The sight of a whole raw brisket can be daunting. It’s an enormous cut, that’s for sure. But when you’re serving a lot of people, that’s a good thing. The question is, how much brisket per person will you need?
How Much Brisket Per Person?
1/2 pound of cooked brisket per person is the standard response. However, you might need as little as 1/4 pound or as much as 3/4 pound, depending on the circumstances. One pound of raw brisket should yield about 1/2 pound of cooked meat.
Although a whole packer brisket can weigh up to 20 pounds, the total meat yield will be far less than that. Meat shrinks down as it cooks due to moisture evaporation. Brisket also has a sizable fat cap running along the flat end, which we would recommend trimming down before it’s time to cook.
You can expect to lose about 50 percent of the total brisket weight due to trimming and shrinkage. The loss may turn out to be a bit less, but it’s better to err on the side of caution. We’d rather end up with too much extra brisket than too little (see The Leftover Question, below).
How Do You Plan To Serve the Brisket?
Will you be serving the meat sliced, shredded, or chopped? While the meat may weigh the same in any case, the presentation will be different. This can affect the portion sizing.
When brisket is carved into neat slices, it tends to disappear faster than the same amount of chopped or shredded meat. Even if you’re making brisket sandwiches, you’ll take a whole slice at a time, and you’ll need more than one slice per sandwich. With pulled beef, it’s easier to customize the amount that you put into the bun.
In short, buy more brisket than you think you’ll need if you want to serve the meat sliced. This makes for a nice presentation, which works well for a dinner party. We would suggest buying only brisket flats in this case. The flat is leaner than the point end and the grain is highly visible, so it’s easier to slice.
How Much Brisket To Serve Per Person: Breaking it Down
In most cases, the baseline for meat serving size is 1/2 pound of cooked meat per person. Taking brisket shrinkage into account, that means you should plan on purchasing 1 pound of raw brisket for every person you’re serving.
The bottom line here is that you don’t want to run out of brisket during your event. Serving smoked brisket isn’t like serving burgers and hot dogs. Since it requires such a long cooking time, it’s not possible to just whip up a bit more on the fly.
As always, though, there are mitigating factors to consider. Let’s take a look at the ones that are most likely to apply to your brisket barbecue.
Do a virtual head count before you head to the grocery store. If there are 20 people on the guest list, plan to buy about 20 pounds of raw brisket. While it’s possible to find single whole packers that weigh in at 20 pounds, you’ll have more luck if you look for two of them in the 10- to 12-pound range.
The actual head count might end up being lower than the original guest list. This is especially true if the gathering is a casual afternoon affair. Plans change, and some people may just plan on stopping in for a drink before the brisket is smoked to perfection.
That said, you might have to contend with unexpected arrivals, too. Barbecue is a cuisine that’s best shared with friends and neighbors. We prefer to buy more meat than we think we’ll need. This way, if a guest wants to bring a plus-one, or if a neighbor is enticed by the smell of the brisket cooking, we can say “the more the merrier!” and mean it.
Age of Guests
After you’ve done the basic count, take a closer look at your guest list. Are you expecting many children under the age of 10? If so, you can adjust the per-person amount accordingly. Kids tend to eat less than full-grown adults, particularly at informal gatherings. Plan on having 1/4 pound of cooked brisket (1/2 pound raw) on hand for younger guests.
No matter what their age, some people have heartier appetites than others. You might also have a vegetarian or two on the guest list. Whatever the reason, you may be able to curate the portion sizes according to their personal preferences.
Only you can determine the answer in this case. Think about your guests’ usual eating habits before making the final decision on how much to buy.
What else is on the menu? Beef brisket is the star, of course, and rightly so. But you can make the meal stretch further if you offer a few choice side dishes as well.
Corn bread or hush puppies are classic barbecue accompaniments, and the starch will help to fill people up faster. Both are easy to make, although hush puppies do require the additional (and messy) step of deep-frying in hot oil.
Cole slaw is another traditional element. You can go with the basic green-cabbage-and-mayo version, or spice things up by using red cabbage and a Thai chili sauce. Try to customize the seasonings based on what you used in your spice rub, or whether you’re serving the brisket with a sauce.
If you have the time or inclination, make a batch of homestyle mac and cheese and serve it alongside the brisket. This can also serve as the main course for any non-meat-eaters.
Finally, decide whether you want your guests to save room for dessert. A plate of cookies or brownies should do nicely after such a rich and time-consuming main course. If you have a fire pit going during the party, bring out s’mores fixings and invite everyone to make their own.
Time of Day
At early gatherings, people tend to eat less. Most of us are conditioned to think of the evening meal as the primary feast of the day, so you won’t need as much food at a lunchtime event as you would for a dinner party. If you’re expecting guests in the early afternoon, consider scaling back your planned portion sizes.
Type of Event
Similar rules apply when it comes to the formality of the party. If you’re planning a sit-down meal, you can expect the guests to consume more than they would at a casual affair. When people are just milling around and grazing, they won’t be as focused on the food, so you probably won’t need as much brisket per person.
Of course, this might be called into question if the event involves tailgating. In that case, you might want to plan on buying more brisket instead of less. When alcohol is involved, food can disappear in a hurry. The type of event matters just as much as the time of day, so don’t forget to take that into account.
How Much Brisket Per Person for Sandwiches?
If you’re making brisket sandwiches, you won’t need quite as much meat per person. 4 to 5 ounces of cooked meat is the standard amount per sandwich. Therefore, a single pound of cooked brisket could yield 3 or 4 sandwiches.
Taking shrinkage into account, that means you can plan on getting 2 servings for each pound of raw brisket. A 16-pound whole packer should yield about 32 sandwiches.
How Many People Will a Brisket Feed?
A whole packer brisket should feed 10 to 20 people, depending on how much it weighs. 12 to 15 pounds is typical for a whole packer, so if you plan on one pound of raw brisket per person, you can expect to get 12 to 15 servings out of it. A single brisket flat weighing 6 pounds should feed 6 people.
The Leftover Question
Would you prefer it if all the brisket was gone at the end of the party, or do you have plans for your leftovers? Since we love to get creative with brisket, we’re disappointed if we don’t have any left when the guests are gone.
An exception to this rule sometimes comes into play during camping trips, when we might suffer from a lack of adequate refrigeration. We also might not have time to consume the leftovers. If this is the case, it’s better to plan on having less brisket on hand.
Ideas For Leftover Brisket
Let’s assume that your guests have left, sated and happy after an afternoon of feasting. When you start to clean up, you see that you still have a couple of pounds of delectable smoked brisket left. What should you do with it?
First of all, make sure it’s properly refrigerated within four hours. If cooked meat sits at room temperature for longer than that, it enters the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This means it’s a prime breeding ground for food-borne bacteria, the type that can cause serious illness.
Once the meat is wrapped securely and placed in the fridge, you can start brainstorming about how to handle the leftovers. Here are some of our favorite techniques.
This recipe works best if the meat is shredded rather than sliced. After heating the brisket, tuck it into a warmed 8-inch flour tortilla with some cooked rice, black beans, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, and queso fresco. Wrap it up and enjoy with additional pico de gallo on the side.
Brisket Mac and Cheese
If you also have leftover mac and cheese from the party, stir a handful of cubed brisket into the next portion you heat up for lunch. Be sure to taste it first, though. If the brisket is too salty to begin with, all that cheese might boost the sodium content to an unhealthy level.
Turn breakfast into a memorable affair by scrambling leftover brisket with onions, garlic, green and red bell pepper, home fries, and eggs. If you want to make the dish truly decadent, sprinkle it with cheddar or pepper jack cheese just before serving.
Quick Serving Guide
How Much Brisket Do I Need for 8 Adults?
Since you’ll want to plan on about 1/2 pound (or 8 ounces) for each adult, you should have 4 pounds of cooked brisket on hand for this number of people. That means that the brisket you select should weigh at least 8 pounds raw.
How Much Brisket to Feed 12 to 15 People
The same formula applies here: About one pound of raw brisket per person. You’re in luck if you’re serving 12 to 15 people, as whole packer briskets often fall within this weight range.
How Much Brisket to Feed 20 or 40 People
For 20 people, you should buy two whole packer briskets at about 10 pounds apiece for a total of 20 pounds. If you’re expecting 40 people, buy a total of 40 pounds of raw brisket. Remember: It’s fine to go larger if you want to have plenty of leftover brisket on hand.
How Much Brisket to Feed 50 or 100 People
When planning a party for 50 or 100 people, you can scale back the recommended portion sizes. If you buy 100 pounds of raw brisket for 100 guests and they’re not big eaters, you could end up wasting a lot of meat. Plan on 40 to 45 pounds for 50 people. For 100 guests, 70 pounds should be sufficient.
How Many People Will a 10-Pound Brisket Feed?
A 10-pound raw brisket should feed 10 to 20 people, depending on their ages and eating habits. Unless you’re feeding a lot of younger guests, 10 people is a more accurate guess.
The Bottom Line
There are a number of things to consider when determining how much brisket per person to buy. Our advice would be to decide how much you think you’ll need, then add a pound or two of raw brisket to the total. This should give you enough for the barbecue–and a few enticing meals later on.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!