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Mass Production Cooking/Cooking for 200-250 people


I am in charge of an event for Thanksgiving and I have never done this before. I know what I want the menu to be and I have a crew that will cook but I have no idea how much to prepare. I am serving turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans, sweet potato casserole. I hope you can help me???

Hi Jacquie!

I've answered this question many times. Please review my past answers to similar questions for more information.

However, it's been a while so I'll give you a quick recap.

Your planning should begin with a calculator. You need to figure a basic portion per person (by weight) of all the items you'll serve.

The typical amount that the human stomach can hold is about 12 ounces. So, you shoot for about 12 ounces total of food per person.

In general, you can expect 5 ounces of Turkey or Ham, 4 ounces of mashed pots, 4 ounces of stuffing, 3 fluid ounces of gravy, 3 ounces of string beans and 5 ounces of potatoes (they're more dense).

This can be a starting point. If you're feeding children, make it less. If you're feeding Firemen, make it more, but start with a precise portion and work from there.

So, if you serve 250 people, you'll need 5 ounces times 250 or 1250 total ounces COOKED food or about 78 pounds of finished product. The same goes for the mashed potatoes, 4 ounces times 250 people is 1000 ounces or 65.5 pounds of finished product.

You can read my bio, but suffice it to say I've done hundreds of events like this and can tell you from experience that multiple choices makes it much more difficult on the caterer. In other words, if you have ONLY turkey, then you know you'll need your per-person portion times the number of people served. In this case, it's 78 pounds of product.

But, if you add the Ham, now you must cook for about 300 people because you want to give everyone a choice. For 250 people, you can't just make 125 portions of ham and 125 portions of turkey because if the first 125 people chose turkey, person number 126 will only have ham.

With two entrees and two potato dishes, you have to over-produce past the number of people so that everyone has a choice. You can help avoid waste by making the two entree items smaller portions. I don't know if this is an open-ended buffet where people serve themselves or if you are plating in the kitchen, or if you'll have buffet servers, but I can tell you FOR SURE that people TAKE more food from the buffet than they'll eat.

Make the turkey a 2-3 ounce portion and the ham a 2-3 ounce portion in the chafing dish. Don't let everyone take 4 ounces of ham AND 4 ounces of turkey, the simply won't eat it and it will wind up in the trash.

My recommendation is to buy turkey BREAST instead of whole turkeys that have a lot of "trim loss" on them, meaning you use only about 40% of the meat on a whole bird where you'll use 90% of the meat on a turkey breast. Skip the ham, skip one of the potato dishes and you'll save yourself a lot of wasted food.

When I've done Thanksgiving dinner for 1000 people or more, I make the turkey, gravy and stuffing one dish. This is accomplished by putting 24 scoops of stuffing in a hotel pan. Then, layer 3-4 ounces of sliced turkey breast over the balls of stuffing and cover it with gravy. This way, your turkey and stuffing are already portioned and it will stay hot as a "casserole" much longer than when presented separately.

Lastly, you have an AWESOME responsibility to assure the safety of this food. Be sure you are aware of safe final cooking temperatures (165F for turkey), can keep the food hot (140F or above) during service with chafing dishes, and that everyone who comes in contact with the food practices safe personal hygiene.

This is a big undertaking but I think you can do it. Make the production easier on yourself by limiting items and combining them into one presentation where you can.  

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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