A Condensation of My Own Wisdom
on Multiplying Recipes

Your cassoulet was a hit at last New Year’s Eve and you’re hosting the choral society social this season. Some of your fellow songbirds are quite the gourmet cooks you hear and, eager to impress, you’re thinking about revisiting your past success. 16 plates of cassoulet intead of 4, right?


Most recipes are for 4 or 8 people.

Preparing meats...

If you’re browning chicken thighs or breasts, for instance, you can’t merely multiply the recipe size to 16 and brown them all together. In fact, unless you’ve a very big pan, you can’t even brown 8. This is because as you brown meat, it sheds grease and water; the result is often boiling instead of frying. Do the meat in batches. And find a way to keep it warm without drying it out or cooking it beyond the stage at which it’s supposed to be for the next step.

Preparing pot dishes...

Similarly, when clarifying onions, mixing in garlic, spices and other ingredients, the recipe meant for 4 cannot always be simply multiplied into something bigger without doing it in batches. Note too that when making dishes such as chicken provençal, you can’t toss earlier, colder batches of broth, vegetables and chicken into the pot and put it into the oven without giving thought to getting them all heated back up again. Such recipes give times that assume a certain starting temperature of ingredients based on the previous step. Your browned chicken is expected hot, as well as your clarified onions, the sauce from your freshly deglazed pan, etc.

Just because the recipe calls for 1 cup of white wine doesn’t always mean 4 cups when multiplying. Usually, that’s too much wine. Stock and water will usually multiply directly, but often even that will result in a lot more work reducing down to the thickness of sauce you’re after.

One solution is to cook everything in a big pot performing batch cooking when obviously necessary (browning meat, sweating onions).

Another solution is to make the dish as many times as you need to feed that many people. Not a pleasant thought.

Experience is a good teacher. Don’t, however, make the cassoulet for 16 before you know you can successfully make that much.