What’s the Right Amount of Meat to Serve per Person?

updated Dec 6, 2022
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(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Planning a whole dinner party can sometimes feel like a giant logic puzzle: If we serve this dessert, then we’ll do that appetizer. And, if a certain person comes, then we won’t serve those types of foods, and on and on!

Deciding how much meat to buy per person is all part of the game. How do you figure it out? The best way to approach this is to plan your menu first and determine what kind of appetites your guests will have.

Whether you’re cooking for four people or 40 people, there’s an easy way to solve this math puzzle.

Credit: Kitchn
How Much Meat Per Person?

Plan Your Menu First

Before you worry about how much meat you need per person, get started by planning your menu. Work backwards by looking at what else you want to serve, how the meat is going to be used, and what kind of appetites you think your guests will have.

It’s important to consider the side dishes you plan to serve. Will they be something heavier, like pasta or potatoes, or on the lighter side, like sautéed greens or roasted veggies?

Consider the Role of the Meat

Now that the menu is planned, what role does meat play in the meal? Is it the main part of the meal to be served along with sides and a salad, or is it part of a broader dish, like a ragout or curry?

Knowing the answer to this is crucial in determining just the right amount of meat to purchase and prepare.

When Meat Is the Main

When cooking something like steak, chicken, or pork, where meat is the main feature of the meal and paired with a few side dishes, we recommend about 1/2 pound (eight ounces) per person, or up to 3/4 (12 ounces) pound for bigger appetites and those who love leftovers.

In other words, if you’re cooking for 10 people, you’ll want at least five pounds of meat total. For 20 people, plan to purchase 10 or more pounds of meat.

When Meat Is Just Part of the Dish

If the meat is part of a bigger dish, like pasta or curry, plan for 1/4 to 1/3 pound (four to six ounces) per person. That means you’ll want at least 2 1/2 pounds of meat if you’re planning to have 10 people over to dinner, and 5 or more pounds of meat if you’re cooking for 20 guests.

There’s usually a little more wiggle room in terms of number of servings with a large roast than there is with individually cut steaks or chicken breasts. If you’re really unsure about how much people will eat, stay away from dishes with those individual cuts and go for a recipe that gives more leeway for portioning.