eating. Unfortunately, its moreishness means that it’s bloody difficult to estimate how much pulled pork per person you are going to need.
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 first time will save you time, money, and the aggro of hungry guests.
So, let’s take a look at how much we need and what we can do to stretch out portions if needs be.
The General Rule
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 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 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 = amount 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 10lbs 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?
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!
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 odds on 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 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 leftovers 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.
So there you have it, the secret to perfect pulled pork portions. ⅓ of a pound per person for an average adult meal.