How many pounds of brisket do you need to feed 40 people?
To feed 40 people, plan on starting with at least 40 pounds of uncooked brisket and adjust according to the guest list, how you will serve it, and if you want leftovers or not.
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Brisket is a great piece of meat for large events and is always a crowd favorite. At a per-pound price, it is also one of the best values for meat and can be served in a variety of ways for your guests!
Before you begin doing the math for the amount of meat you need, look at your guest list. Does it include some big eaters that love brisket? How many kids will be coming? Are there some people you know who do not really like brisket and will just eat sides? Looking through your guest list will help you plan your event to perfection.
A second factor to think about is, how do you plan on serving your brisket? Will it be as slices for people to grab? Or are you going to chop it up and make sandwiches out of the meat? If you just plan on people serving themselves slices of meat then make sure to add a few extra pounds as the meat is the star of the show. If you decide to serve sandwiches, people will naturally eat less meat with the extra bread they are consuming.
Most pitmasters and caters plan on each adult eating about a ½ pound of cooked brisket. Brisket is an extremely fatty piece of meat and after trimming the meat and after calculating the amount of fat that will melt off the meat during the cook, you can expect to lose about half of the precooked weight. This makes the math easy as you can plan for 1 pound of raw brisket per person.
How do you calculate brisket per person?
Most pitmasters and caterers recommend a ½ pound of cooked brisket per person.
With most full packer briskets, they will require trimming before being smoked and will need 2-3 pounds of fat to be trimmed off. Briskets are huge pieces of meat but will shrink throughout the cook as the fat melts off and water from inside the meat evaporates. All briskets are different, but you can expect to lose about 35% of weight from the brisket post-cook. This will result in a cooked brisket being about 50% of its raw weight. All of these elements mean when you are at the store buying your brisket, plan on each person needing 1 pound of uncooked meat.
½ pound per person is a rough estimate but this amount is extremely helpful when planning your cook. There are always different factors affecting each individual event, so if you realize your guest list has some people who love brisket or you want to have leftovers for yourself, plan on adding a few more pounds on top of your estimate!
How should you best prepare brisket for 40 people?
Keep briskets whole until they need to be sliced for serving and always slice against the grain to ensure tender brisket.
When serving a large number of people the temptation might be to slice all the brisket at once so you don’t have to worry about it the rest of the night. However, this can cause the brisket to lose valuable moisture and if the slices are not eaten right away they will become dry pieces of meat. The best practice would be to slice as needed.
When service time starts, slicing a full brisket is needed for the first wave of people, but as they go through the line, keep an eye on what is popular. Is the flat meat popular? Get ready to slice more as the supply dwindles. Are people shying away from the point? Great, save that for yourself as leftovers, or grab a couple of pieces to chop up for some sandwiches.
As always, when preparing brisket for people, cut against the grain. You do not want to spend all day and night laboring over this piece of meat only to have it ruined in the last step. With this in mind, the best option is to probably slice the brisket yourself. The last thing you want is an innocent helper to ruin the meat you worked so hard on.
Should you cook the brisket in advance?
Due to a brisket’s size, it can hold its internal temperature for a long time making it easy to finish cooking the brisket a couple of hours early and let it rest until serving time.
When cooking brisket for 40 people, you want to make sure your briskets are ready to eat at serving time. If your smoker setup allows it, plan on cooking all 40 pounds of raw brisket at once. Every brisket will be different depending on the amount of fat in the meat and every smoker is different based on its style, but a rough guideline is to smoke the brisket 1 hour and 15 minutes for every pound of raw meat.
A traditional packer is 12-15 pounds and after being trimmed will be in the 10-12 pound range. Using this rough guideline, you can expect a standard brisket to smoke for 12 to 16 hours. While this may feel like an intimidating amount of time to plan an eating time, brisket provides you with a ton of flexibility by being able to rest and still be above a food-safe temperature for 4-8 hours!
The best recommendation for smoking brisket for a large number of people is to plan for the brisket to finish 4-5 hours before serving time. This will provide you with plenty of time should the brisket cook slow than expected and ensure it still has time to properly rest. If the brisket finishes on time, you can let it rest until the time of serving. Should the brisket finish ahead of time, you can stretch the resting period with a preheated cooler and towels to make sure the brisket stays above a food-safe temperature.
When resting a brisket, the easiest way is to place it in a cooler lined with towels and add a towel on top to lock in all the heat. The brisket will most likely have an internal temp of at least 200 degrees and will be able to stay warm for 4-6 hours using this method. Should your brisket finish early and you need to stretch this time out, preheat the cooler with boiling water and let it heat for 15 minutes before placing the brisket inside. This will help extend the brisket rest time to 6-8 hours.
Best way to serve brisket to 40 people
Two of the best ways to serve brisket for a large crowd are; slice the brisket for people to grab slices from the point and flat or chop the brisket up, layout some condiments and toppings and let people make sandwiches.
Feeding 40 people can feel like an extreme challenge, but brisket really shines in these types of events. Briskets are a great value for large groups of people and provide the most amount of flexibility for eating time.
There are a couple of ways to prepare and serve a large group of people.
The classic way to serve your guests would be to slice the brisket and let people grab the pieces they want. I would recommend being close to the serving table so you can educate people on if they want a leaner or fattier piece of meat.
A second option is to cut the brisket slices into smaller pieces or completely chop the brisket up and let people make sandwiches or sliders out of them. This option will help stretch your brisket a little more if you are worried about running out of meat and lets people make their sandwiches the way they want it. Layout white rolls with a couple of different sauces on the serving table and add a couple of vegetables like onions and pickles to let people build their own masterpiece.
This article was written by Robert McCall, the founder of bbqdropout.com. Robert also owns and operates the BBQ dropout YouTube channel where he demonstrates his first-hand experience cooking all kinds of meats and strives to provide helpful, authoritative content for people looking how to barbecue.
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