Party Planning: How Much To Cook For A Crowd
Remember the George Costanza problem: Shrinkage! In general, plan on 20% shrinkage during cooking. That is loss due to dripping and evaporation. Also, be aware of bone content. Ribs contain about 30% bone, so 10 pounds of ribs contain only about 7 pounds of raw meat, and after shrinkage there will be barely more than 5 pounds!
So you're cooking for a crowd. How much meat do you need? The answer depends on a lot of variables.
Gender and age. How many men, women, and children, and what age group? A crowd of young men will eat more than a crowd of old women.
What is the occasion? A church social? A graduation party? A football tailgater? How long will the event go on? Is it sit down or buffet? You need more for buffet because people tend to overserve themselves.
When? What time of day are you serving? At lunch they may eat less than at supper time.
What else is being served? Are the appetizers just chips, or are they more filling, like cheeses? That means you'll need less meat for the entree. What about side dishes? Beans and slaw, or just a tossed salad?
Will there be alcohol? If there is booze, people will eat more to keep from getting drunk. Other intoxicants can case the munchies...
Plan for leftovers. In any case cook more than you think is needed because the worst thing you can do is run out and have people running to White Castle. If there are leftovers, you can share them with your guests, or save them for yourself.
In general I plan on 1/2 pound of raw weight of meat per person unless the crowd is all big hungry men with lots of beer and football. Then I may go up to 1 full pound per person.
If you're going to load up the cooker with meat for a crowd, you want to read my article When You're Cooking More Than One Hunk of Meat.
This page was revised 1/14/2012
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