I decided to open the English version of my blog with this post for a reason. Like in every other field, also in the kitchen you cannot control what you cannot measure. And measurements, when coming to cooking, come in numbers. How many times you tried to plan a BBQ party, or just any meal having lots of people invited, and found yourself the next morning having your fridge stuffed up to its ears with leftovers? Speaking about myself, been there countless number of times. So, after one of those occasions, I made myself to open a spreadsheet and worked out a way to plan a meal for any amount of people, making sure there will be no leftovers. Well, almost, cause, you know… one thing you cannot control and that is how hungry your guests are 🙂
All right! So you’ve done your head count, let’s start planning. Our first task would be to figure out how much meat an average adult can eat. Let me tell you, it is absolutely bulletproof to assume about 1/2 lb, raw of course. Too less, you think? Think again. Meat won’t be the only thing on that table, right? So trust me on that one – 1/2 lb will be just fine.
Next, I want to walk you through some more or less basic weights of typically grilled or BBQ’ed food. A kabob skewer would weigh about 1/4 lb. A chicken thigh – pretty much the same, and I am talking about meat only, bone left out. An average steak (rib eye or a New York strip) – 12 oz, give or take. Chicken wings are about 6 pieces per lb, and, when counting burgers, I usually go by 1/4 lb a piece. That said, if your friends are true carnivores, like myself, and prefer the meat over the carbs and sides, I suggest to double the weight of a portion and count at least 1 lb per person.
My typical meal would be, just like in a restaurant, a first course, an entree, some salad or a side dish and a dessert. So I usually plan 1/3 of the “meat load” as a first course, and the remaining 2/3 – for the entree. Say, the first course would be the chicken wings, about 2 per person, giving us 1/3 lb, and the entree – a decent 14 oz rib eye… That’ll give you a bit more than 1 lb per person, which is just about right.
Now, when we’re done planning the main part, let’s see what else we have to plan. Drinks – approximately 1/4 gallon per person, alcohol not counted :). Beers, wine and other spirits you better plan based on how well you know your guests. Fresh vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, spring onions etc) – I usually plan 1 lb per 3 persons, but feel free to change that according to your eating habits. Buns or pita bread – 2 per person, and if you prefer some other bread, just make an equivalent. Any side dish you plan, think of a 1/4 lb per person, especially if it is some heavy stuff like beans or potatoes.
Let’s not forget about kids. I would say, kids all times preference would be the hamburger. I also think you do not want your kid to eat more than 1 hamburger, spoken by someone who’s been way overweight all his life. So that’s going to be your count – 1 hamburger per kid.
When planning a big meal, one of the most important things is the food cost. A party for 20 people can be quite a burden. I usually do the calculation based on a very simple formula, suggested to me by one of my chef friends. Take your meal main ingredient cost, add to it 25%, and that’ll be your budget, with about 10-15$ deviation.
Those calculations work for me every time. Just few days ago I planned a party for 35 people, and my method proved itself once again – noone left hungry, and there were almost no leftovers. So, start planning! 🙂