Cooking for a Crowd

by AEA on April 1, 2010


Entertaining 50 Guests

Quanity cooking Cooking for a crowd is not  the easiest part of entertaining unless you have experience in cooking for a  large number of people.   One thing that  can be confusing is when you need to determine the amount of food needed.  Also cooks will try to just multiply the  recipe ingredients to feed larger crowds, not always the best approach, try batch  cooking instead.  So if you need to  determine how many pounds of meat, how many potatoes, or how much pasta will be  needed for a group of 50, this is where you can start.  Here even experienced cooks can use some basic cooking skills  help.

First, start with a simple  menu where most if not all the dishes can be made in advance. There is just not  enough time in the day to prepare everything the same day unless you have others  helping and a very large kitchen.  Any  entrée that can be cooked the day before the party and then reheated the day of  the party will help.  If it is a buffet style  where guests may be balancing the plate with one hand while standing, choose  food that can be dished up in bite sized proportions and does not require  cutting or handling with two hands.

Amount of Food for Quanity Cooking

The amount of food necessary when cooking  for a crowd will depend upon the food being served, the occasion and the  guests.  However there are some  guidelines that can help. Catering companies deal with this every day and you  can use some of the same guidelines at home.   How  to have a large group people entertained in your own home for a party?  Below  are some general ideas for a single person serving that can be multiplied times  the number of guests.

  • Appetizers: 6 – 8 bite size pieces
  • Soup: 1 cup if a starter or 2 – 3 cups if a main dish
  • Salad: 3 oz or 1 cup
  • Dressing: 2 ½ oz
  • Chicken, beef, fish or port: 6 – 7 oz
  • Potato, pasta or rice:  5 oz
  • Dessert: 1 – 2 pieces
  • Hamburgers and hotdogs: 1 ½ pieces
  • Shrimp: 4 – 5 oz of raw unpeeled pieces
  • Punch: 12 – 16 oz
  • Cocktails: 2 – 3 drinks

    *1 cup = 8 oz, 1 quart =  32 oz, 1 pound = 16 oz

Cooking for a crowdHowever, the complete menu  will help determine the quantities of each individual dish.  Servings can be less for a five course meal  than a three course meal, less for a noon luncheon than an evening dinner and  less if not serving young adults.  Also  if there are two main dishes, the individual quantities can be cut in half for  each dish, three oz of chicken and three oz of fish for example.

When preparing large  quantities of food or quantity cooking, it is recommended to just use  endless multiplications of ingredients for larger dishes.  Some recipes have limits on how much they can  be expanded.   There would be no problem  with doubling or tripling a mashed potato recipe.   However as a general rule it is better to  make multiple separate dishes of the same recipe or batch cooking.   If you have a recipe for four and you need  it to serve sixteen, the recommended method would be to double the recipe for  eight and then prepare two separate batches of eight for a total of  sixteen.  For many desserts it is best to  make a single batch repeatedly. 

When cooking for a crowd,  you will need adequate cookware, ample storage containers, sufficient  refrigerator space, plenty of serving platters/bowls and sufficient ways to  keep some foods hot.  Once you have the  guest list and the menu, go over exactly how and what is needed to prepare and  serve each dish.  You may need to enlist  the help of someone else’s kitchen or even a caterer to do part of the  preparation.

Buffet dinnerIf entertaining 50 guests,  everyone will not like everything you provide, so don’t worry about it.   However you should provide your guests with  different selections.   Not everyone  likes chicken or fish.  When serving a  crowd, buffet style is highly recommended.  With a buffet style there should be several  dish options for selection, especially for 25 or more guests, which means  people will take smaller portions of multiple dishes.

One last thing to remember  is food safety.  Pay special attention to  perishable foods that need to be refrigerated until being cooked and  served.  For large buffets, have a couple  batches of each dish that can be put out at different times to keep the  servings fresh.

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