Many times we find a recipe that just sounds too good and can't
wait to try it. Then, we look at it and realize that the number
of servings listed is either too few or too many. At this point,
we have the quandary of how to alter the recipe for the number of
servings we need.
This is not quite as simple as halving or doubling the recipe.
There are many pitfalls in such a simplistic way of adjusting a
recipe. Many failed recipes are the result of not being aware of
a few, simple guidelines when attempting such an adjustment to the
Some recipe books embrace the philosophy of "A recipe is
a precisely designed formula for a perfect result every time".
I say, "Horse apples!" My philosophy of any recipe
is: "No recipe is perfect" (except for most involving
pastries and baking).
Here are some very basic guidelines when altering the number of
servings for a recipe:
- Always try to use an even number when attempting to multiply
number of servings for a recipe.
- If you desire to decrease the number of servings from a recipe,
always try to divide by an even number.
- Always increase or decrease measurements proportionally. There
is one Major Exception to this rule: Salt. Hold back on increasing
salt content. You can always go back and increase salt later if
you deem it necessary.
- Not all recipes are easily divided in half easily. Look at the
lowest common denominator and adjust accordingly. For example,
you really don't want to try to have to figure out what half an
- The timing of the cooking can, and often does, change with an
increase or decrease in the quantity of the adjusted recipe. This
is where using your own cooking sense. Visual guides (is it browned
yet?) and measuring internal temperatures are crucial to the success
of your altered recipe.
DOUBLING A RECIPE
Some foods, such as pastas, double easily. If the recipe calls
for a half pound of pasta, and you need one pound, double the amount
of pasta and the water. You may also need a larger pot (something
to always keep in mind when increasing a recipe).
Another thing to keep in mind is that cooking times will change
with increases or decreases in the quantities stated in the recipe.
For example, if you double a cookie recipe and need two cookie sheets,
you will need to increase the baking time slightly. Another guideline
is to reduce the cooking temperature in the oven by about 25 degrees
(F) for more fragile cookies. Also, place one cookie sheet above
the other on the oven racks and switch them halfway through the
cooking to ensure that the baking is even.
Ha! You think THAT was easy? Now it's time for your MATH TEST!
Okay, I'm in charge here, so I will say that you have to know how
to measure in English standard, not metric.
Here it is: Convert a recipe (all ingredients) from a serving for,
let's say, 2 to serving portions for 8.
How do you do it? (Answer at end of article)
Doubling For Sautéing
Using a larger pan is easy enough for sautéing in a larger
amount. But there are drawbacks. If the pan is too large for the
burner you are using, it will heat unevenly. If you are faced with
that problem, use a smaller pan and cook in batches. (Batches being
smaller amounts of the total amount you desire). Also, when sautéing
in larger amounts, it is not always necessary to increase the amount
of oil or butter required. Again, use your own judgment. You can
add more oil or butter if you deem it necessary while sautéing.
The One Caveat of Doubling a Recipe
Always avoid doubling recipes for eggs in the same pan. If you
are making omelets or scrambled eggs, it's best to make small batches
matching the original recipe. If you attempt to make all at once
in one pan, there is a very good chance your eggs will turn to steel
belted radials that taste like the rubber on the treads.
Reducing Recipe Serving Amounts
It's pretty easy to halve a recipe. Just divide by two in most
cases. ( yeah, there are exceptions, but they are so rare as to
just ignore them in this article). One important point to remember
is that by reducing the number of ingredients, you also reduce the
cooking time in most cases. There will be fewer ingredients in the
pan, pot or oven, thus they will cook much faster. So, either remove
the food from the pan, pot or oven sooner, or reduce the recommended
cooking temperature slightly. Cookies and muffins are notoriously
prone to burning in reduced recommended recipe amounts. To save
your cookies from burning, as already noted, use a smaller baking
pan to reduce the chance of the pan overheating. With muffins, any
unused cups in the muffin pan (this applies to cupcakes as well)
should be filled with about an inch of water to ensure the pan doesn't
overheat and burn your buns. Er, I mean, muffins.
One guide to never try to break is that most baking recipes, especially
for cakes, have been perfected for the exact sizes and serving portions
mentioned. Never attempt to increase or decrease them. You are almost
guaranteed to fail in such an effort. If you need more, cook multiple
batches as directed instead of trying to double or triple what is
in the recipe. If you need to reduce the recipe, go to a bakery.
Well, I'm not talented enough on this newfangled computer thingy
to print it to you right, so here it is in descriptive:
The formula is: "New Yield" (how much you want) over
(divided by) "Old Yield" (how much the recipe is for)
Equals "conversion factor".
Now, multiply each ingredient by the formula: "conversion
factor x old quantity = new quantity"
(in the US measurement system, you usually have to convert all
weights to ounces and all measures (liquid) to fluid ounces. In
the metric system, this is not usually necessary, lazy Brits).
Okay. Now you know how to convert a recipe - unless you don't understand
US measurements. In that case, let me know by email if you want
me to post a complete list of US measurements used in cooking (cups,
teaspoons, tablespoons, etc) next time.
Keep on cooking!
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