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Mass Production Cooking/Rice Pilaf for 400 Guests


I have been asked to cook the pilaf for a wedding with 400 guests.  I will need to prepare the pilaf ahead of time and reheat it before the wedding.  I have some questions.
1. How far in advance can I prepare the pilaf.
2. How do I reheat the pilaf?  
I will be transporting the cold pilaf 3 hour drive in  ice chests.  
I have noticed a couple restaurants reheating food products in bags in a big pot of hot water.  Would this method work for reheating?  What type of bag are they using?  If reheated this way, do I heat it to 165 temperature?  
My recipe is:
1 Cube Butter,  2 coils vermicelli,  2 cups Uncle Ben's Converted Rice, 3- 14 oz cans Chicken Broth, 1 tsp salt.  
I'm not sure how many this serves but I need this recipe to be converted to feed 400.
I usually make on top of the stove, but I have access to a commercial convection oven.  I have cooked large qty. items before, but not this amount of pilaf.  Any suggestions would be appreciated very much.

Hi Sandy!
Luckily for you, you picked one of the easiest items to make for large production.

A "Pilaf" method differs from the usual simmering or boiling method.  The difference is that the rice is sauteed in fat and aromatics first.  The effect of coating rice with fat is to reduce the "stick-factor".  Rice Pilaf should be fluffier than simmered rice of the same variety.

I've made rice pilaf for thousands of people and the commercial method differs from the usual home method.  This is true mostly because you won't have a saute pan large enough to hold all the ingredients.

You can make rice pilaf 5-7 days in advance, provided it is handled, cooled, and stored properly.  I don't recommend the boil-in-bag method for this much rice.  You'd have a LOT of boiling water on the stove and dozens of bags.  Without using the right bag, you could be exposing people to dangerous plastics in the cooking.

For a commercial method, you'll probably need 8-10 "hotel" or chafing dish pans or aluminum roasting pans with lids.
1)  Place butter or oil in the bottom of the pan and heat it in a 300F oven (instead of stove top)  You can do this with as many pans as will fit into your covection oven.
2)  When the butter is melted or oil hot, add your aromatics (onion/carrot/celery/garlic) if you desire.
3)  Return the pans to the oven to "roast" the vegetables, stirring every few minutes until they are softened.
4)  Add the rice to each pan, stirring to coat in fat.
5)  Add the correct amount of broth and cover the pan.
6)  Reduce oven temperature to 250F and cook until all broth is absorbed.  This is called "gelatinization of starches" and starts to occur at 150F.  

Once the rice is fully cooked, it should be uncovered and cooled as quickly as possible down to 40F.  The standard is down to 70F within 2 hours and down to 40F within 2 hours.  This is sped up by stirring the rice and laying the pans on top of another pan filled with ice.

To reheat, add just a little bit of HOT broth to each pan (perhaps a cup or two), stir to incorporate and cover the pans.  Reheat in a 250F oven until it reaches 165F internal temperature.  This may take 1-2 hours.  A faster way is with a commercial steamer, if you have one.

Now, the portions.  I'd imagine each person will eat 1/2 cup of finished rice.  1/2 cup times 400 people equals 200 total cups of finished rice.  Since rice is cooked at a 2:1 broth to rice ratio, this means you'll need 66 cups of raw rice or 4.125 gallons of dry rice (by volume), and 133 cups of broth or 8.3 gallons.  This can be distributed equally among the 8 hotel pans you have.

Expand the recipe you have to yield 200 total cups of rice for proportion of butter and aromatics. If you have larger eaters, make it 250 cups and expand from there.  It takes a little bit of math.

Remember, you have an AWESOME responsibility to assure the safety of this food.  Potentially hazardous foods must be cooked to 165F, cooled to 40F, reheated to 165F and held hot during service at 140F.  Those that are serving or handling food must be aware of their personal hygiene, especially washing hands.

Good luck with your event.
Chef Todd Mohr, CCE

Mass Production Cooking

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Chef Todd Mohr. CCE


I'd be glad to answer your questions about how basic cooking methods apply equally to cooking for two in your home, or 1000 for an event. Please don't ask me how much to order from the caterer or deli. That's up to them to consult you on. If you are doing the actual cooking, I can help. My expertise is in cooking for more than 100 people. Your questions concerning cooking methods, amount to purchase, portioning, strategies for food service, and food safety for large production are welcomed. There are plenty of recipe websites on the internet. Please don't ask me for recipes. I don't believe in written instructions for cooking anyway. The more information you give while asking your question, the better response I can give. "How do I feed 100 people at my daughter's wedding?" is too broad of a question. "If I plan to offer chicken and beef for 100 people, how much chicken should I purchase?" is a better question. Visit my website at LIKE ChefToddMohr on Facebook Subscribe to ChefToddMohr on YouTube


I'm certified by the American Culinary Federation as a Certified Culinary Educator. I'm currently a Chef Instructor at three different culinary schools in Baltimore, Maryland. Previously an Executive Chef at a large hospital, feeding 3000 people three times daily over 8 different menus. Also a Chef at The National Security Agency in Washington, DC, part of a team feeding 15,000 people twice daily. Then, General Manager/Executive Chef of various Business Dining Cafeterias, feeding thousands daily. My catering company has hosted many large events, feeding up to 1000 people.

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Bachelor of Arts, Long Island University Associate of Arts, Baltimore International Culinary College

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