BBQ experts, including me, recommend planning for 1/3 pound of cooked pulled pork per person if you’re serving it as the main dish.
Remember, this is the weight of the cooked meat. Pork tends to lose about half its weight during cooking, so you might need to start with up to a pound of raw meat per person to end up with enough pulled pork.
Here is a quick look at how much raw pork you need to serve to get to a particular amount of cooked pulled pork:
|Pounds of Pork Butt (Raw)
|Number of Servings (1/3 Pound Serving)
|Number of Servings (1/2 Pound Serving)
This chart shows:
- To serve 12 people a 1/3 pound serving of pulled pork, you need 8 pounds of raw pork butt
- To serve 24 people a 1/3 pound serving of pulled pork, you need 16 pounds of raw pork butt
- And so on
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Pulled Pork Calculator
Here is my free pulled pork calculator so you can see exactly how much uncooked Boston butt to buy for your party:
Pulled Pork Calculator
Factors Affecting Pulled Pork Portion Sizes
Before we dive into the numbers, it’s crucial to understand that several factors can influence the serving size for pulled pork at your gathering:
- Type of Event: If you’re hosting a light luncheon versus a hefty dinner, the portion sizes will vary. A dinner generally requires larger portions as it’s usually the most substantial meal of the day.
- Sides and Accompaniments: The variety and quantity of side dishes available can influence how much main course your guests will consume. If you have a wide array of sides, you can probably reduce the amount of pulled pork per person.
- Appetite of Your Guests: It’s important to consider the general appetite of your guests. If you know that some guests typically eat larger portions, it may be safe to increase the amount of pork you prepare.
- Other Proteins: If you’re serving other main dishes or proteins in addition to the pulled pork, such as chicken or fish, your guests will likely eat less pork, allowing you to reduce the per-person serving size.
How to Adjust for Specific Situations
Now, you might be wondering, “But what about the kids?” or “What if Uncle Bob, the notorious meat-lover, is coming?” Great questions! Let’s break it down:
- For children’s portions, you can typically halve the adult serving size. So, if you’re going with 1/3 pound per adult, think about 1/6 pound per child.
- For heavy appetites, or if the pulled pork is the star attraction with few other main dishes, you might want to bump up the serving size a bit. Going for 1/2 pound or slightly more per person might be a safer bet.
- If your event features a variety of proteins, and the pulled pork is just one of the options, you can likely reduce the portion size. In a buffet scenario where guests can choose from chicken, burgers, and your delicious pulled pork, 1/4 pound per person might suffice.
Planning and Preparing Pulled Pork Portions
Once you’ve sorted out the main meat, there are still a few more elements to consider when planning your pulled pork feast:
- Buns and Bread: If you’re planning to serve your pulled pork on buns, a good rule is to have 1.5 buns per person. This accounts for those who might want seconds or prefer to make smaller sandwiches with more variety of fillings.
- Sauces and Toppings: Don’t forget the condiments! A person typically consumes about 2-3 tablespoons of BBQ sauce per serving of pulled pork. And if you’re offering a range of sauces, or extras like coleslaw or pickles, make sure to have enough to go around.
- Leftovers: Leftovers can be a blessing in disguise. Pulled pork keeps well and can be used for easy meals in the following days, so don’t worry about making a bit extra. If you’re okay with having some pulled pork sandwiches for the next couple of days, it might be a good idea to prepare a little more than your initial estimate.
- Non-Meat Options: If you have guests who don’t eat pork or meat, remember to provide other options for them. Grilled vegetables, a hearty salad, or a vegetarian-friendly main dish can make sure everyone leaves your event with a satisfied stomach.
What Type of Pork Should I Buy for Pulled Pork?
For pulled pork, the best cut of meat to buy is the pork shoulder. It’s commonly available in two main cuts:
- Boston Butt (or Pork Butt): Despite its name, this is actually from the upper part of the shoulder. It has a good amount of fat, which renders down during the slow cooking process, ensuring the meat stays moist and flavorful. This is the most popular cut for making pulled pork.
- Picnic Roast (or Picnic Shoulder): This is the lower part of the shoulder, closer to the leg. It’s a bit leaner than the Boston Butt but can still be used for pulled pork.
When buying pork for pulling, look for a piece with a good amount of marbling (fat running through the meat) as this will give the best results when cooked low and slow. The fat will render and keep the meat juicy, and you’ll get that classic pulled pork texture and taste.
You might also find pork shoulder sold with the skin on or off. If you’re smoking your pulled pork, some people like to leave the skin on to get a crispy “bark”. If you’re cooking it in a slow cooker or oven, you might prefer it skinless, or you can remove the skin and cook it separately for a crunchy treat.