Corned beef makes a great centerpiece for a festive celebration. It’s eye-catching, easy to make, and—best of all—delicious. When you’re serving a crowd, how much corned beef per person should you plan on buying? Let’s explore the matter together.
How Much Corned Beef Per Person?
The last thing you want is to run out of meat when serving a crowd. We would recommend starting with a generous estimate of 1 pound of raw meat per person, which should translate into at least 1/2 pound of cooked corned beef for each guest. You can tailor this estimate based on the eating habits of your guests, among other considerations.
Corned Beef: The Basics
You probably already know that corned beef refers to a cut of beef that’s been cured in a salt solution before cooking. But do you know why it’s called that?
The name comes from the type of salt that was originally used to cure the beef. Unlike table salt, which is very fine-grained, the rock salt used for curing is distinguished by its enormous grains—nearly the size of corn kernels. Hence the name “corned beef.”
Back in the days before refrigeration was readily available, people salted and cured the meat as a means of preservation. Today, we continue to make it just because the resulting meat is so tender and full of flavor.
Though corned beef is usually made from beef brisket (often just the flat), you can use other cuts if necessary. A chuck roast, for example, makes excellent corned beef. As a bonus, you can usually find it at a reasonable price.
How Much Corned Beef To Serve Per Person
A standard serving size is 1/4 pound (or 4 ounces) of meat. Note that this refers to the weight of the meat after it’s cooked—a number that differs from the raw weight, as we’ll discuss in a moment.
Though 1/4 pound may be sufficient for most guests, we like to err on the side of caution. When you plan to serve corned beef at an event, a per-person estimate of 1/2 pound is a safer bet.
Don’t forget that the raw beef will weigh more than the finished product. All meat shrinks down as it cooks because it loses moisture through exposure to heat. Also, the cut of beef you’ll be using is naturally fatty, so you’ll need to take that into account.
Most meat products shrink down by 25 to 35 percent once they’ve finished cooking. Again, though, we prefer to round up when making our estimates. That’s why we would suggest buying 1 pound of raw beef for every person on your guest list.
If that sounds overwhelming, remember that this is just a base estimate. In the next section, we’ll discuss the mitigating factors that can cut down on your total—or perhaps add to it.
You can try to cut corners by reducing the per-person estimate to 3/4 pound. This should still yield plenty of delicious corned beef. Rounding up should ensure that you have a lot of meat left over, but if you don’t want that, feel free to scale down a bit.
Outside Factors That Could Affect Your Estimate
We’ve determined that you should plan on 3/4 to 1 pound of raw beef per person when making corned beef for a large crowd. So if you plan on serving 10 people, you’ll need to start with 7-1/2 to 10 pounds of meat.
However, that’s just a basic guideline. Here are a few other factors you should consider before heading to the grocery store.
Are You Making Corned Beef and Cabbage?
We’ve established that the leading cause of shrinkage is moisture loss. But if you’re following a traditional corned beef and cabbage recipe, that won’t be as much of an issue.
Corned beef and cabbage is typically prepared in a slow cooker. This cooking method traps plenty of moisture inside the unit. The meat will still weigh less than it did when it was raw, but the expelled liquid will be distributed among the other ingredients.
What’s more, the cabbage—and any other vegetables you use—will make the dish more filling anyway. So if you’re making corned beef and cabbage, a base estimate of 3/4 pound per person should be more than enough.
What Are You Serving on the Side?
While we’re on the subject of additional vegetables, think about what else you plan to serve at the event.
When faced with a simple spread of corned beef with cole slaw and dinner rolls, people will inevitably take larger helpings of meat. On the other hand, if there are a bunch of hearty sides available, you won’t need as much beef.
How Are You Serving the Corned Beef?
Are you carving the beef into slices and using it as the centerpiece for an elegant meal? Or will you be shredding the meat and setting it out alongside rye bread or bulkie rolls to invite guests to make their own sandwiches?
The corned beef will stretch further if it’s used to make sandwiches. What’s more, the bread makes a filling addition to the meal. You might be able to get away with just 1/2 pound of raw meat per person when making corned beef for sandwiches.
Pro Tip: The flat of the brisket is easier to carve into slices, while the point is best for shredding. Of course, you can make sandwiches out of sliced corned beef as well, but this is something to think about when you’re deciding which cut to buy.
What Time is the Party?
On average, people don’t eat as much at lunchtime gatherings. If your party takes place early in the day, you can scale back on your estimate.
On the other hand, make sure you have plenty of meat if you’re hosting a dinner party. For most folks, dinner is the main meal of the day. What’s more, your guests may have been “saving room” all day with the aim of overindulging in your delicious food later on.
How Old Are Your Guests?
There’s no need to buy a pound of meat for every guest under the age of 10. Kids that age are too busy running around to eat that much at parties, especially if there are a lot of them. Use a 1/2 to 3/4 pound per-person estimate for younger kids.
On the other end of the age spectrum, elderly folks may not consume as much either. And regardless of age, some folks just have smaller—or larger—appetites than others. You know your guests and their habits better than we do, so use your best judgement.
How Formal is the Gathering?
When you host a sit-down dinner, guests are more likely to eat everything that’s put in front of them. This is true particularly if you’ve plated each dish individually, but even if the food is served family-style, people will consume more when they’re seated.
At informal gatherings, on the other hand, guests are mingling and chatting, perhaps sipping on cocktails. They don’t have as much time to devote to eating, which means you’ll probably wind up with more leftovers.
Do You Want Leftovers?
Not everyone wants to deal with a bunch of leftover meat. We have a hard time imagining this—in our opinion, leftovers are one of the best things about hosting a party. But if you’d rather use up as much corned beef as possible, you can cut back a bit on your planned portion sizes.
If you’re like us and you want to make sure you have leftovers, plan on at least 1 pound of meat per person. Then round up to the nearest pound—or go even higher, if you’d like. It all depends on how many leftovers you’re hoping to have.
What To Do With Leftover Corned Beef
The most obvious answer is to make Reuben sandwiches using rye bread, your leftover corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing. But that’s just one of many possibilities.
Corned beef hash is another excellent way to use up your leftovers. Fry up some diced potatoes, then add onion, green pepper, and chopped corned beef to the skillet. Add minced garlic and season with salt and pepper, then serve alongside fried eggs.
Pro Tip: Corned beef hash is especially tasty when you add a few dashes of hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula.
Shepherd’s pie is often made with ground lamb or beef, but you can make a faster version by swapping in corned beef instead. This works especially well if the meat was shredded beforehand. Remember to reduce the salt in your recipe, as the corned beef is well-seasoned already.
You don’t even have to make the corned beef the centerpiece of the meal. Use some to finish off a baked potato, or mix it with some scrambled eggs. It also makes a great pizza topping.
While we prefer to start with 1 pound of raw beef per person as a base estimate, you might have different needs. As long as you’re reasonably certain that your guests won’t go hungry, you can adjust that estimate accordingly.