How much flank steak should you plan on serving per person? This can be a tough question, especially since the answer changes slightly once the steak is cooked. This guide is here to help you do the math.
How Much Flank Steak Per Person
Start with a base estimate of 8 ounces of raw flank steak for each person you’ll be serving. After the meat is cooked, you should have about 5 ounces per person. You can round up or down depending on the circumstances, but we like to make sure there will be plenty of steak left over.
Why It Matters
When you’re entertaining, the last thing you want is to run out of food. Since meat is often the centerpiece of the meal, it’s especially important to have enough of it on hand.
Even if you’re not yet sure exactly how many people will be attending your get-together, it’s best to have a rough estimate before you start shopping. Once you have a number in mind, round up. It’s always better to have too much than too little.
About Flank Steak
Flank steak is cut from the cow’s lower abdominal muscles. As such, some purists argue that it’s not technically a steak, but we think that’s as good a term as any—especially since it’s cooked in the same manner.
Each flank steak measures about a foot long and one inch thick. Instead of cutting it into individual steaks, butchers typically sell the cut whole.
This is a versatile and flavorful cut, and makes especially good fajitas and steak sandwiches. Because it’s very lean, it’s important not to overcook the beef. Flank steak can also be quite tough if it’s not prepared correctly.
To ensure tender beef, be sure to cut flank steak across the grain. Fortunately, the grain is thick and highly visible. Marinating the steak in advance will also help to promote tenderness.
How Much is a Single Serving of Flank Steak?
In general, a serving of meat consists of 3 to 4 ounces. This portion should be about the size of a deck of cards, or the palm of an average-sized person’s hand.
We should note, however, that this portion size refers to cooked meat, not the raw product. All meat shrinks down as it cooks. That’s because it’s made up of a great deal of water, which evaporates when it’s exposed to heat.
You can expect a meat yield of about 65 percent when dealing with flank steak. Therefore, the raw weight will be reduced by about one-third. If you started with a pound—16 ounces—of flank steak, expect the cooked meat to weigh 10 to 12 ounces.
The Importance of Rounding Up
As we mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to round up when you’re cooking for a crowd. That applies to the weight estimate of the meat itself, in addition to the guest list.
8 ounces of raw flank steak should yield roughly 5 ounces of cooked meat. That’s a generous portion size, but it’s one we like to rely on.
For one thing, this number makes it easier to buy meat in bulk. Since 8 ounces equals half a pound, you can just plan on buying 1 pound of flank steak for every 2 people on your guest list.
We also assume that people might consume more at a party than they normally would. While there are plenty of other factors to consider (see below), this is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Important Factors to Consider
While 8 ounces per person is a decent base estimate, there are several other elements that you should take into account when planning your party. Let’s take a look at the most important ones.
Age and Habits of Your Guests
Go over your guest list and determine whether certain people are bound to eat more or less meat. For example, a group of 30-something male football fans will probably consume more than a gathering of elderly relatives would.
Check to see how many children will be attending as well. You can plan on buying half as much meat for guests under the age of 10, unless you know for a fact that they’re big eaters.
Speaking of which, trust your instincts. Presumably, you’re acquainted with every person you’ve invited. If you know they’re big eaters, add 10 to 15 percent to your rough estimate.
Customarily, flank steak is carved into slices before serving. While this makes the meat more tender, it also allows you to stretch the portion sizes out further.
By way of example, if you were serving filet mignon instead, each guest would have little choice but to help themselves to a whole steak. When the meat is carved into slices, though, they may end up taking less than a “whole portion” out of politeness.
If you opt to plate up the meals instead of allowing guests to help themselves, you’ll have more control over the portion sizes. However, if you go this route, you should still have leftovers available in case anyone asks for seconds.
On a related note, think about what you’ll be serving alongside the flank steak.
Is this a casual summer party, with nothing more than a tossed salad and potato chips to accompany the meat? Or will you have a ton of starchy side dishes like potato and macaroni salad? Your answer should help you come up with a reasonable estimate.
Also, consider whether you’ll be encouraging guests to make sandwiches out of their flank steak. If you put stacks of bulkie rolls alongside the meat, you won’t go through as much, because the bread will act as a filler.
There’s also the issue of dessert. When people know that there’s going to be an ice cream sundae bar or s’mores after the main course, they may go easier on the meat because they’ll want to save room.
Type of Event
People eat less food at afternoon gatherings than they do at parties held in the evening. Presumably, that’s because we’re conditioned to eat our main meal later in the day. Take that into consideration when making your plans.
Think about the formality of the event as well. At an elegant sit-down dinner, guests usually eat more than they would at an informal afternoon barbecue.
When flank steak is the only protein on the menu, it’s imperative to bulk up the supply. But if you’re going to grill chicken, fish, burgers, or some other protein to accompany the steak, there’s no need to go overboard.
Adding another protein to the menu means you don’t have to buy as much of each one. But it can also be tricky to get the timing right. When grilling more than one type of meat at once, try to make sure that they’ll cook at roughly the same rate.
While we’re on the subject of timing, it’s preferable to serve flank steak while it’s still warm. The meat will be juicier and more flavorful that way—which means that guests are bound to eat more of it.
However, you can cook flank steak ahead of time and serve it chilled—perhaps as a salad topping. If you do, the meat will be slightly difficult to chew, so people will eat more slowly.
If you’re like us, you want to plan on having a few servings of meat left over when everyone goes home.
You can use leftover flank steak to make tacos, sandwiches, or salads the next day—a welcome respite after the hard work of entertaining. Sound good? Then buy a pound or two more flank steak than you think you’ll need.
The Bottom Line
When buying raw boneless meat for a cookout—or any type of gathering—the rule of thumb is 1/2 pound per person. This guideline can shift a bit depending on the circumstances, so be sure to think things through before heading to the store.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!