Easy Ways to Scale a Recipe

clear glass measuring cup on white ceramic plate

You’ve got family coming over and your favorite beef stew recipe serves 4, but you’ve got 7 people coming. What are you going to do? One option is to scale the recipe, so you can serve more people, but it’s not always as straightforward as it seems. Here are some tips to make your recipe scaling a success.

The Basics – Find Your Recipe Conversion Factor

The easiest approach to scaling a recipe is to multiplying the ingredients to the portion size you need and to do that, you need to calculate your recipe conversion factor. For example, if you are going to make a pasta sauce that served 6, but you need it for 12, you can multiply all the ingredients by 2 and 2 is your conversion factor.

The precise formula is:

number of servings you want ÷ number of servings in recipe = your magic number

Of course, you can run into problems with this if you need 1 3/8 tsp of basil and you don’t have a 3/8 measure. In this case, use your judgment and simply round off the number and up it to 1 ¼ teaspoons. It’s not likely to make a crucial difference.

Still, there are more problematic ingredients. What if you end up needing 3 ½ eggs? That gets a little trickier. Also keep in mind that some recipes don’t scale well, including baked goods. If you decide scaling is not a good idea, we’ve got some tips for you at the end of this article.

Things to Consider with Scaling

There are couple of things to consider including cooking time and your cooking dishes.

Cooking Time: If you’re preparing larger or smaller portions, it may alter your cooking time. Allow for more time if making larger portions and if you’re cooking meat; make sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure the appropriate internal temperature is reached.

Cooking Dishes: If you’re making baked macaroni and you halve the recipe, try to find a dish that will keep the macaroni at the same depth as the original recipe. For example, if the recipe called for a 13 x 9 inch pan, find a rectangular or square pan about half the size. That will help ensure your cooking time will be roughly the same.

If It Doesn’t Scale Well

 If you discover your recipe won’t do well with scaling, and the recipe is too large, go ahead and make the full recipe.  You can portion and freeze any unused amounts. Allow the food to cool completely before freezing. Also, remove any air from freezer bags and make sure that your freezer-safe containers are nearly full, so there isn’t any extra air. And finally, don’t forget to date and label what you’ve got, so you can come back to it later.

If the recipe is too small, but won’t scale well, cook it in batches. That way, you can ensure you’ve made the recipe according to the specifications, but still get the portion you need.