cooking for large groups

Tips for Cooking for Large Groups

Are you planning a party or gathering soon? Whether planning a block party, a church social, bridge club or feeding the boys on your son’s football team, one of the most challenging questions is “How much food should I cook?” Cooking for a crowd can be intimidating and stressful, especially if you’ve never done it before. But with some helpful tips and guidelines, you can easily calculate the amount of food needed to feed your guests. In this post, we’ll cover the key factors to consider when planning your menu and portions and give you a buying guide for cooking for large groups. You will be able to confidently prepare delicious meals that will satisfy everyone.

cooking for large groups

  1. Number of Guests: The first step in calculating how much food to cook for a crowd is to determine the number of guests attending. Keep in mind that people tend to eat more at parties and events, so it’s better to overestimate than to run out of food. A good rule of thumb is to plan for at least one pound of food per person. For example, if you’re hosting 20 people, plan for 20 pounds of food.
  1. Menu Selection: Once you have the number of guests, it’s time to decide on your menu. Consider your guests’ preferences, dietary restrictions, and the occasion. Today many people are choosing to eat vegetarian style, so you must consider their needs too when planning your menu.  If you’re hosting a casual backyard barbecue, burgers and hot dogs would be a hit, but it’s essential to offer plant based options too, such as Impossible burgers.  For a more formal event, you might consider a sit-down dinner with multiple courses. Again, it’s essential to have a non-meat option for those guests that prefer not to consume meat. When selecting your menu, aim for a variety of dishes that will appeal to everyone. It’s better to have too much variety than too much of the same dish.
  1. Portion Sizes: Now that you have your menu planned, it’s important to determine the appropriate portion sizes. You don’t want to serve too little and leave guests hungry, but you also don’t want to serve too much and waste food. A serving size for a main course should be about 6-8 ounces per person. Side dishes can be smaller, about 4-6 ounces per person. Keep in mind that some guests may want seconds, so plan for some extra food for those hungry teenagers.
  1. Leftovers: It’s always better to have leftovers than to run out of food, but it’s also important to have a plan for them. If you have a lot of leftovers, consider giving them to your guests or donating them to a local charity. If you don’t think you’ll eat them soon, freeze them for later use. The guidelines below will help you estimate how much food to purchase, so that you don’t have a lot of waste. Keep lots of resealable bags on hand to fill and give away or stick in your freezer.

cooking for a crowd

Here’s a useful chart to help you gauge appropriate amounts for your crowd.


25 servings

50 servings

Meat, Poultry, Fish



3 lbs

6 lbs

Beef, pot roast, boneless

9 lbs

17 lbs

Beef, ground

6-9 lbs

12-15 lbs

Chicken or turkey

13 lbs

25-30 lbs

Fish filets

7 ½  lbs

15 lbs

Ham, bone in

9 lbs

17 lbs

Pork loin roast, bone in

13 lbs

25 lbs


6 ½ lbs

13 lbs

Salads & Relishes


Cranberry sauce

3 1-lb cans

6 1-lb cans

Salad dressing

3 cups

1 ½  qts


2 cups

1 qt

Olives or pickles

1 qt

2 qt

Lettuce, shredded

3-5 lbs

6-9 lbs

Cabbage, raw, shredded

4-5 lbs

8-10 lbs

Jello salad

¾ gal.

1 ½ gal.

Potato salad

4 ¼ qts

2 ¼ gal.




3 lbs

6 lbs


3 ½ lbs

7 lbs


2 ½ lbs

5 lbs

Side Dishes


Baked beans

¾ gal.

1 ½ gal

Frozen peas, green beans, corn

5 lbs or 4-5 20 oz. packages

11 lbs


7-12 lbs

15-22 lbs

Scalloped potatoes

9 qts or 2 ¼ gal.

18 qts or 4 ½ gal.

Yams or sweet potatoes

6 lbs

12 lbs


3 lbs (raw)

6 lbs (raw)



Layered cake

1 12” cake

3 10” cakes

Sheet cake

1 10”x12” cake

1 12”x 20” cake

Ice cream

3 ½ qts

6 ½ qts


38 lbs

75 lbs

Whipped cream

1 pint

2 pints

cooking for large groups

Here are some last minute tips to help you plan and take the stress out of feeding a large group.

1. Keep your menu simple. Don’t plan more than is necessary and be sure you can handle it.

2. Select foods that are familiar and popular with most people. Choose menu items that are not complicated to make or that need a lot of last-minute attention.  You want to choose food that doesn’t lose its attractiveness sitting out for a period of time. Remember, Jello melts when left sitting in the sun.

3. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Enlist the aid of others. Print up your recipe with careful and complete instructions and pass them out.  Give clear notes and descriptions so that the dishes come out looking relatively the same.

4. Watch for sales and specials—especially on your meat or poultry to keep costs down. Use fruits and vegetables in season. When possible serve home-made items instead of store-bought.  Everyone will love it!

All in all, if you’re cooking for a large crowd, don’t be overwhelmed! There can be plenty of pleasure in the experience of bringing together people to share a meal. Keep it simple and plan ahead, so that you can enjoy mixing with your guests too. To take the guesswork out of food preparation, use the chart in this post to know exactly how much food to make for each person. This way, there will be enough food while saving time, money, and effort.The good times will come easy if you plan ahead with the help of these tips. So show off your culinary and organizational skills by wreaking havoc in the kitchen, keeping your sanity intact, giving yourself enough time, all while giving those you are feeding a delicious meal they won’t forget Here’s to an enjoyable gathering with good eats— you’ve got this! 

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