Help estimating how much to feed a large crowd?
June 28, 2006 1:48 PM   Subscribe

10 pounds of cole slaw? 75 hamburgers? I don't want to screw this one up!

I need to prepare a picnic-style meal for a group of 60-100 people. I can get by with the basics--burgers, sausage, veggie-something-or-other, potato salad, etc.--but I have no idea how much of everything to get. Can anyone point me to any resources, or make a completely uneducated guess?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly to Food & Drink (14 answers total)
I'd suggest simply getting a recipie and multiplying it, but something to keep in mind is that flavors tend to do weird things when multiplied many times over, so keep it in mind.
posted by GilloD at 1:52 PM on June 28, 2006

Ask your local deli or grocery store. Usually they do catering with deli platters, sandwiches, etc. They'll be able to advise you on how much you will need (even though you aren't ordering from them).
posted by necessitas at 1:55 PM on June 28, 2006

To be safe, since people tend to pig out at picnics/cookouts, I would estimate at least 2 burgers (or hot dogs, or whatever) per person. And have some extras on hand. To make it easy on yourself, I would buy pre-formed patties. And an equivalent number of buns.

Get Costco-Sized containers of ketcup, mustard, etc.

I would estimate 1/2 cup portions each of salads (potato, macaroni, cole salw), but I'd stick with no more than 2 of those.

I'd also get several large bags of potato chips, pretzels, etc, and a couple of watermelons (they are huge and delicious and refreshing).

I hope that helps...the most I have helped serve and shop for has been 50 though.
posted by tastybrains at 1:57 PM on June 28, 2006

Also, in some areas, there are catering places that specialize in cookouts & clam-bakes. It might be a little more expensive, but possibly worth the extra cost.
posted by tastybrains at 1:58 PM on June 28, 2006

the joy of cooking (i have a very old edition) has a calculator of portions per person as translates into how much of something to make or buy for a gathering. any "woman's entertaining" book, pre-1975, had one; i'd imagine that most books aimed at throwing better parties or being a better host/ess would have one as well.

i have no idea if any of these resources are online, however.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:00 PM on June 28, 2006

Here's a food buying guide that might help. It doesn't list burgers or cole slaw specifically, but gives average serving sizes and weights for several kinds of salads and meats. Click up top (the links under Pages in this Story) to get to all the sections.
posted by iconomy at 2:00 PM on June 28, 2006

We just had an event where we expected about how many you are expecting.... we had 80 burger patties (1/4 pound) of burgers... we had probably 20 some burgers leftover.

We had 60 brats. 30 leftover.

Maybe about 40 hot dogs... 30 leftover.

Although less people showed up than we were expecting (not sure what the final count was, maybe 50-60?) and we also had a lot of side dishes. Two or three bags of potato chips will be enough. We had something like 6 bags (we went by "servings" on the bag) and that was way too much.
posted by starman at 2:03 PM on June 28, 2006

Response by poster: Wow. Everyone's been very fast.

I should have been more clear that I am not cooking (I will be grilling meat, but everything else needs to be store-bought). We're feeding a giant group of out-of-town campaign volunteers, and I like the standard picnic format because we can get individual local volunteers to each provide a bit (Leigh gets buns, Dick gets cole slaw, etc.).

tastybrains: I was going to forget kethcup and mustard! Jesus, what kind of political strategist am I?

So, at 1/2 cup each of the salads, 20 pounds of cole slaw and 20 pounds of potato salad ought to work? Holy crap!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:08 PM on June 28, 2006

My 2 cents, but 1/2 cup servings of salad per person seems pretty low. I wouldn't estimate a huge amount more than that, but definitely a little more.

Also: if you're worried about having way too much left over, maybe find a food bank or charity in advance you could donate any surplus to.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:26 PM on June 28, 2006

A little googling landed me on this page, which is practically a whitepaper on the subject. Note in particular the linked tables. Looks like they've got it all laid out for you.
posted by adamrice at 2:28 PM on June 28, 2006 [2 favorites]

DO NOT forget veggie burgers/hot dogs. in a group of about 100 people, there are bound to be vegetarians, and we get really disappointed when we can't enjoy the barbecue.
posted by alon at 3:24 PM on June 28, 2006

Response by poster: alona:
I've got that covered. I'll be doing the grilling--and I'm a vegetarian.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:27 PM on June 28, 2006

Don't forget salt, pepper, napkins, plastic flatware, garbage bags, charcoal/lighter fluid or charcoal chimney (or full gas tank on gas grill).

Time your cooking right. Number of patties that will comfortably fit on the grill surface / 100 = number of grill runs needed to cook all hamburgers. Runs x patty cooking time = total hamburger time.

For example, if you can only fit 10 burgers at a time on your grill, you need 10 runs. If it's 6 minutes to cook a burger it's 1 hour minimum to cook the burgers you need. (Unless your eaters are showing up in dribs and drabs over an hour.)

Do not neglect to salt and pepper the hamburgers. They do not come seasoned.

For my money, red/yellow/orange bell peppers and sliced marinated zucchini are the easiest veg to grill for a crowd. Dolly them up with salt and pepper, squeezed lemon, extra virgin olive oil, grated Romano. Sliced marinated portobellos and asparagus are lovely too if you've got a little more time to fuss.
posted by sacre_bleu at 5:12 PM on June 28, 2006

And something to go with the burgers (some sort o' sauce?)

Is there a way to keep all this food cool/insect free? Food poisoning and man eating ants ruin any picnic.
posted by oxford blue at 7:07 PM on June 28, 2006

« Older Choose my new gadget.   |   %#\D* Macromedia! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.