quantity cooking buffet

Quantity Cooking for the Family Reunion

"Quantity cooking" is a fancy way of saying,

"There are WAY too many
people coming for dinner!"

Cooking for groups can be tricky – if for no other reason, the larger the group, the bigger the pans you need to have and the more dishes there are to wash.

If you’ve been put in charge of preparing a community or church meal or are planning your family reunion food, you might find the following quantity cooking tips helpful.

Menu Planning

  • Know your facility’s rules regarding bringing food on site (some locations require you to use their food service or choose from specific caterers)

  • Add filling foods (such as bread, chips, nuts) to ensure no one goes hungry

  • Don’t repeat a main ingredient

  • Offer hot and cold choices, especially with the appetizers or in the buffet

  • Mix food textures

  • Consider colors (food that looks appetizing naturally tastes better)

    {SIDE NOTE: You can find recipes specifically intended for large groups at www.cooks.com. Just do a quick search on “quantity cooking.”}

  • Know the kitchen you’ll be using – and plan around it. The number of serving dishes, ovens, refrigerators, amount of preparation area, etc. can vary significantly

  • Make a list of items you need

  • Plan - and write out - a food preparation and serving timeline

  • Rental stores can provide you with needed equipment such as chafing dishes, serving plates, linens and specialty items such as a popcorn machine, chocolate fountain or helium tank

  • Stick with the basics – use tried and true recipes with few ingredients


  • Estimating the amount of food you need is very difficult and depends on a number of factors, including how many people you anticipate, the time of day and the type of function. The goal with quantity cooking (or with any potluck, for that matter) is to have plenty of food for everyone to eat but without leftovers.

    {SIDE NOTE: If you need help estimating portions and quantities (and who doesn’t) try searching for “cooking for a crowd” articles at www.allrecipes.com. They list individual serving portions for various food types, as well as menu suggestions for each season.}

  • More food choices equal smaller size calculation (but assume everyone will want at least a taste of every dish available)

  • Purchase cold foods last

  • If you’re cooking with a crockpot, you can purchase cheaper cuts of meat since slow cooking tenderizes

Preparation, Service
& Clean Up

  • If you can, prepare and freeze food ahead of time

  • Ensure you have the proper equipment available, including clean water if you’re outside and adequate refrigerator space

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold

  • Wash your hands, don’t cross contaminate cutting boards, use a thermometer to test doneness

    {SIDE NOTE: Safe food handling is no laughing matter. The United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service has prepared “Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety,” specifically for quantity cooking and individuals who are cooking for groups.}

  • Ask for help, take charge, make assignments

Family Favorite Potluck Recipes

Chicken Pita Pockets

8 cubed cooked chicken breasts
4 cucumbers, cubed
4 tomatoes, cubed
12 green onions, sliced
1 cup lemon juice
¾ cup oil
1 tsp garlic powder
4 tsp sugar
1 T basil
2-3 heads lettuce
pita pockets

In a bowl, combine chicken, cucumber, tomato and onions. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, sugar and basil; mix well. Pour over chicken mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, mix with lettuce, torn in small pieces. Serve in pitas.

Baked Beans

1 lb bacon, fried (or use bacon bits)
1 green pepper, cut in fine pieces
2 onions, chopped
3 large cans pork & beans
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 small bottle catsup (14 oz)

Bake 3 hours at 255 degrees with the lid on; uncover for the last ½ hour.


Cook in crockpot on high for 3-4 hours.

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