Portion Sizes - How Much Meat Do I Need?

This is one of the trickiest questions we get asked on a pretty much daily basis here at Bisra Meats. It's tricky because there are many factors involved, such as the nature of the meal, the appetites of the participants, and the nature of the meats in question.

If you're putting together a meal at which meat will be the main course, but it will be preceded by appetizers, salads, or soup, your guests will obviously be less hungry by the time the main course is served. If the main course itself is being served with sides (potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.) or alternatives (the diner's choice of roast beef or chicken), you can usually do with approximately half a pound (200-250 grams) of meat per person.

If the meal is centered around the meat, something along the lines of a barbecue, a steak dinner, or a rotisserie type of event, your participants are less likely to fill themselves on whatever else it is you plan to serve, as they will be saving room for the centerpiece. In such a case, the portion size we recommend would be closer to 12-16 ounces (300-450 grams).

Even properly aged meat will purge a bit of its raw weight during cooking. Steaks will drip on the grill, smoking will carry off some moisture, and even the sous-vide process will create a surprising amount of sauce that screams "reduce me". So while a pound of steak or 12 ounces of roast beef per person may sound like a lot, remember that you will end up with a smaller final weight by the time the product is ready to be carved or served.

Bone-in cuts are a little bit trickier to plan, and here is where knowing your meat comes in very handy. Lamb and goat tend to be richer and more satiating than lean beef is, and cuts served with a fat cap on them (e.g. steaks and roasts) will make for a heavier sauce than their leaner counterparts will. Lamb shanks are fairly lean, so one per person makes a nice appetizer, and two per diner makes a fine main course. Lamb and goat ribs and loin chops make delicious steaks, and you can use their smaller anatomy to your advantage in preparation and presentation by calculating how many you'd like on each plate: 1-2 make a delicious appetizer, half a rack (3-4 ribs) is already a meal.

Leg of lamb, goat shanks, and bone-in beef rib and loin roasts all have a certain proportion of bone in their weight but are usually prepared with a bit of fat cap (around 1/4 inch is standard fare). The bone isn't as much of a factor here, as the rich nature of the meat, the fat cap, the marbling, and the sauce will all contribute to a tasty and filling dining experience. We generally recommend calculating closer to 6-8 ounces per person in such cases, such that a 5-pound leg of lamb should generally suffice for 8-10 people, depending on what else they're being served.

If you're stewing your meat, you may be able to do with 4 ounces per person, potentially less depending on how thick the stew is and what else is in it. Bone-in cuts, such as lamb neck, goat shoulder, and the like might require more than 4 ounces in raw form to achieve the same goal as 4 ounces of boneless meat. The better you learn your cuts, the more you'll be able to use your judgment and plan ahead.

One last consideration that does not receive the attention it deserves in event planning is the style of service. People will invariably eat more meat when served buffet-style than they will when being served. The better the meat and the better your cooking, the more likely portion-size discipline will become a concern.

Bear in mind that people's appetites may differ for a variety of reasons. Some may come to dinner hungrier than others, some of us may have a harder time resisting tempting appetizers and hors-d'oeuvres, and some may eat more than their share if they're enjoying themselves. Your budget and your own appetite for the dilemma of the risk of running out vs. having leftovers will play a role as well. So plan ahead, cook well, and soon enough you'll be paying for seats at your table.

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10 May, 2019

Cedomil Mucovic

Very good article

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