Cooking at Home for the Holidays: Scaling Recipes

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By Candace Tucker, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, UGA Extension Coweta County

Whether you are celebrating big or small this holiday season, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to scale a recipe.

So, what exactly does scale a recipe mean? Scaling a recipe means that you adjust ingredient quantities to increase or decrease the amount of food it produces. Initially, this sounds simple, but there is a bit more to it. Here are a few tips and tricks below to take the mystery out of recipe scaling.

Figure out Your Conversion Factor

A conversion factor is a number used to convert all the ingredient quantities in your recipe. To figure this out, you will divide the desired number of servings by the original number of servings. The number you get is your conversion factor. Here is an example:

Scaling an 8-serving recipe down to 2 servings.

1. Divide 2 by 8, which equals a conversion factor of 0.25.

2. Multiply each ingredient by 0.25. For example, if you have a recipe that calls for 3 quarts of chicken stock, multiply 3 quarts by 0.25 (3 quarts x 0.25 = 0.75 quarts).

3. To convert quarts into cups, refer to this conversion chart:

Conversion Chart

To give you a better idea of how to convert to another type of measurement, let us take a look again at our chicken stock ingredient. The amount we need to scale our recipe down is 0.75 quarts. There are 32 ounces in a quart, 32 × 0.75 = 24 ounces.

There are 8 ounces in a cup, so: 24 ÷ 8 = 3. This means 0.75 quarts is equal to approximately 3 cups. Easy peasy!

How Much Can You Scale Up?

Scaling above multiples of four can give you inconsistent results. Certain recipes can be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled. If you need more than a quadruple, make several batches. You may have to do a little more mixing, but the finished product should be more predictable.

Other Considerations and Adjustments

1. Spices and Seasonings: A good rule of thumb is to always start low and taste each time you adjust the seasonings. A doubled recipe should include only 1.5 times the amount of seasonings the original recipe called for. For recipes that are halved, you might need a little less than half.

2. Butter and Oil: There is no need to double the amount of fat used for sauteing or browning.

3. Pan size: If you are doubling the recipe, use a pan that will hold double the volume or two original size pans. Make sure the depth of the food is the same as it was in the original recipe. This ensures even cooking and prevents you from having an uncooked, mushy center, and burnt edges. For thicker baked goods, back the temperature down about 25°F and cook for a little longer. For thinner baked goods, up the temperature about 25°F and cook for less time.

4. Temperature: Stick with the cooking temperatures in the recipe. Watch closely for signs of doneness and/or cook the food until it is the internal temperature the recipe recommends by checking it with a food thermometer. However, if you have multiple batches in the oven, up the cooking time or raise the oven temperature by about 25°F to compensate.

5. Time: For scaled-down recipes, a halved recipe might only take 75% of the original time.

6. Baked goods like yeast bread, cakes, pies, soufflés, and custards do not do well when they are scaled. It is best to prepare multiple batches of them separately, as specified in the recipe.

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Candace Tucker is the Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Agent for University of Georgia (UGA) Cooperative Extension Coweta County. Her role involves providing Coweta residents unbiased, research-based information on health, nutrition, financial management, home safety and family relationships through educational programs and community outreach.

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