How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?

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Sometimes you want pulled pork just for a family meal, and sometimes you’re smoking pulled pork for a party. When it’s just you and your family, you’re not concerned about having enough pork for everyone, but if it’s a BBQ party, you better do your math right so everyone has a chance to eat. The basic answer…

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How Much Pulled Pork Per Person

Sometimes you want pulled pork just for a family meal, and sometimes you’re smoking pulled pork for a party. When it’s just you and your family, you’re not concerned about having enough pork for everyone, but if it’s a BBQ party, you better do your math right so everyone has a chance to eat. The basic answer is simple: portions should be roughly ⅓ of a pound per adult and ¼ of a pound per child. We are also basing this on the fact that you are making pulled pork sandwiches. If you are not serving anything with the pulled pork, bump that up to 1/2 a pound per adult.

To help you easily determine how much pulled pork you need, we included a calculator that does everything for you. Check it out below.

Check out our Aaron Franklin inspired smoked pork butt recipe here.

How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?

Pulled Pork Sandwich

If you want to give yourself the best rough estimate how many pounds of pulled pork per person you’ll need to serve, stick with the rule of thumb that you’ll want a third of a pound for each adult and a quarter of a pound for each child in attendance.

The key to this estimate is that these numbers are of cooked pork. Don’t go to the store and tell yourself that you need a third of a pound or a quarter of a pound of raw pork. You’ll end up in trouble real quick. Every cut of meat, not just pork, loses weight as it cooks, so if you purchase a certain amount of meat expecting for a 1-to-1 ratio, you’re going to fall very short of your target.

So when you’re at the store, what kind of pork should you be purchasing and how much weight will you be losing?

How Much Weight Will A Pork Butt Or Shoulder Lose? 

When we talk about losing weight, we mean the difference between the starting weight of the meat and how much pulled pork you have to serve after the entire cooking process. We know that we will lose moisture throughout the cooking process which is the largest amount of weight difference. There’s also anything we trim off during prep work. Any fat or meat that gets trimmed counts as weight loss. Then if you’re smoking a cut with a bone, you’re not going to serve the bone. So that will go towards the total. 

  1. For a pork butt, you can expect to lose somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 percent of the starting weight. The bone-in pork butt will be towards the higher end of that scale.
  2. A picnic shoulder, especially if you aren’t serving the skin, is right around the 50% mark. 

So when you’re shopping, target 50% weight loss to be safe. So how much raw pork do you need to make sure you’ve got enough pulled pork for a party?

Pulled Pork Math (How Many Pounds Of Pork Butt Per Person)

Pork Butt Rubbed and Ready for Smoking
Seasoned Pork Butts Ready For The Smoker

Sometimes math can feel like pulling teeth, but in this instance, we want to pull pork. So let’s keep it simple then. While we want to serve a third of a pound of pulled pork to adults and a quarter of a pound to children, it’s always better to have some leftovers. You can send some home with friends and family or simply save some for more meals. So rather than trying to nail the exact amount of pork based on those numbers, let’s simply go with a third of a pound of pulled pork for every attendee.

So say you’re serving a group of 10 people. You’ll need roughly three and a third pounds of pulled pork to ensure everyone gets a third of a pound serving. (If you want to get technical, that’s approximately 5.33 ounces of pulled pork.) Based on losing approximately half of the initial starting weight of your pork butt, you’ll need somewhere around a seven-pound pork butt. When doing your calculations, always round up. It’s always better to cook a little too much than not enough. 

So in essence, this is your math. Tally up the size of the party, then multiply that number by ⅓ to get the total amount of cooked pulled pork you’re serving. Then double that number to know how much raw pork you need to purchase. We can even make a nice, simple formula for that with P equaling people. (P x ⅓) x 2 = total amount of raw pork needed. 

How Much Pulled Pork Per Person Calculator

Let our calculator do all the work for you. Simply put in how many people you want to feed, and the calculator will tell you the size of uncooked pork butt or shoulder to purchase. The calculator is basing this on a 1/3 lbs (5.33 ounce) serving.

Pulled Pork Per Person Calculator

Keep in mind to buy a little more than you need so no one goes hungry.

What’s The Best Cut For Smoking Pulled Pork?

Pork Butt vs Pork Shoulder

Walk up to the pork section of the coolers at the grocery store and you’ll see a variety of cuts of pork that you can buy. When you’re looking to smoke pulled pork, there are two primary cuts you can purchase: the pork butt and the picnic shoulder. Both of these cuts come from the shoulder of the hog and need to be cooked low and slow to create a moist, tender meal. 

Pork Butt

Pork Butt with Rub

As stated above, the pork butt comes from the shoulder of the hog, not the rear. You might also see this labeled as a Boston butt. It gets the “butt” moniker from the fact that it was packed in barrels called butts originally, and the name stuck.

Pork butts have plenty of intramuscular fat, or are well marbled, that will render down during the low and slow cooking process. They can come bone-in or boneless. The bone can act as a bit of a heat sink, slowing the cooking process compared to a boneless pork butt which can help keep your pork tender. Plus, who doesn’t love sliding the bone clean out when the pork butt is smoked properly?

Picnic Shoulder

Pork Shoulder

The picnic shoulder, also sometimes known simply as a pork shoulder, is lower on the shoulder than the pork butt. This area worked harder while the hog was still alive, resulting in a leaner cut of meat. This cut comes bone-in and usually with some of the skin still on. 

The lean muscle means low and slow cooking methods are a necessity to make a pork shoulder turn out tender. However, that skin can end up simply rubbery and terrible if you strictly cook a pork shoulder low and slow. You can finish the shoulder over direct, high heat to make it crispy.

For a full breakdown on these two cuts from the shoulder primal, check out our write-up of pork shoulder vs pork butt. Suffice to say, you absolutely can make pulled pork from either cut, but a pork butt is my personal preference. 

You can also smoke a pork loin for pulled pork, but it’s harder to do that for a larger crowd. It’s also a lot leaner than a pork butt, so you do need to be careful not to dry it out.

How To Make Your Pulled Pork Stretch Further

Now, that ⅓ pound of pulled pork is a basic safe estimate for how much to serve each person. However, not all pulled pork meals are the same. Are you simply giving each person a serving of pulled pork with a side or two? Are you making pulled pork sandwiches? Are you going to have other meats/entrees available like burgers or hot dogs?

You might look at how much pulled pork per person for sandwiches and supplement with heartier buns or filling sides to stretch it further. Heck, you can even make a homemade coleslaw to top that sandwich. You can make pulled pork as an option and not the only main dish or even have pulled pork as an ingredient in a dish.  We understand that you might not have the largest smoker to cook up a lot of pork butts to feed a block party, so don’t be afraid to take steps to stretch your pulled pork further.

Side Dish Ideas

Homemade Mac and Cheese

If you’re looking for side dishes beyond the standard baked beans and potato salad, check out some of our favorite side dish recipes: BBQ cheesy smashed potatoes, and smoked mac and cheese. If you’re looking for something a bit on the healthier side, fire up your grill for some marinated veggies.

However, if you can, always plan on cooking up more pulled pork than the equation calls for. Some people (myself included) may be looking quite forward to some home-smoked pulled pork and intentionally come with hearty appetites. Plus who doesn’t love leftovers?

Wrapping It Up

When we are preparing to serve pulled pork for a crowd, we always figure on ⅓ pound of pulled pork per person. Children tend to eat a little less, so you can expect to serve ¼ pound of pulled pork for them. Then always estimate that you’ll lose around 50% of the starting weight, so you’ll want to start with ⅔ of a pound of pork butt per person. 

We always recommend estimating more to be on the safe side, that way if anyone shows up starving, you can accommodate them. Pulled pork also makes for excellent leftovers, whether you’re sending guests home with a goodie bag or you’re hoarding all the extras in your refrigerator. Check out our article on how long pulled pork lasts in the fridge so you can make sure you don’t waste the extra meat. Remember, storing any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer is the way to go!

If you’re looking for some ideas on what to do with all those leftovers rather than having sandwiches for days on end, we’ve got some ideas for you. If you’re looking for a hearty, warm meal in the colder months, check out our recipe for pulled pork shepherd’s pie. For more ideas, check out our roundup of our favorite leftover pulled pork recipes.


Question: Will barbecue sauce help the pulled pork go further?

Answer: While bbq sauce, especially a thicker sauce, will add some weight to the pulled pork, it’s not enough of a difference to drastically alter the portion per person. 

Jeremy Pike

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