How Much Brisket Per Person?: How to Calculate the Perfect Portion Size

By Ben Isham-Smith

Published:

Master your platter planning with our easy smoked brisket serving guide.

smoked beef brisket slice

Figuring out how much brisket you’ll need to feed your guests is based not only on the cooking method you plan to use, but also on other factors that influence yield and portion size.  

While having a little leftover brisket isn’t really a problem, you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you haven’t prepared enough brisket for your guests!

smoked beef brisket slice serving with sauce

The Quick Answer

As a general rule of thumb, you should allocate ½ pound of cooked brisket per adult and ¼ pound of cooked brisket per child. 

So, what does this mean in terms of raw brisket? Plan for at least 1 pound of raw brisket per person, as this will allow for some preparatory trimming and shrinkage during cooking.  

Understanding Brisket Yield

Unless you buy a pre-trimmed brisket, you will trim off some of the fat before cooking the brisket, reducing the overall yield. Then, during the cooking process, the moisture loss will also significantly impact the brisket yield. 

During cooking, brisket undergoes a process called denaturation, in which the proteins in the muscle fibers break down and release moisture. A brisket with higher fat content will retain more moisture during cooking, resulting in a higher yield. The amount of moisture that is lost depends on the cooking method, the temperature, and the duration.

Smoking

Smoking brisket at a temperature between 225-250°F (107-121°C) for several hours can produce tender and flavorful meat. However, this prolonged exposure to heat can also result in moisture loss of around 30 – 40%. There are steps you can take, such as wrapping the brisket, spritzing, and using a water pan to reduce moisture loss when smoking brisket.

Braising

This method involves cooking the brisket in a liquid, such as broth or wine, at a low temperature for several hours. Because of the humidity, the moisture loss using this method is slightly lower at around 20 – 30%.

Roasting

Cooking the brisket at a higher temperature (between 300 – 350°F) over a shorter period will result in the most moisture loss, typically around 40-50%.

The typical yield percentages for smoked and barbecued brisket will vary depending on the cooking method and the initial fat content of the brisket. However, the general range is between 50-70% of the raw weight.

Factors Influencing Portion Size

Portion size depends not only on the age and appetites of your guests but also on whether you are serving other meats or side dishes, appetizers, and desserts. If brisket is the star of the show, you’ll want to allocate a little more per person, but if it is just one of many dishes, you can probably get away with a ¼ pound of cooked brisket per person. 

General Portion Guidelines

It helps if you know whether your guests are hearty eaters or light eaters and how many of the guests are children, as this will affect the portion sizes.

  • Hearty eaters: ½ pound of cooked brisket per person.
  • Average eaters: ¼ to ⅓ pound of cooked brisket per person. 
  • Light eaters: ¼ pound of cooked brisket per person. 
  • Children: ¼ pound of cooked brisket per person.

Allocate a pound of raw brisket for every ½ pound of cooked brisket. 

Calculating Brisket Amount for Different Group Sizes

While the equation for calculating the total amount of brisket needed (total brisket = brisket per person x number of guests) is not particularly complicated, things can get confusing when you try to factor in different ages or appetites. Let’s consider a few examples. 

Small Family Gathering

This family dinner will have nine guests: two hearty eaters, two average eaters, three light eaters, and two children. 

  • Hearty eaters: 2 (0.5)
  • Average eaters: 2 (0.33)
  • Light eaters: 3 (0.25)
  • Children: 2 (0.25) 

1 + 0.66 + 0.75 + 0.5 = 2.91 pounds of cooked brisket. So, for this small family gathering, you would need approximately 6 pounds of raw brisket.

Medium-Sized Party

Eight couples will be at this party, none of whom have children. Although there will be side dishes and appetizers, the smoked brisket is the star of this meal. Unfortunately, you don’t have much information about the guests’ appetites. 

To be on the safe side, assume that at least half of the guests are hearty eaters and the other half are average eaters. This would give you the following equation:

8 (0.5) + 8 (0.33) = 6 ⅔ pounds of cooked brisket.

So, for this party, you would need roughly 14 pounds of raw brisket.

Large Gathering

There will be 25 guests (of varying ages and appetites) at this neighborhood barbecue. Given that the smoked brisket is one of many dishes on offer, we are going to work out the quantity based on the assumption that all the guests are ‘light eaters.’

25 x 0.25 = 6 ¼ pounds of cooked brisket. 

This equates to approximately 12 ½ pounds of raw brisket. 

Special Considerations for Large Gatherings 

When preparing brisket for large gatherings, there are several factors to consider beyond the amount of meat needed. 

  • Timing: Keep the brisket wrapped in foil and towels as long as possible before slicing so that it is warm and juicy when you serve it to your guests. 
  • Presentation: Arrange the brisket slices on a platter or carving board so that your guests can easily help themselves to the brisket. Thin slices will go further than thick ones. Garnish with fresh herbs, such as parsley or cilantro, for a visually appealing presentation. 
  • Accompanying dishes: By pairing the brisket with a decent number of complementary side dishes – such as mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, coleslaw, or mac-and-cheese – you can get away with a slightly lighter allocation of brisket per person. 
  • Sauces and condiments: Offer a variety of sauces and condiments to cater to different preferences—brisket pairs well with barbecue sauces, horseradish mustard, pickles, onions, and cheese. 

Ideas for Leftover Brisket

If in doubt, it’s better to prepare too much brisket rather than too little. That way, you’ll keep everyone happy while having enough meat to make one of these leftover brisket dishes

Brisket Chili

Leftover brisket is perfect for this classic comfort food. Simply sauté some onion, garlic, and chopped chili peppers and then add in the chopped brisket, canned tomatoes, beans, and your favorite spices. Simmer until thick and flavorful.

Brisket Shepherd’s Pie

Another hearty and satisfying dish, Shepherd’s pie is an easy way to make use of your leftovers. Combine the chopped brisket with vegetables and gravy (you probably have leftovers of those, too), and top with mashed potato. Cook on your grill or smoker (or bake in the oven) until the mashed potato takes on a golden-brown color. 

Brisket Tacos

These quick-and-easy brisket tacos make use of shredded brisket. Warm up some corn tortillas and then top with the shredded brisket, guacamole, tomato salsa, jalapenos, cheese, fresh cilantro, pickled red onions, and sour cream.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.


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