Scaling recipes

How do food measurements go up with food quantity? How do you decide what equipment to buy? We have the solution to all these problems!

If you’re just starting out with a new restaurant, you may not have too much experience about how much ingredients you need to start scaling your recipes, or what proportions you should use when serving different types of groups and different numbers of people. Generally, this type of knowledge comes along with experience. Even if you don’t know how you are supposed to scale up your recipes now, a couple of months down the line, you should be pretty proficient when deciding what you need to make food for a group four, forty, or four hundred!

This is because when the number of people you serve increases, everything doesn’t exactly go linearly. It’s rather confusing, and there is quite a lot of mathematics and science that goes behind scaling up your proportions. Think of it this way: when you think of making a pizza for two versus making a pizza for 20, you might think that you’ll actually have to multiply the number of ingredients by 10, but it is pretty evident that it isn’t the case. While this factor is shown quite prominent in pizza, this can happen with just about any type of food you have to make.

So how does this work? Well, if you take the size of an 8-inch small pizza and pit it against the size of 12-inch medium pizza, you will notice that the 12-inch pizza is almost twice as big as the 8-inch pizza. This has a lot to do with the surface area of the pizza, and how surface areas change as they grow in size. Pizzas are circles, and when the diameter of a pizza increases, its area increases quite proportionally (πr ², remember!). This means bigger the pizza, the more pizza you get, the more you save on ingredients, and the more your customer saves on price.

This isn’t just a phenomenon related to pizza. You’ll notice this when making just about any type of food. What you need for a small dish is not exactly proportional to what you need for a comparatively large dish, and this can affect your food in ways other than pricing and the number of ingredients you need. So what else does the proportionality of food affect?

Cooking time. Similar to the number of ingredients you use, cooking time does not proportionally increase depending on the number of servings you hope to make. See, this is all down to the volume to surface area ratio of your food. When you make a smaller serving, the surface area of your food with regards to the volume is somewhat equal, but this changes when you increase the size of the food you make. When the size is increased, the volume increases rapidly, while the surface area increases very slowly. This creates a huge disparity between the volume of your food and the surface area of your food.

This is also a point you need to take into consideration when deciding what equipment you need to cook both small servings and big servings. If the recipe for one serving includes an 18 cm pastry case, this doesn’t mean that you need 36 cm case for two servings. You have to apply equations to this as well in order to decide exactly what type of equipment you need.

At this point, I’m sure with all the maths and science we’ve been giving you, you either stopped reading or decided it would be far easier to just wing it. But wait! These equations are not just hard for you, they’re hard for everybody, which is the reason why there are several sites and apps offering to do all the calculations for you. Check them out; After all, a little bit of time spent doing some maths is perfectly acceptable when the excuse is creating a perfect dish!

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