Chris Van Dyke


Scaling to size

I have a favorite recipe that I would like to use for a large gathering. What is the easiest way to increase the amount my recipe will serve?

This is a great question and refers to a process called scaling a recipe to size. This can easily be accomplished with some very simple math. First let me introduce a couple of terms to better explain the process.

  • Yield or servings refers to the amount a recipe will make. This amount can be identified as a number such as 4 servings or 1 loaf of bread, or as a quantity such as 1 cup of sauce or 1 pound of sausage.
  • Original yield (servings) refers to the amount the original recipe makes. Typically, you will find the original yield at the top of the recipe.
  • New yield (servings) refers to the amount you want the recipe to make. For instance, 12 loaves of bread, 100 servings of meatballs, 2 cups of gravy, etc. Please note that the new yield has nothing to do with the amount the original recipe yields, it only represents the amount of the item you wish to make for your event.
  • Conversion factor refers to the relationship between the new yield (what you want the recipe to make) and the original yield (what the original recipe makes). The conversion factor is a number that you will use to multiple each of the ingredients measurements by in order to scale your recipe to size.

With this information, the formula is simple. All you need to do is divide the new yield by the original yield to get the conversion factor. Here is an example. A Vegetarian Asian Peanut Stir Fry makes 6 servings and I wish to scale it up to 30 servings. 30 servings (new yield) divided by 6 servings (original yield) equals 5 (conversion factor). Here is the original and scaled recipe side by side.

As you can see when a recipe is scaled up the smaller units can be complicated to measure. For instance, measuring 15 tablespoons of honey will be very time consuming at best. Here is a quick reference for converting units of measure up and down.

Looking at this chart you can see that there are 16 tablespoons in a cup. In this instance, I would measure out a little less than one cup of honey to get close to the 15 tablespoons. Ten tablespoons of sake would be one half cup plus two tablespoons. Five teaspoons of ginger would be one tablespoon plus two teaspoons. And five tablespoons of cornstarch would be one quarter cup plus one tablespoon.

One thing to keep in mind when scaling. If your new yield is bigger than the original yield, then your conversion factor will be greater than 1. If your new yield is smaller than the original yield, then your conversion factor will be less than one.

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