Adjusting the servings: Considerations for scaling a recipe

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Adjusting the servings: Considerations for scaling a recipe

Want to alter the amount of food a recipe produces? These tips can help.

All recipes produce a specific number of servings — for example, six waffles or two dozen cookies. But what if you need more or less food? How do you change the recipe to fit your needs?

Scaling a recipe — increasing or decreasing the amount of food a recipe produces — isn't as simple as it sounds. "It's a balance between art and science," says Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. "Consider that there are thousands of different foods, millions of ways they're combined in varying amounts and numerous ways to cook them. All of these variables mean there are very few hard-and-fast rules."

Though no strict guidelines govern how to scale a recipe, these practical considerations can help you adjust your recipes with greater success.

Best practices for scaling a recipe

For best results, be familiar with your original recipe, experiment with your adjustments and make separate batches, if necessary.

  • Make the original recipe first. Know how the recipe should look and taste before you make any adjustments. The original is then a benchmark for comparing the success of the adjusted recipe. Plus, the original may yield more or less than you're expecting, and you may not need to adjust the servings after all.
  • Test first, then serve. You may not find success when scaling a recipe for the first time. So test your scaled dishes first, before serving them. Experiment with what works and what doesn't work. Ingredients interact with each other differently, and you may have to adjust cooking methods, temperatures or times accordingly.
  • Make food in batches. If you're increasing a recipe and lack time to experiment, make several individual batches. This way you end up with the amount you need based on the original recipe. Baking separate batches also reduces waste because you can cook food as needed, which ensures the freshness of your food.

No tried-and-true rules dictate how to scale a recipe. But experience and common sense can help you find success.

Last Updated: 11/17/2006
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