Judging food quantities when cooking for a crowd can be a worrying task. What if the food runs out? What if there’s too much and we end up wasting it all? These are thoughts that used to go through my head constantly when starting out with wedding catering. It’s essentially a careful balancing act, cooking enough that everyone feels they’ve been generously fed, without cooking so much that food is wasted. It took a bit of research and plenty of trial and error, but thankfully I never once was attacked by a hungry bride for ruining their big day…I imagine hell hath no fury like an angry bride.
One thing you do need to consider is who are you catering for? Is it a tea party for someone’s 80th or a massive 21st birthday party? As you can imagine, a group of 80 year old ladies are less likely to smash through a buffet than a group of 21 year old lads (although I’m sure there are a few old dears willing to test that theory). For this reason, you will need to tailor the quantities dependent on the crowd. Another factor to consider is if people are sharing the dish amongst themselves. Humans aren’t all that bad and eat a bit less when they have to share!
If you’re just getting started in the kitchen, Leiths ‘How to cook’ is a really useful book to have and is definitely worth investing in. It has a page dedicated to catering quantities and I’ve found the numbers here to be very helpful (most of the quantities below are from this book). Dependent on the crowd, take the lower or higher number per person and hopefully you should end up hitting the sweet spot of not too much and not too little.
Fish & shellfish
Whole fish 350-400g
Fish steak/fillet 140g (starter) 170g (main)
Prawns 60-90g (starter) 150g (main)
Mussels/clams 200g (starter) 400-450g (main)
Fish stew 170g
Beef/lamb/pork steaks 170-225g
Beef/lamb/pork mince for burgers etc. 170-200g
Chicken breast 200-225g
Roast chicken (whole) 350g, an average chicken will do 4 people
Roast turkey (on the bone) allow 450g per person
Roast duck 1.25-1.5kg serves 2, 2-2.5kg serves 4-6
Roast beef/lamb/pork 350g on the bone, 225g off
Roast Beef/lamb/pork fillet 170-200g
Stews/curries/braised dishes 225g meat/poultry
Mince dishes (ragu, moussaka etc.) 125g
These vary massively depending on the type of dish, a vegan main will be packed with them where a meatier dish might only have some as a side, but as a rule of thumb the following quantities should work.
Vegetables as a side dish 100g
At the end of a meal 60-70g
In a salad 50g
Before a meal 6-8
With drinks 5-6 per hour