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Do the math when going large

Posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Most families don’t eat 10 gallons of chili at one time, so if you’re planning to enter Saturday’s cook-off, then some editing of your favorite family recipe is in order.

Note that scaling a recipe increases subtle errors built into them. For instance, the salt needed for a small recipe may not be exactly one-half or one-quarter teaspoon, so the amount is rounded to the nearest measurable amount. The difference is negligible at such a small level, but at larger volumes, that extra amount really shows.

Try adding seasoning a little at a time, tasting using a clean spoon, to build to the given amount.

Cook like a pro by using a conversion factor

When scaling a recipe the simplest method (even for Lifestyle Writers) is to use a conversion factor formula.

First find the CF


Second multiply each given amount by the CF

For example, the recipe below yields 50 8oz. servings or 400 oz. or 3 1/8 gallons of chili. To get to the 10 gallons that the Manchester Fire Department recommends cook-off contestants bring, divide the desired yield (1280 oz.) by the given yield (400 oz.) for a conversion factor of 3.2. Next multiply each ingredient by 3.2. The 10 lbs. of hamburger meat times 3.2 equals 32 lbs. of beef. Likewise, 2 lbs. of onion times the CF gives a required 6.4 lbs. of onions. Using weight instead of volume adds precision.


Basic chili

10 lbs.             ground beef

2 lbs.                onion, chopped

2 lbs.                green pepper, chopped

10 lbs.             canned tomato

2 lbs.                tomato puree

2 oz.                 chili powder

1 oz.                 salt

1 teaspoon       cayenne pepper

2 10# cans       beans (pinto, red or kidney) drained

Heat large skillet. Working in batches, brown meat, breaking into small pieces. Transfer in to several stockpots.

Repeat procedure with onions and green peppers, cooking until soft.

Add remaining ingredients, dividing among stockpots. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium-low, stirring occasionally, for an hour.

Add beans and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes.