Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Barbecue 101: Feeding a Crowd

We are swimming in gravy at Smokin' Pete's right now. About 37 gallons of it. That will accompany 101 turkeys, 140 pounds of garlic mashed potatoes, 130 pounds of stuffing, hams, ducks, and even a smoked goose.

Those numbers may seem staggering, but the math is no different from feeding, say, 10 people. A lot of you are orchestrating the largest feast at your households for the year. If you are anxious, maybe I can help with your shopping and prep lists and put you a little at ease.

#1. Make a menu list. Put your meats or main dishes as one heading, list your sides separately.

#2. Meats: People will eat more at Thanksgiving than other meals, plus everyone wants to take leftovers home. When purchasing your turkey, buy 1 pound of turkey per person to feed them, then add more for leftovers. If you are serving other meats or main dishes, factor 2-4 ounces per person in addition to the turkey.

#3. Side dishes. Generally people will not eat more than a total quantity of 1 pound of sides. Double that for lots of leftovers. That is a lot, but at Thanksgiving, we tend to overindulge. For our complete Thanksgiving dinners at Pete's, we give 8 ounces of the four side dishes they choose.

The more side dishes you serve, the less quantity per person you need to make. If you have six side dishes, you will need to make 4-6 ounces of each per person.

Here is a sample sides menu with quantities for a 10-person dinner.

1) Garlic mashed potatoes. This is going to be one of the most popular dishes. 8oz X 10 people = 80 oz. Divide by 16 = 5 pounds of garlic mashers. If you use a lot of cream and butter (and I bless you for that), remember they are part of the weight equation. If you cook 5 pounds of potatoes, you will end up with about 8 pounds of the good stuff.

2) Stuffing. Note that we have two kinds of stuffing. Split the quantity of the two, unless your family favors one more than the other. Skew accordingly. I suggest 4 oz X 10 people=40 ounces. Divide by 16=2.5 pounds. Split THAT number and get about 1.25 pounds of each kind of stuffing.

3) Oyster Stuffing

4) Sweet Potatoes or Yams. 4 ounces per person = 2.5 pounds.

5) Green Beans with Almonds. Green beans are a good example of when "weight" and "volume" is not the same. There is a lot of air in between those beans. I check sides by weighing one portion because when I'm calculating for 100 or 200 people, a miscalculation can get me in trouble. You don't need to do this. Figure 5-7 beans per person, then eyeball it in the store.

6) Spinach Salad. Obviously we are not going to make 4 ounces of spinach salad per person. That would be monstrous. Again, see what one hearty handful of spinach looks like, then eyeball it as you purchase.

7) Cranberry Sauce. 1-2 ounces per person is plenty.

Which brings us to the final and most important tip for this Turkey Day:

#4. You can never have too much gravy. Make a ton of it. No matter how much we make at Smokin' Pete's, we are always scraping the barrel at the end of Thanksgiving. God, I hope 37 gallons is enough this year.

1 comment:

  1. Amen on the gravy! This is a great guide on cooking for a crowd, thanks. I always have a heck of a time guestimating how much we'll need.