Based on your selections, the Meat Calculator will provide you with an estimate of how much meat you might want to provide to your guests. It will provide both the raw, uncooked weight as well as the finished,cooked weight.
When you are preparing a meal for a large number of people, there's no need to worry about offering up restaurant-sized servings. The portion size of food in restaurants is intentionally much larger and much higher in calories than what is recommended for most adults. Restaurants know how to turn a profit while still offering oversized portions of food. They want their customers to feel like they've gotten a good deal for their money; and happy customers become repeat customers.
When preparing a meal for a gathering, you should focus on recommended portion sizes (versus restaurant-sized portions), which will satisfy your average guest and minimize waste (and cost). The recommended portion sizes typically balance themselves out between big, average and small eaters. Of course, there'll be a few no-shows as well. But you can also increase or decrease the number of portions if you know there will be quite a few big eaters, or a lot of diet-conscious guests.
Although the USDA recommended portion size of meat at a meal is 3 ounces, the typical serving size of meat in catering is between 4 to 6 ounces. When meat is the main feature of a meal, such as steak or chicken breast, the serving size increases to 6 to 8 ounces per serving. The serving size of meat decreases when it is prepared with topping, breaded, or served in heavy sauces or gravies.
When purchasing meat to prepare for guests, keep in mind that after cooking you'll lose about 25% of the total weight of the meat (on average, per USDA). This is the amount used in the calculator to determine how much raw meat you would need to purchase. Fattier meats will provide an even lower yield. Bacon only yields about 30% meat after cooking. Ground beef will yield about 70% of cooked beef. Brisket yields about 60% meat after cooking. And whole birds such as chicken and turkey (under 12 lbs) also yield about 60% meat. So when purchasing raw meat, increase the amount purchased based on what the actual cooked amount of meat you'll need.
Basic Meat Serving Size Tips
- Main feature (standalone item such as a boneless steak, prime rib, chicken breast, etc)- 8 ounces per serving
- Meat with additional dressing (chicken parmesan, stuffed boneless pork chops, etc) 5 ounces per serving
- Meat served in a heavy sauce or gravy base (beef stroganoff, sloppy joes, etc) 4 ounces per serving
- When serving hamburgers, allow for 2 burgers per person (at 4 ounces per burger) 8 ounces total
- Pulled pork is typically served in 5 ounce servings
- Portion sizes will vary depending on what time the meal is served. Meat portions are generally 25% smaller at lunch time than dinner time.