BBQ Meat Yields, Weight Calculations and Servings

Hello all!

I was performing some searches online to find the finished cook weight of an average whole chicken and it became very frustrating when I couldn’t find ANYTHING!

I have a general idea – but wanted other opinions. After no luck, I decided to cook 6 birds and get the average. With that – I decided it would be valuable to post a general overview of all the meats we’ve cooked, provide their finished yield and our estimate tools for serving a party, catering an event or otherwise.

We follow this general rule when estimating costs and quantities for providing smoked meats to a party, event or otherwise. We always prefer to have leftovers available, whether it is for a client or our own personal party – so we estimate conservatively. Some folks like to figure differently based on how many meats, sides, etc are being served and that is probably a good idea. You’ll just want to use your own judgement in that regard – if you know a ton of other food is going to be served – just scale it back! These estimates are basically “worst case” scenario…meaning…you’ll have lots of STUFFED people!

To calculate how much food we need for any event – we estimate that (1) pound of total finished product will feed (2.6) people. As an example – for a party of (26), you would need 10lbs of finished product – regardless of how many meats. A more complex calculation would be – if you were to have a party for (100) – you’ll need to take (100) and divide by (2.6), which gets you to roughly 38lbs of finished product needed, rounded up to the nearest whole number. This could be split, as an example, into 10bls of brisket, 10 lbs of pulled pork, 10lbs of pulled chicken and 8lbs of sliced pork loin….or any combination that gets you to the total of 38 and remember – this is FINISHED weight/yield…not starting weight of the product.

All meats have a starting weight – which is the weight at purchase on the label – and a finished weight – which is cooked weight after moisture loss, bones, fat, trimming, etc. I want to throw out a disclaimer: This is not an exact science! It is only an average. There are several unpredictable variables such as the distributor pumping a pork butt with lots of juice before packaging or larger bones or just a generally more fatty piece that ususal. These estimates are intended to avoid situations like this because they are conservative and on the high end….they have had yet to fail us (if having leftovers is no issue to you!).

Here are our findings, over a long period of time, averaged, for finished weight calculation on several meats. As we cook more – we’ll add to this list so bookmark the post!

For each item below – take the total starting weight (from the package) and multiply it by the percentage. This will give you a good estimate for what the trimmed, finished and cooked product weight will be:

  • Brisket (Whole packer): 43%
  • Brisket (Flat only): 52%
  • Pork Butt: 50%
  • Pork Loin: 65%
  • Whole Roaster?Chicken (4 – 7lbs): 34%
  • Whole Turkey: 50%

In addition to these, we often are asked to provide other meats that are less of a poundage calculation and more of a quantity. Though it varies by order – these are generally our rules:

  • Pork or Beef Ribs: 2 people per rack if this is the only meat item, otherwise 3 people per rack
  • Featherbones: 1 person per uncooked lb if this is the only meat item, otherwise 2 people per pound
  • Chicken Pieces (any): 2.5 pieces per person if this is the only meat item, otherwise 1.5 per person
  • Sausage: This is never our main meat item, but as an accessory we figure about 4 people per lb of uncooked sausage, sliced into bite sized chunks

Stay tuned to the post! It will be added to as often as we cook new meats!


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