Serving Beef Brisket and Need to Know How Much to Serve and How to Cook

Each week, I try to figure out how much food I need to buy. Nobody wants to buy too little, and buying too much often leads to food going into the garbage. Throwing out a few slices of bread that goes bad isn’t too big of a deal, but throwing out pounds of meat can get quite costly. In this post, I will help you figure out how many pounds of brisket you need to buy to feed 2 people to hundreds of people. So how much beef brisket do you need per person?

How much beef brisket do you need and how to cook it

What is Beef Brisket?

Beef Brisket is a tough cut of meat from a cow. See the graphic below.

cow showing cuts of beef

It comes from the bottom sirloin area and usually is sold whole, but it can be cut into pieces. Brisket is the cut of meat that is used for corned beef (salt-cured brisket of beef), but it is also delicious in many other brisket recipes, for instance, smoked brisket, braised, barbecue brisket, and Mexican style.

How Much Beef Brisket do you need per Person?

There are a lot of different factors that go into figuring the amount of brisket per person. For instance, will brisket be your only meat? What time of day are you feeding people? How many sides are you having?

If you are only having brisket as your main course, a salad, and a couple of sides, you should plan on 1/3 – 1/2 lb. of meat per person. This means that you can feed 2-3 people per pound of brisket. However, this is not raw meat, but cooked meat. When buying a raw brisket and cooking it, you can expect shrinkage.

uncooked beef brisket

If you are having other meats such as chicken or pork, you can get away with having less of each meat, but don’t expect your guests to eat only 1/3 to 1/2 lb. of meat total. They will end up eating more overall. Maybe the average person will eat 1/3 of chicken and 1/3 of brisket, but you will have some people that will eat more.

Another thing to consider is if you have a lot of children you are feeding, they will tend to eat less, and generally, women eat less too. However, if you are feeding all men, consider estimating up to 1 lb. of meat per person. If your entire family are big eaters and you want leftovers, consider getting 1 pound of meat or more per person. (In my household, no matter how much meat I purchase, they will eat what I have, and rarely do we have leftovers. It doesn’t matter if I buy 1/4 lb. per person or 1 lb. per person)

What is Shrinkage? Raw Brisket Versus Cooked Brisket:

If you have 5 pounds of raw brisket, how much meat will you have after you cook the meat? Shrinkage is the meat you will have left after cooking. Meat shrinkage happens when meat cooks and the water content, juices, and fat cook down. This means you have less meat than when you started. All meat has some shrinkage. The higher the heat, the more shrinkage will occur. This is a great fact to know especially when cooking ground beef with a higher fat content.

You will be purchasing X pound of raw brisket, and the uncooked weight will shrink more if you prepare smoked brisket than if you cook it with a damp method like braising. (Braising is to cook meat or vegetables by heating them slowly with oil and moisture in a tightly sealed container). Smoking a brisket can cause the meat to shrink by 30-40 percent. However, braising will result in less shrinking. So if you have a 5 lb. raw brisket, after cooking you can be left with 3 lbs. At 2-3 servings per pound, you will get about 6-9 servings.

To explain further, the recommended amount of brisket per person is 1/3-1/2 pounds of cooked brisket per person. One pound of uncooked brisket may shrink down to about 9-11 ounces, and would feet approximately 1-2 people.

To learn more about the shrinkage of meat, and for a cool science experiment, See Science Experiments with Ground Beef.

How to Cook a Brisket:

Generally, I use my Dutch oven and cook it slowly on low heat for a long period of time. The long, slow method helps to break down the connective tissues in the brisket. This means you will have a tender piece of meat.

First Step: Season the meat with salt, pepper, and a rub if you would like. Brown the meat on both sides in a dutch oven.

Next Step: Remove meat and add onions to the oven. Saute the onions until translucent

Step Three: Return brisket to the pot, add liquid to cover (wine, water, beef stock – or a combination)

Step Four: Cover the brisket and place in 325 degrees Fahrenheit oven. When the brisket’s internal temperature is 180 degrees (approximately 1 1/2 hours), lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees. Cook 2 more hours. Larger portions will take longer to cook.

Additionally, you can use a slow cooker. A 3 lb. brisket will take approximately 6-8 hours. If you overcook it, it will fall apart, but you don’t necessarily want that.

beef brisket cooked sitting on a wooden board

Ways to Use Left Over Brisket


Barbecue Beef Sandwiches

Brisket Mac and Cheese

Brisket sandwiches

Beef brisket, pickles, picked onion, and cole slaw sitting on a wooden cutting board

What types of sides are good with Brisket?

If you a preparing barbecue brisket, any sides that go with barbecue meat such as coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, cornbread, or corn on the cob, will be great sides that go well with your brisket.

What is the Cheapest Way to Buy a Brisket?

Look for a packer cut. The whole packer brisket is the whole brisket that hasn’t been trimmed, cut, or processed. You will have the added bonus of trimming the meat just how you want it. See trimming a brisket here!

Furthermore, you will pay much less per pound. Many times when I get a packer cut of meat, I will open it, cut it in serving sizes that are good for my family, and freeze what I won’t be using immediately.

What if I am feeding a lot of people? How Much Beef Brisket will I need Per Person?

When you are preparing food for a large crowd, you will want to know the number of guests coming. Are you sending out invitations? Consider having an RSVP. Once you know the number of people will be attending and have your guest list all figured out, you can figure out the right amount of meat to buy. I buy our brisket at a local grocery store that specializes in local meats.

If you are buying a large quantity of meat, to ensure you have enough meat, call the grocery store or meat market and “preorder” the meat. This ensures that you will be able to get exactly what you need. But did you know you can freeze both raw and cooked brisket?

A beef brisket half sliced on a wooden cutting board with a carving knife and fork

Can You Freeze Raw Brisket? Can You Freeze Cooked Brisket?

Yes, raw brisket can be frozen for up to 12 months in a deep freezer. Furthermore, cooked brisket can be frozen for 2-3 months.

How to Freeze Cooked Brisket?

After cooking, allow to cool and slice brisket. Then wrap tightly to keep as much air out as you can. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. And then wrap again with plastic wrap. Place in a freezer Ziploc bag. Before cooking, allow to thaw in the refrigerator, and reheat in the oven until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Make sure to place plenty of beef stock over the brisket while reheating.

What’s the difference between Flat Cut versus Point Cut of Brisket?

An entire brisket which is 8-16 lbs., is cut in half creating the flat cut and the point cut. The flat cut brisket is long and thin with a thick layer of fat on the top. This cut is great for slicing and is the most popular cut.

The point cut is thicker and smaller. It has more connective tissue making it tougher but it has more fat which makes it tastier. This cut is usually ground up for hamburger meat.

Is Beef Brisket Gluten-Free?

Yes, beef brisket is gluten-free. If you are buying pre-packaged corned beef, make sure to check if it is gluten-free.

In summary, a general rule of thumb is 1/2 pound to 1 pound of meat per person. This is the cooked weight of the meat. If brisket is your main dish, allow for more meat per person than if you are having 2-3 meats. Additionally, the type of event will play a part in how much meat you need. Finally, the length of the event is important to take into account too.

Enjoy your brisket!

Beef brisket, how to cook, how much to buy

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