Cooking for a Crowd

By Perre Coleman Magness | April 24, 2016
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The following is an excerpt from "Serves 50: Cooking for a Crowd" by Perre Magness in the Spring 2016 issue.

Calculating Quantity

To figure out what you need for a large meal, take the number of guests (that’s why RSVPs are so important) and multiply by:

Weight of a serving — Different items require different serving weights. Here are some general estimates: tender greens (spring mix) 1⁄10 pound per person; boneless meat, fish, and chicken 1⁄4 pound per person; bone-in meat 1⁄3 pound per person. These are pre-cooking weights. Most proteins lose 10 to 20 percent of weight in cooking.

Volume — For side dishes, a half-cup is the usual serving size. So for things like rice, potato salad, and vegetable dishes, 50 guests x 1⁄2 cup = 25 cups (or just a bit more than 6 quarts).

Number of pieces — For some food items you need to end up with whole numbers (the grocery store won’t sell you a half of most things). For bread and rolls, hamburger patties, whole fruits, pieces of chicken, calculate 1 to 1.5 pieces per person x 50 guests = 50 to 75 pieces.

A visual estimate — It’s difficult to cut precisely weighted slices of things like a watermelon, but it’s pretty easy to visualize trimming the ends, slicing in 1-inch slices and cutting into halves or quarters — and therefore estimating how many slices you can get out of a particular watermelon.

Age — If your crowd is over 50 or under 14, they probably won’t eat large servings. 25 to 50 year-olds, on average eat “normal” amounts. Teenagers and young adults in their early 20s eat...a lot! Round recipes and quantities up or down based on the predominate age group of your guests.

For three crowd-sized recipes — pick up the current issue of Edible Memphis

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