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cooking for large groups

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hello everyone.

First off, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Matt and I've been working in a retail food store for the last 6 years. I recently got a new job doing social work, and although I enjoy it, a large portion of it involves cooking for big numbers, usually between 30-45 people. This may be nothing to you guys, but I have to 'fess up: I barely even know how to cook, let alone for 40 people. :eek: lol. I've got a degree in criminology, not culinary arts. :rolleyes: Luckily, I have helpers in the kitchen; you can think of it as a 'life skills' class, but they still need to be delegated tasks because they need direction. Anyway, I enjoy the job like I said, but I'm just a bit nervous about the cooking aspect. So I've joined this forum in the hopes that you experts can help solve my problems....and I have several questions.

1. What are some good recipes or easy meals to make for approx 40 people? The food preferably has to consist of one hot serving on the plate, not just sandwiches or salad. Keep in mind I have a budget to work with, about $100 per meal --and only one meal is served per day. I must try and include several food groups (grains, meats, dairy, etc) and the clients expect dessert afterwards too. So if you have easy dessert ideas, I'm all ears. :)

2. Can you point me in the direction of any good resources on the web or threads that discuss cooking for large groups.

3. Thirdly, I have to cook whole turkeys next week (early thanks giving) and I've never cooked one in my life, and certainly not for 40 people. lol. Any tips? How many turkeys (and what size) would I need to make 40 servings? Any turkey cooking tips would be greatly appreciated (my employer will allow me a slightly bigger budget for this meal preparation).

Thanks so much for your help and I look forward to talking with you all and being part of this forum.

Matt :)
post #2 of 11
Hey Matt...

A couple years ago I put out a Thanksgiving newsletter that will be a big help to you, I just need to find it...gimme a day or so...

As far as your cooking in volume goes, there is a book that is called "Cooking for Fifty" I cannot recall who wrote it but it should not be that hard to find and should help you some.

I do major volume, (capabilities of doing 10-10,000) perhaps I can go through some of my stuff and see if I can break it down in layman's terms for you.

Are these daily or weekly meals?and do you have access to a food perveyor or are you going to the grocery store? I gave some cooking classes a few years ago for the Virginia Cooperative Extention Service that was basically a lifelong learning series about making the right food choices and making the task of cooking simple which included grocery shopping, budgeting money, cooking, food and sanitation blah, blah, blah...it was pretty interesting and rewarding because I felt that I was making a difference.

Give me a day or so to compile some of my info and I will reply to this thread again...

Chef Mike
Trying to make a difference one palate at a time...

Want some more Cheffy Babbles????????
Cheffy's Blog
Trying to make a difference one palate at a time...

Want some more Cheffy Babbles????????
Cheffy's Blog
post #3 of 11
Hey Matt,

The Thanksgiving Newsletter was easier to find than I thought so here it is in its entirety...Hope this help you some and will be back on this thread in a couple days...

Chef Mike

Your Craving Is My Command
The Wild and Wacky World of Chef Mike
Somewhere in the mountains of South Carolina
Thanksgiving Issue
November 2001

Hello World
Am not going to do too much talking in this issue,
there is a lot of information to cover. My apologies
for being late in distributing the newsletter,
cheffy's life has been a little crazy lately. Details
will be included in the Prayer list section of the
newsletter. Peace, Hugs and Cookies. . . Happy
Reading. . .cheffy

Thanksgiving Weather Forecast At the Hayes Household

Turkeys will thaw in the morning, then warm in the
oven to an afternoon high near 190F. The kitchen will
turn hot and humid, and if you bother the cheffy or
worse yet, Poppa Hayes, be ready for a severe squall,
cold shoulder, and the more than likely personality
flare-up with discouraging words such as “Get the ****
outta my kitchen!”

During the late afternoon and evening, the cold front
of a large and intimidating knife will slice through
the turkey, causing an accumulation of one to two
inches on plates accompanied by a lot of mashed
potatoes drifting across northern regions while
cranberry sauce creates slippery spots in other areas.
The gravy should finish passing by mid-meal.

A weight watch and indigestion warning have been
issued for the entire area, with increased stuffiness
around the beltway. Smoky foyers, along with back
porches in some regions is inevitable. Alcohol
consumption should be expected. During the evening,
the turkey will diminish and taper off to leftovers,
dropping to a low of 34F in the refrigerator.

Looking ahead to Friday and Saturday, high pressure to
eat sandwiches will be established. Flurries of
leftovers can be expected both days with a 50 percent
chance of scattered soup late in the day. We expect a
warming trend where soup develops. By early next week,
eating pressure will be low as the only wish left will
be the bone. Happy Thanksgiving Everybody.


Turkey Tips
When buying turkeys under 12 lbs., allow 3/4-1lb. per
serving. When buying turkeys 12 lbs. and over, allow
1/2 to 3/4 lb. per serving

Always stuff turkey just before roasting- Not ahead of
time!!!!! Nothing like foul fowl!! Ha-Ha

After cooking, allow the turkey to rest 15-20 minutes
for easiest carving. This allows the juices to soak
back into the meat. This process is called resting. I
have discussed resting in past newsletters, if you did
not receive the newsletter and would like to, send me
an email.

Cooking times at 325 degrees
6-8 lbs ------- 3 to 3 1/2 hrs
8-12 lbs.------ 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hrs.
12-16 lbs ----- 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hrs.
16-20 lbs. -----5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hrs.
20-24 lbs.----- 6 1/2 to 7 hrs.
This guideline is for cold or completely thawed
turkeys, for best results check temp to read 185
degrees. If you do not have a thermometer, about 30
minutes prior to the end of your cooking time shake
the drumstick up and down, the joint should give
easily or break.

These times will vary for unstuffed turkeys.


To cook immediately- Remove wrap, place in 325 degree
oven in a shallow pan. Cook for 1 hour. Remove neck,
and giblets from body cavity and wishbone. Immediately
stuff and return to oven.

To cook tomorrow- Leave in the plastic wrap. Wrap
turkey in 3-4 layers of newspaper; place on tray. Thaw
at room temperature, 1 hour per pound. Refrigerate or
cook immediately.

Other- Thaw wrapped turkey in refrigerator. Turkeys
over 12 pounds may take 3-4 days.

Water Brining

By taking your fowl and brining it in a mixture of 1/2
cup of coarse salt to every gallon of water for 10
mins per pound, this will make your turkey juicier.
The reason being that by brining the cell walls are
broken down and absorb the water. The salt in the
brine also aids in extracting the blood from the meat
and the bones. I prefer this method when cooking any
type of whole fowl, especially if I am going to smoke
the meat. ( No funny comments Lisa- lol, lol. hee-hee)

Deep-fried Turkey

Within the past few years, deep frying turkey has
become more popular, especially in the south. Here are
a few important things to remember when deep frying

Do not stuff turkey.
Internal temperature should be at least 180-185
Your oil should be between 325 and 350 degrees.
If you brine or marinate the turkey it is important to
pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
I like to rub the entire turkey, including the cavity
with a seasoning salt hours before I am going to fry
the turkey. This is a dry brine method.
Allow 4 minutes per pound when deep frying your turkey

chefmike notes
* A friend of mine that has more experience in frying
turkeys than I do, cooks his turkeys to an internal
temperature at the breast to 150-160 degrees and wraps
the turkey in aluminum foil and allows it to rest for
30 minutes.

David also stated that a friend of his purchased him
an injector that he filled with his own concoction of
Texas Pete and seasonings that he claimed was spicy
and one of the best turkeys he ever made. There are
some pretty good recipes and ideas at starchefs.com.
In a future newsletter I will put in some ideas for a
marinade if you like using an injector. If you have a
favorite marinade and would like to be included in one
of the newsletters feel free to email me or post them
at one of my sites listed at the bottom of the

Hope you have fun with it, if you have purchased a
turkey fryer, they all come with a pretty good
cookbook. If you have more particular questions, feel
free to drop me a line.

Harvest Pumpkin Bread
1-cup sugar
1/4 cup Margarine
1/4-cup applesauce
2 eggs
1-cup (8 ounces) solid pack pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2-teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4-teaspoon baking soda
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2-cup raisins
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2-cup walnuts, chopped
Lightly grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan or coat with
vegetable spray.
Beat sugar, margarine, and applesauce until creamy and
light (about 5
minutes). Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat.
Add pumpkin and
mix until smooth. Combine flour, salt, baking powder,
baking soda, and
cinnamon. Stir into pumpkin mixture and mix until
smooth. Add raisins,
orange rind, orange juice and nuts (optional). Stir
well and pour into
loaf pan. Bake at 3500F for 60-65 minutes. You can
test for doneness
by sticking a wooden pick into loaf. If it comes out
clean, the bread
is done. This recipe will make one loaf, approximately
12 slices, and it is OK to double or triple this

This next recipe was sent to me by a good friend and
fellow chefmikemaniac, Jamie, please visit her links
that I have added at the end of her recipe.

Jamie's Traditional Thanksgiving Cheesecake
Makes one 9" cheesecake
1/4 cup butter, melted
1-1/4 cups crushed graham crackers
4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT
evaporated milk)
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsifted flour
1 can raspberry pie filling
1 package (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.

Prepare Crumb Crust:
Stir together butter and crushed graham crackers.
Press onto bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch spring
form pan.

In a large mixer bowl, beat cheese until fluffy.
gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until
smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla then flour. Pour
mixture into the prepared spring form pan. Bake 50 to
60 minutes or until center is set. Cool. Chill.
Refrigerate leftovers.

Toppings: Place the chocolate chips into a
microwave-safe container. Add the milk. Microwave on
High 2 minutes at a time, stopping to stir, until
chocolate is melted and mixed with the milk. Serve
warm. Serve the raspberry pie filling in one bowl and
the chocolate sauce in another along with the
cheesecake. Let your guests choose their topping
combination: raspberry only, raspberry and chocolate,
chocolate only, or plain vanilla cheesecake.

(I have a row of raspberry plants and always freeze a
quart to use for Thanksgiving - Thaw raspberries. Pour
the juice into a pot with a cup of sugar and bring to
a boil over medium heat. Scoop out a small amount into
a cup and slowly add 2 TB of cornstarch until
well-mixed. Slowly stir the cornstarch mixture into
the juice in the pot. Stir well. Cook until thickened
slightly. Add the berries and cook until the mixture
is thick and bubbly. Allow to cool and then

Jamie's website featuring rescue dogs
Jamie’s free recipe site

Prayer List
First off, I want to thank everyone for remembering
Jamie in their prayers, we appreciate it more than you
will ever know. Her cancer has metastatisized into her
liver. She underwent a biopsy on Monday and we have
spent the past couple days at the hospital, which is
why the newsletter is getting posted late. She has to
have a second biopsy done next week, because this one
was not successful. Thank everyone for their concern,
moral support, cards and prayers.

Also please keep Poppa Harvey in your prayers, whom
also was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Sadly, I have a few people to add to the Angel list
and please remember them and their families this
Thanksgiving. Our friends, Mandy and Laura we killed
in a car accident a few weeks ago. They were both
young ladies that were taken from us way before their
time. Also, remember my friends, Joe and Jazzie, Joe
was taken from us Monday after a long bout of illness.
May they rest in peace and their families remain in
our prayers through the holiday season.


Sorry I had to end this newsletter on such a sad note,
but it keeps us in perspective of all the things that
we have the opportunity to be thankful for.
Unfortunately, I will not be with my family this
Thanksgiving but they know that I am with them in
spirit. Love you Dad. . .

Until Next Time!!

Peace, Hugs and Cookies,
Chef Mike
Trying to make a difference one palate at a time...

Want some more Cheffy Babbles????????
Cheffy's Blog
Trying to make a difference one palate at a time...

Want some more Cheffy Babbles????????
Cheffy's Blog
post #4 of 11
I just did a Google for "Cooking for Fifty" and there was a weath of info on there plus the cookbook I mentioned earlier. If you have any more questions I would be more than willing to help and depending on your location I may even consider the travel to do a free class...

Chef Mike
Trying to make a difference one palate at a time...

Want some more Cheffy Babbles????????
Cheffy's Blog
Trying to make a difference one palate at a time...

Want some more Cheffy Babbles????????
Cheffy's Blog
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Chef Mike,

Sorry for the incredibly tardy response; I formatted my computer and forgot about the thread. Nevertheless, I meant to commend you for the incredibly detailed and thoughtful input. Your turkey tips really helped a lot. Anyway, thank you for the input and I might be asking more questions soon. ;)


post #6 of 11
I would definately purchase a book called 'Large Quantity Cooking' by Margaret Terrel and Deborah Headlund. You'll have to check spelling.
They're not the most upscale recipes but they are proven and well rounded. I believe most of the formulas are for approx. 50pp. Covers most courses.There has to be over 1000 recipes.
post #7 of 11
Food for Fifty is included in MasterCook, which is a great recipe, shopping list and pantry inventory manager. It's easy to use and can create your own cookbook(s) of recipes that you like. Costs something like $20 and is available from amazon.
post #8 of 11
Castiron, which edition of Mastercook? I have 6.0 and it doesn't have it. Clueless, for whole turkeys I usually figure on 1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds per person. That gives you plenty of meat after carving the birds. Don't forget to save the bones and make stock out of them. Freeze it for later in the year, when you want to make soup.
post #9 of 11
It's in my version 8 and, I presume, in the new version 9. (I've seen comments that version 9 is merely version 8 with "new window dressing.") Both are under $20 on Amazon.
post #10 of 11
Matt - another standard reference is "Food for Fifty" by Mary Molt, now in its 11th edition. New, it retails for up to $115, but you can usually find used copies (especially older editions) for $70 or less.
post #11 of 11
while i havent been in charge of feeding that many people at once yet (im just a rookie line cook :blush: ) ive worked in soup kitchens before and it might be easier to seek donations as far as the desserts go. those always seemed to present the biggest problem when already worrying about feeeding 50+ people protein, starch and veg on a tight budget. youd be surprised how many bakeries and grocery stores (try the smaller ones, not so much the large chains.) are willing to hang onto old stock for you if you just ask. good luck!
"Human that has eaten human must taste that much sweeter..."
"Human that has eaten human must taste that much sweeter..."
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