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If you’ve ever made a run for seconds at a party – only to be too late – you understand the pain of an underserved barbecue. No one wants to send their guests home hungry, of course, but that can lead toexcessive leftovers and its own host of issues.
So how can you accurately gauge just how much food to prepare when having people over for a barbecue? It’s more straightforward than you might think. Follow our instructions, and everyone will go home well fed and happy.
Before you can gauge how much food you’ll need, you’ll have to know what you’re making. BBQ food might seem like a simple category, but stocking up for burgers, fries and salad is much different than preparing pulled pork, brisket or jerk chicken. You’ve got various sides and maybe even drink selections that match each food choice.
Will you be doing all the food yourself, or is this going to be a potluck? It’s quite possible to spread the work and cost among attendees, and still avoid having way too much food. You’ll want to tell your contributing guests how much of each dish you need. Those who don’t bring edible goods can pitch in and help set up and break down your tables and decorations.
Time to Set Your Portions
Get a headcount of the number of people who will be attending. This number is the basis for understanding how much food you need. If you’re going the route of hot dogs or burgers, assume that each person will eat two and you should have just enough. Stock your condiment cache accordingly.
Things become a little more mathematical when you get into the grilled meats variety of BBQ. Budget one-quarter chicken per person. If you’re doing chicken wings, assume about seven to 10 per head depending on the size of the wings.
With brisket and many other sliced meat dishes, a good rule is approximately half a pound of meat per person. Half a rack of ribs is enough to feed one attendee. If you’re doing whole steaks, buy on the large side with one per head, but pick up a few extras for those particularly hungry guests. If you’re featuring multiple types of meat, people will want to try everything. Reduce each quantity by about a quarter.
Sides function the same way. Serving only one will allow you to be more efficient with your food, but it’ll also offer fewer delicious options for your guests. Ration two ears of corn per guest. For baked beans, potato or macaroni salad, your go-to is about half a cup or a quarter-pound per person.
A standard-sized bag of potato chips or tortilla chips will break down to feed about four hungry guests. For desserts, assume one to two cookies or cupcakes per head.When shopping for soft drinks, assume one to two sodas per person, and apply the same rule to beers if you’re serving alcohol.
Extra Tips for BBQers
Things can get expensive quickly when you’re planning to feed a small army. Depending on how much food you need, you should keep in mind that some sides might be cheaper to buy in bulk at the store. For example, potato salad can require a lot of work to make from scratch, so you can save yourself time by buying it premade. The same goes for cookies or other desserts. With beverages, consider bulk drinks like lemonade or limeade made from concentrate, which might be cheaper than buying multiple two-liter bottles of soda.
If you plan to cook everything yourself, you could easily run out of cooking space. Your grill can only do so much, and timing is essential if you want to serve everything at once. Don’t be afraid to break things up and cook your specialties while complementing with some store-bought goods.
And again, don’t be too proud to ask for help! Guests will rarely turn down the opportunity to contribute. They’ll probably feel good about it, and maybe they even have a homemade dish they want to show off.
A BBQ to Remember
By following the rules in this article, you’ll probably still end up with leftovers, but you won’t have an overwhelming quantity of extra food. We believe that’s a good rule when serving friends, but if you’re operating on a budget where you can’t save extra food, such as a remote event for your office, you could adjust to meet your needs.
If you’ve got some quality portioning tips to share, leave a comment below and let us know!