With a simple formula and a couple of rules of thumb, this article will tell you how much raw pork to buy and cook, so everyone gets enough pulled pork at your next cookout.
You like to share your cooking with appreciative eaters, right? Of course you do — we don’t do it just to please ourselves!
Because we’re such giving people, we always want to make sure our guests get enough to eat. Even if that means we have to make do with a little less. (Not counting the bits we cut off to “test” and the pieces that accidentally fall off the platter and onto the counter that we wouldn’t dream of serving to anyone but shouldn’t go to waste.)
If you’re tired of rationing meat or short-changing yourself, this article is here to save the day. By the end of this read, you’ll know how much raw pork you need to end up with enough cooked pork to go around.
I’ve got some simple math already completed for you (“It was my understanding there would be no math.”), but I’ve also provided the original formula, so you can try it yourself.
Now you can calculate with confidence the right amount of raw pork needed for everyone to get a proper serving of pulled pork…but don’t have to, because we provide a quick look-up table too!
I’ll start us off with a crucial fact…
As a general rule of thumb, you want to serve:
- 1/3 lb of cooked pulled pork per adult.
- 1/4 lb of cooked pulled pork per child.
- These figures depend on how you are serving the pork, what with, and for what occasion.
- You need to buy more raw pork than this, because you can lose up 40%+ during preparation and cooking!
Read on to learn more.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 Key Takeaways
- 2 Cooked Pork Will Weigh Half as Much as Raw Pork
- 3 At a Glance — Table of Amount of Pulled Pork for Different Size Groups
- 4 How Much Cooked Pulled Pork to Serve Per Person — the Math
- 5 A Simple Formula for Buying Raw Pork
- 6 Other Things to Consider
- 7 Final Thoughts
Cooked Pork Will Weigh Half as Much as Raw Pork
If you’ve ever cooked meat (or watched Seinfeld), you’re familiar with the concept of shrinkage.
You’ve no doubt noticed that those hamburger patties that look like they’ll crush your buns come off the grill much smaller than they went on. That’s because meat loses moisture from the pressure of contracting fibers, squeezing it out.
It’s the same story with raw pork, and pork shoulder or pork butt, in particular, which is the source of pulled pork. The shoulder is quite fatty before it’s cooked, which is part of why it’s so dang delicious. (Fat = flavor!) With all that fat, there is a lot of moisture — and weight — to lose.
Amazingly, you can lose over 40% of the initial mass of your raw pork when you cook it. Admittedly you do add some weight back when you add sauce during pulling your pork. But this is minimal compared to the loss.
So for the sake of simplicity in our calculations, we’ll round it to an even 50%. The worst that can happen is you have a little extra, and that’s never a bad thing.
So the deal is: You need to buy double the amount of raw pork, that you’ll need to serve cooked due to trimming, bone removal and shrinkage during cooking.
And hey, always buy more than you need because leftover pulled pork has so many uses. And we’ve a guide on how to reheat pulled pork the best way that you can check out.
At a Glance — Table of Amount of Pulled Pork for Different Size Groups
To spare you unnecessary calculations, here are predetermined quantities for specific numbers of adults and children.
To make it fit onto a smartphone mobile screen, we’ve made it two tables, one for adults and another for children.
Starting with adults:
|Number of Adults||Cooked Pork Required (in pounds)||Raw Pork to Buy
|5||1 2/3||3 1/3|
|10||3 2/3||6 2/3|
|20||6 2/3||13 1/3|
|50||16 2/3||33 1/3|
|100||33 1/3||66 2/3|
And now for the children:
|Number of Children||Cooked Pork Required (in pounds)||Raw Pork to Buy
|5||1 1/4||2 1/2|
Using these charts, you can figure out any number in between if you aren’t interested in using the formula from the following section.
Oh, and heaven help you if 100 kids are coming to your place for pulled pork.
How Much Cooked Pulled Pork to Serve Per Person — the Math
Of course, this is rather a matter of opinion. There will always be those who want more and those who want less.
Based on personal experience and the consensus among pitmasters and pork fans, you should plan on serving:
1/3 lb of cooked pulled pork per adult
1/4 lb of cooked pulled pork per child
Remember, that’s the cooked weight, not the raw weight. That means, per person, you’ll need 2/3 lb of raw pork per adult and 1/2 lb per child.
Now, let’s make simple work of figuring out how much pork to buy per person when company is coming.
A Simple Formula for Buying Raw Pork
Math? Dammit. Well, it’s meat math, so I guess I don’t mind so much. Here is the formula you need to calculate the quantity of raw pork you’ll need to purchase to feed any combination of kids and adults.
You’re going to work out the sum of the number of adults times a third of a pound and the number of children times a quarter of a pound. Then, take that total and multiply it by two, and that’s the weight in pounds of the raw pork you’ll want to buy.
The formula looks like this, with A representing Adults and C representing Children:
((A × 1/3) + (C × 1/4)) × 2 = Pounds of Raw Pork Needed
Let’s try an example. Imagine you’ve invited five couples over, and they have six kids between them. So that’s 10 adults and 6 children. Subbing into our formula, we get:
((10 × 1/3) + (6 × 1/4)) x 2
(3.3 + 1.5) × 2
And that turns into
4.8 × 2
For a grand total of 9.6 pounds of raw pork.
Other Things to Consider
There are no set rules to anything about barbecue, outside of safe cooking temperatures. That being the case, there are a few variables to keep in mind before you go buy your raw pork.
What Meal are You Serving?
Portion size will vary depending on the meal. Lunch servings tend to be more moderate, while a supper portion might tip the scales a bit.
What’s the Occasion?
If your guests are walking around, maybe eating off paper plates, expect more reserved portions than you’ll need for a sit-down meal.
If you’re cooking for a festival where people are sampling from multiple vendors, again, a smaller helping is in order.
But, if you’ve specifically invited friends and family over to sample your wares, they’ll expect a hearty pile of pulled pork!
Are you serving side dishes or other grilled or smoked meats? Then serve a bit less pulled pork than you might otherwise so everyone has room to try a bit of everything.
When you’ve really got your pulled pork game down, you want everyone to get enough to satisfy their craving — including yourself. With a bit of prior planning and understanding of what happens to meat when it cooks, you can cross at least this one worry off your list and focus on cooking the perfect batch.
I hope this information helps you out at your next porkfest, or at least lets you tell someone, “Well, you know, if you want to be sure you have enough pork for everyone…”. If they challenge you, send them here!
Thanks for bearing with me through the math. And remember, it’s absolutely ok to serve yourself first at your own cookout — provided no one is looking. Cheers, everyone!
This article is very helpful. I do have a question. I am assuming that the raw pork is boneless, correct? What if I can’t find boneless? Can you tell me how much weight to add for bone in?
Thanks for brining this up. I need to update this article to make it cover all cases, add a section to the article for rules for bone in pork.
Generally speaking you lose about 40% of the raw weight of a pork butt or shoulder once it is cooked and the bone removed. So to get what you need in raw weight, you need to divide by 0.6.
If I want 8 lbs of cooked pulled pork to serve, I will need 8 / 0.6 = 13.33 lbs of a raw bone in pork butt. When cooked and bone removed, I will then have approximately 8 lbs to serve.
I hope that helps!
Thoughts on how to calculate if you were only doing samples of pulled pork? Thanks!
You would follow the same maths, but starting at your desired ‘sample size’ and working backwards.
Thanks for the well written article. It’s a life saver when I need to figure out how much to cook!
Thank you for this helpful information, I see you answered the question about bone-in pork but wanted to make sure I understood and did the math right if I need pulled pork sandwich for 50 people I would need roughly 29 pounds of bone-in pork? Also do you have any recommendations or articles on the best way to cook pulled pork for large gatherings? Thank you again
Hi Lauren. For 50 people, you need approx. 33 lbs of pork as per the chart above. And of course, be strict about portion control!
As for a recipe, I’ve not actually got one on here. I need to get one written up. In the mean time, just google ‘pulled pork recipe’, and there are literally hundreds out there. Read a few and see which one best suits your tastes, as they will all use different rubs, sauces, etc.
Thank you for that information.