Cooking for a Crowd Article -
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Cooking for a Crowd

How much is enough? Here's how to make food and drink to last the whole event, but not leftovers to feed an army.

Guest-imating: How Much Food to Fix?

The amount of food you plan for your party can change depending on the time of day, type of food, or even by the people attending (have you watched teenagers eat?). But as a general rule, consider these guidelines for individual portions:

  • Eight appetizer pieces: appetizers should consist of two to three bites
  • Three ounces of dip or salsa (about 1/3 cup per person)
  • One cup of soup (less if it’s a thick soup, like chowder)
  • Three ounces of salad (about one cup)
  • Six ounces of meat or main entrée
  • Five ounces of starch (potato, pasta, or rice)
  • One and a half pieces of dessert

Though you can easily apply these numbers to whatever size crowd you're cooking for, let's try a sample shopping list based on a guest list of 10 people. 

Chicken, beef, fish, or pork

  • Four pounds

Potato or pasta salads

  • Three pounds of potatoes
  • One pound of dry pasta

Hot dogs or sausage (main dish)

  • 20 hot dogs
  • Three pounds of sausage such as bratwurst or kielbasa


  • Shrimp: two to three pounds, pre-cooked and peeled, or three pounds if raw and unpeeled
  • Clams and mussels: two pounds

Soups and stews

  • One half gallon if served as an appetizer
  • One gallon if served as a main dish

Green salads

  • Two to three large heads of lettuce, or two pounds green salad mix
  • Three cups of dressing

Of course, how you mix and match what you are serving affects how much you should make. For any two main dishes, such as chicken and fish, four pounds total are necessary, not four pounds of each. But consider adding a pound to the total, as many will want to try both dishes.



    • One gallon for every 10 guests

    Beer, wine and cocktails

    • Two drinks per person, per hour is a good guess

    Check out our cocktail party advice:

    Suggested Menus

    Here are some menu ideas to get you started--something perfect for every season!

    Jul. 15, 2009 7:23 am
    I'm always cooking in bulk it seems. Some of these recipes will be great to Team Up with my friends.
    Feb. 1, 2010 11:12 am
    How do i make sloppy joes for 50'ty.
    Apr. 17, 2010 6:59 am
    Make the meat as usual (1 regular package usually feeds 6). I would say you will need about 8-9 packages. I think the package size that I'm talking about is about 2 lbs or so. Make meat as usual, get everything ready and I think the easiest and best way would be to serve the bread on a buffet table and let your guests fill their bread! Unless you want to serve them, fill, serve, fill serve so the meat doesn't get cold. Have fun!
    mj elsom 
    Jun. 19, 2010 12:33 pm
    We're going to hyave a July 1st barbecue. Our Community has been having these hamburger/hot dog bbq's for years using premade/frozen meat patties. I've convinced the Group for my crew and I to make "homemade" meat patties. The Group's concern is that the burgers will fall apart on the grill. They have been cooking frozen patties in the past and they are ugly, tasteless and dry. How can I prove to everyone that hand made patties can be easily cooked and perhaps partially frozen for easier handling. We're cooking for 160 persons ... is there a recipe and tips you can offer? Many thanks. I look forward to your reply. Jeanette Elsom
    Jun. 20, 2010 5:33 am
    Hi Jeanette Did you get a recipe yet? If not then I always use home made patties for BBQ's. I use only dry herbs and spices (onion, garlic, salt, pepper, ground bay leaves etc). Alternatively you can purchase a package of seasoning (sloppy joe mix is pretty good). If you add any wet seasonings then the patties tend to fall apart. I mix everything together and shape into patties. I then freeze them over night (or longer since you are making so many). If you cook them from frozen as you would a store purchased pattie then they tend not to fall apart. Have a fun BBQ! Kiwi
    Jul. 1, 2010 10:19 am
    there is NO way one pound of pasta would feed 10 people!!!!
    Jul. 16, 2010 4:47 pm
    the pasta portion listed is for pasta salad, not pasta as an entree.for a pasta entree its more like 1 lb for every 4-6 people depending on their appetites and how heavy a sauce you put on it. for example, 1lb of pasta served with a hearty tomato based meat sauce will feed more people than the same amount of pasta tossed with olive oil and herbs.
    Jul. 29, 2010 12:38 pm
    ....this numbers sound good for a "taste" pound of chicken cutles will feed only about 4 guests... and that's considering there's also other entrees. A traditional reception buffet will have 2 starches; two proteins (for instance, fish and chicken) vegetables, Salad, Bread, and in many cases also a "carving" station with one or two other protains. You can take your chance and play with smaller quantities if appetizers are being pass around, or a fruit/vegetables/antipasti display is going to be present.
    Aug. 16, 2010 5:44 am
    I am doing a breakfast for 40 teenage boys (the football team). Thinking of having scrambled eggs, cheesy potatoes, and ham. Any suggestions?
    Aug. 27, 2010 7:21 am
    sissy - Pancakes!! You can make them in advance, freeze, and then reheat in the oven or microwave. There's also a recipe called Bacon for a Crowd. You could use that one, too ;o)
    Aug. 29, 2010 9:50 am
    Grear Info!
    Aug. 29, 2010 9:50 am
    Great info!
    Sep. 2, 2010 8:46 am
    Meatballs great choice for a Crowd .You can make basic meatball and make many variations ...spicy ,BBQ,italian ,Asian and ,,and.Sauce is the flavor.Also you can add rice into meatballs.
    Sep. 5, 2010 8:34 pm
    Excellent article above for having enough food but not too much. I have hosted multiple large party groups for years and use a similar formula taking into account 1.35 lb/person + 20 oz of drink. I keep a few frozen things in reserve just in case I do run short from the estimate. It's a good way to make sure guests don't go hungry in a pinch!
    Sep. 8, 2010 11:23 am
    There must be a book called Cooking for a Crowd... I will try to find one at the book store.
    Mom of 2 
    Oct. 19, 2010 8:44 am
    Cooking for a large crowd of 125 adults. Plan on a ham and roasted chicken. Any suggestions?
    Sep. 10, 2011 10:02 am
    sissy: Try making scrambled egg muffins from the AllRecipes site, you can make ahead and warm up in oven. Add biscuits, rolls, fruit, cornbread, salad, salsa and chips,or any number of additions.
    Oct. 15, 2011 3:12 pm
    I'm making meatballs in marinara sauce for an afternoon 50th anniversary party. If I read the article right, for 100 people that would be about 40 pounds of ground beef. Is that correct?
    May 4, 2012 8:29 pm
    This article is very helpful, I am always cooking for large crowds and I account for how much i need in my own way, but this was good know for the future :)
    Aug. 17, 2012 5:05 pm
    How much chili should I make for a crowd of 70-80 as a side dish?
    Feb. 14, 2013 2:27 pm
    I read a recipe for cooking steaks for a crowd on allrecipe site I thought it was an article, but cant find it it told how to grill or pan fry steaks and hold in a oven for an hour or two or even to cook the day before does anyone know how to find this recipe?
    Jun. 10, 2013 7:17 am
    HHHHHEEEELLLLPPPPP I am having a graduation party for a family member I have my menu but not how much is needed in the meat section I checked the recipes on here and adjusted them accordingly but i feel having more than one meat I should not make what it says example i am planning on 80 folks. I am serving ham, Chicken and Rigatoni ( ? is how much of each do i need to feed 80 any suggestions
    Jul. 22, 2013 12:28 pm
    My husband and I are doing a pig roast and need suggestions for the starch and sides. Any help?
    Aug. 25, 2013 6:04 am
    I have been cooking for church meals for many years and the one thing that is always a hit is our ULTIMATE BAKED POTATO AND SALAD BAR. It is so well liked that I do it on a monthly basis. The key is to make sure you have all the fixins for them to dress up their potato and salad the way they like it. Give it a try !
    Aug. 25, 2013 6:07 am
    When planning a party always allow 1/4 pound of meat per person. That will ensure you have enough for everyone
    Aug. 26, 2013 1:34 pm
    Help! 50 people are coming and I want to serve a beef, a chicken, and a vegetarian dish. I have professional catering dishes. Want easy recipes - casseroles? - big salad on the side - wedding cake for dessert.
    Feb. 6, 2014 10:41 am
    Need suggestions for a Brunch to be held March 1st. Hardy eater and many children involved. Needs to be budget wise too.
    Feb. 6, 2014 10:42 am
    The crowd will be about 75 folks,
    Jun. 4, 2014 9:32 am
    I will be cooking spaghetti for about 40. I have 6 lbs which should leave me with a little extra.. But whats the trick to cooking all that pasta and having it done at the same time? I may have access to a very large pot which would take awhile to heat let alone to cook, but I can do that if it will turn out good. Is there another technique for having that much cooked, ready, not over cooked or undercooked.
    love to cook 
    Jun. 16, 2014 10:55 am
    I am planning a party for 100 - mixed men and women. We want to have hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken spiedies and italian meatballs in sauce. How much do I prepare of each of these? There will be 3 different salads to go with this buffet. Thanks!
    Nov. 6, 2014 2:48 am
    very helpful
    May 14, 2015 6:43 am
    I am cooking for 100 youth and 10 adults for a 3 day weekend, in a tent, on propane 2 burner, no refrigeration. good grief! and a budget of about $1.50 per meal = 8 meals plus snacks. I need quantities for dry beans to make chili and bean soup, rice directions for huge pots. I will prep and pre-cook everything I can. Please help. thank you
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