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Meat for 150 people - check my math

I'm catering a wedding this weekend (!). About 150 attendees, served buffet style. I'm making, among other things, one of the meat main courses - pork shoulder. There will be another meat main coarse, a vegetarian main course, soup, various vegetable sides, and many desserts and hors d'ouvres. With that in mind, how many pounds of (boneless) pork shoulder should I buy?

TIA.

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  1. My mother, who does a lot of catering for large functions (weddings, fund raisers, etc), always says to allow 1/4 lb of meat per person. I always buy too much, resulting in much wasted food. I think my mother is right. She has never run out of food and rarely has more than a fridge full of leftovers. If you buy 40 lbs, you should be fine. Some people will eat half a pound, some will eat a few bites, and some will eat none. Since there is another meat main course, I'm guessing you'll still have a lot leftover, but everyone will be happy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Isolda

      I'm also buying on someone else's dime, so I'm trying not to have much (if any) leftover.

    2. I'd go with 8 oz per person, since there is considerable shrinkage when pork shoulder is cooked, and plan to feed 100 people since there will be multiple main courses. Might be a little excessive but cooked pork shoulder freezes and reheats well, so the leftovers won't go to waste. Have a great weekend and hope everything goes smoothly!

      5 Replies
      1. re: chococat

        This sounds like a lot, especially with all the other food being served! And the main problem with leftovers isn't using them, it's finding space in various fridges and freezers to store them.

        1. re: chococat

          There is fairly minimal shrinkage the way I'm preparing it (20 hours sous vide at 145 F, chilled, then finished on a hot grill). Some fat will have to be trimmed though.

          Again, excess is a bad thing. I'm catering (volunteering my labor) as a present to the rather cash-strapped bride, but food costs are on her, so my priority is to not blow money she doesn't have.

          Keep in mind that there are two other mains, and LOTS of other food. I'm thinking I have to plan for maybe 70 people favoring pork (maybe it's the most popular main course), in which case, 8 oz/person still seems like a lot to me. That would bring me to 35 lb. 4 oz/person, as Isolda suggests would bring me to more like 17 lb, which is more in line with my expectations.

          Has anyone here catered a wedding? (this is NOT a rhetorical question. Lord knows I haven't before)

          1. re: cowboyardee

            Yes, many, many weddings over the years, and I think that Isolda's 4 oz per person calculations are what I would do, given the fairly large amount of food being served along side, and that fact that the sous vide method used for cooking the pork will result in minimum shrinkage. Not all the guests will try everything, as well. So, 40-50 lbs is a good place to start.

            Is this the wedding you posted about a few times last summer, specially the dessert questions? I hope all goes very well, from the weather to the last delicious morsel. I have to say that although I've seen some disasters occur behind the scenes, weddings usually come off without a hitch as far as the guests are concerned, provided the bride and groom show, and everyone always has a great time. It's terrific that you're doing this for a gift, and I'm sure it'll be very meaningful to the couple.

            Good luck with it and enjoy yourself!

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Thank you for the advice bushwickgirl. I was hoping you'd weigh in, but I decided putting your name in the title of the post might be tacky or discouraging to others. Looks like I'm gonna just have to get more pork than I have.

              Yes this is the same wedding I posted about before. Real crunch time now. My kitchen has spilled over into my dining room, and my wife is hiding upstairs.

              I'll update one (or maybe all) of the threads after we pull it off.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                Yes, putting my name in the title would have freaked me out a bit as well.;-))

                Professor Salt downthread also has some good advice about plating, buffet set up, etc.

                Hope to hear how it came off. You're probably almost as nervous as the groom right now.

        2. When we had a cookout this summer for about 50 people, I bought 4 (bone-in) shoulders, approximately 30 - 35 pounds. Of course, we had lots of sides but all the meat was still gone by the end of the day. We're having a smaller cookout Saturday and I'm planning on buying 2 (boneless) shoulders for 18 - 20 people, 12 pounds?

          1. Yes, I have catered a wedding. If you're cutting it close on your purchasing, it's vital to watch your portion controls at serving time. You can easily run out of food if you don't.

            If you're serving buffet style, inevitably people will serve themselves more than you estimated, and food will run out toward the end of the line. Either assign someone to dole out portions, or allow at least 10% overage when you're buying the food. If you're plating in the kitchen, then you have maximum control on portions. One approach is manpower-intensive. The other is food cost intensive.

            Also - a trick to control cost on a buffet is place the proteins at the end of the buffet line. Bread first, salads next, sides, and by the time they get to the end, there will be less room on the plate for the expensive stuff. Take control of the tendency for people to overload their plates, and everyone will get fed.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Professor Salt

              "Also - a trick to control cost on a buffet is place the proteins at the end of the buffet line."
              ___
              Thanks for this little tip. It makes sense and I likely wouldn't have thought of it.

              I'm also slicing the meat off the grill. For some reason, sliced meat seems to convince people they've had bigger portions.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                Good luck, man, and breathe. You can do this. Let us know how it went.

            2. Typical single serving is 1/4 pound of *cooked* meat per person. Most guys will end up eating two servings of meat. So, assuming a mixed crowd with not much in the way of kids, you're going to need about 56 pounds of cooked pork shoulder if that's the only meat main course. Since you have a second meat, halve that for 28 pounds of finished meat. Just saw that you're doing it sous vide... in that case, round up a wee bit to 30 pounds and you should be good to go.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                I'm probably going with your suggestion of around 30 lb. It's more meat than I initially hoped I'd need. It's also about the most meat I can effectively process in time for the wedding with the equipment I have. We'll just have to compensate with some of the other offerings.

                Thanks all for the suggestions.