Hosting a steak dinner requires some impressive culinary choreography — you want it to look effortless, taste delicious, and not cost a cent more than necessary. On top of all that, you need to weigh the fact that you're trying to satisfy your guests, without prepping so much food that you're being wasteful. It's a very delicate balance!
There are a few safe bets for things that will be totally polished off (wine), and a few things that are cheap and prevalent enough that you don't have to worry if you make one or two more than necessary (potatoes).
But for the pièce de résistance, the steak itself, it would be nice to know that you're not going to be swimming in leftovers or leaving anyone around the table starving. So we asked an expert, Jacob Dickson of Dickson's Farmstand Meats in New York City, to give us the lowdown.
The golden rule: Eight ounces (or half a pound) of meat per person.
Simple, right? Sort of! While this is a great guideline, there are a few other things to consider, so before you head to the butcher, ask yourself these questions.
1. What kind of steak are you making?
Dickson recommends buying 3/4 of a pound per person if you're making something that will significantly cook down, like brisket.
2. Who are your guests?
If you know you have some major meat-eaters in your crowd, you can safely round up for them.
3. Will there be other protein?
If you're making lobster to go with your steak, people will obviously eat less meat. In cases like these, Dickson recommends halving the number of guests, and then multiplying that number by eight ounces to get your best estimate.
Do the surf-and-turf math: If you're having 10 guests, you would need five x eight = 40 ounces, or two-and-a-half pounds.
4. How are you serving your steak?
When serving a crowd, Dickson recommends buying a few bigger pieces of meat and slicing them up for your guests, in which case, apply the eight-ounce rule. You'll have a bit of wiggle room if there's a part that you don't love when you see it or cook it. Plus, people are free to take more or less if they feel so inclined, and you have more versatility with leftovers (steak sandwiches! Cheesesteak sliders!).
If you're giving everyone their own individual cut, refer back to the general rule and questions one and two.
5. Do you want leftovers?
"It's okay to not have tons of meat left over," Dickson points out, "but if you do want leftovers, I always think about how many people you'll want to feed the next day," he says. "If it's just two people, plan ahead with 16 ounces more than you'll need for dinner."
Don't forget the sides!