Beef brisket is a fairly large cut of meat - a whole brisket can weigh anywhere from 8 to 20 lbs. If you're catering an event or cooking for family and friends, it's certainly a crowd pleaser.
However, brisket is also quite expensive and having a rough estimate of how much brisket you'll need per person can help to save both time and effort.
As a hard and fast answer, you should expect adults to eat 1/2 lb of brisket and children to eat 1/4 lb of brisket.
However, if you're the one smoking the brisket, you need to be aware of the difference between raw and cooked weight.
When calculating the amount of brisket you need, it's always best to think in terms of the raw weight - which is the weight of the uncooked brisket.
A lot of other websites will give calculations that make no sense because they're giving you the amount of brisket in terms of the cooked weight.
This distinction is incredibly important to make because brisket will lose roughly 40-50% of it's weight when cooked.
You also can't really buy prepared/smoked brisket, unless you're buying it from a barbecue caterer. However, if this is your intention, don't fret; I've also created a calculator for that too (below).
If you're like me, you like to know how folks come up with their calculators and what sort of math is being used to generate values.
Here's a quick break-down:
Since we know that Brisket will lose roughly 40-50%* of its weight, we can double the amount of raw brisket we'll need based on the amount of cooked brisket the guests will eat.
*The reason you should opt to use 50% rather than 40% is because it's a more conservative estimate. The amount of weight loss a brisket will experience is highly variable. It's always better to over-estimate than underestimate.
So in terms of raw brisket:
The calculator above is based on the following function:
(# of Adults input by user * 1) + (# of Children input by User * 0.5) = Amount of Raw Brisket
Brisket is a somewhat expensive cut of meat. I typically go with USDA choice grade or higher; Usually that's around $4-6/lb. A whole brisket also weighs roughly 8 - 20 lbs. Meaning, you should expect to pay anywhere from $32-$120 per brisket.
With that said, some folks may be buying from a barbecue caterer and simply need to know how much cooked brisket to order based on the number of guests attending.
This calculator assumes a 50% weight loss:
The calculator works based on this function:
(# of Adults input by user * 0.5) + (# of Children input by User * 0.25) = Amount of Cooked Brisket
The above calculations are pretty conservative in terms of the amount of brisket per person. Frankly, 1/2 lb of brisket per adult could even be an over-estimate for some.
Where-as someone like my Father could easily eat 1 lb of brisket on his own.
You also have folks like my mother or grandmother who would be more than satisfied with 1/4 lb of brisket.
If this is for an event, I'd wager to say that most folks expect to be served brisket flat when they hear that brisket is on the menu.
With that said, if you're the one preparing the brisket, I'd still opt to serve both the point and the flat rather than serving a trimmed brisket flat (point removed). While the weight loss would be less, a whole brisket just tastes better.
Most folks would be surprised that they actually prefer the point over the flat - which is actually my preference.
As the Pitmaster for this event, you should save some of the burnt ends for yourself and also give them out to a few family and friends who like meat.
If you're buying a packers brisket, there is a good chance that you're going to trim the fat cap, remove silverskin, bring the mohawk down, and even shape the brisket to be more aerodynamic in the smoker.
If you're someone who does this regularly, you could render the trimmings into beef tallow or use the meat for sausage/hamburgers - you could even freeze them to use later.
If you're not someone who does this regularly - then it's essentially wasted money.
However, when buying from a barbecue caterer, you can likely specify that you're primarily after the flat and see what they say and if they're willing to oblige.
When having a barbecue, it's all about being strategic in terms of offering your guests enough food without going broke.
The simplest way to accomplish this is to offer cheap sides and smaller plates.
Some of the best sides for brisket include:
In terms of the plate size, people are instinctively going to fill up their plates as much as possible - the saying "Your eyes were bigger than your stomach" applies here.
Meaning, you can simply buy smaller plates and people will feel like they're eating a lot of food simply because their plates are full.
If you're catering, place the brisket/meats towards the end, which forces them to look at all the delicious sides before reaching the meat.