Catering – DIY

These are just random notes and lists I use when serving food to a large (more than 5 people) group.

How much do People Eat:

We served a taco bar for about 120 people at a wedding. The average person ate 15 ounces of food (including meat and sides).

The Quarter Pounder Rule:

Just like with the burger, the average person will eat about 1/4 lb to 1/3 lb of meat (protein) as long as there are plenty of side dishes (like in a taco bar).

If meat is the main course, people will eat between 8 and 12 ounces (like with steak and potatoes).


Some meats can lose a lot when you cook them.  You need to be especially aware of this for meats that will be served alone (steaks, bbq, etc.) .  It isn’t as much of a problem for meats that will be served in sauces and gravys like taco meat. In fact, I when I use 80:20 ground beef for taco meat, the end product actually weighs slightly more than the pre-cooked weight.

The USDA posts and updates a Table of Cooking Yields for Meat and Poultry.  Here is an excerpt:

MeatCooking Yield %
Sirloin, Ribeye or Flank Steak – Lean84
Brisket Flat – Trimmed69
Beef Ribs68
Beef Chuck Roast80
Beef Arm Roast71
Beef, ground, high fat (>22%)62
Beef, ground, low fat (<12%)69
Beef, rib eye roast, bone-in, lip-on, trimmed77
Chicken, broiler-fryer, whole, including skin75
Chicken, gizzard, all classes55
Chicken, liver, all classes62
Lamb, retail cuts, roasts, all samples74
Lamb, retail cuts, shoulder, shank, breast, flank60
Pork loin, fresh, backribs, bone-in, separable lean and fat82
Pork sausage, fresh80
Pork, cured, bacon32
Pork, cured, ham — water added, rump, bone-in87
Pork, cured, ham and water product, shank, bone-in82
Pork Chops85
Pork Loin Roast75
Pork Tenderloin80
Pork Shoulder (butt)74
Pork Spareribs76
Turkey, whole, enhanced, meat and skin71
  • Fatty, Skin-on, and Bone-in meats will lose the most.
  • There are a lot of meat “products” with a lot of liquid added.  Read the label.  This liquid will probably be lost in the cooking process.
  • Skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs can lose as much as 40%.
  • Bone-in pork butts will lose 40% – 45%.
  • Cooking meats to well-done will cause more moisture loss than cooking them medium or medium-rare.


For Chips, 1 serving size = about 7 chips. The last taco bar we served, the average plate used 1.5 oz (or about 11 chips).


Guests typically drink two drinks in the first hour and 1 per hour thereafter.  The number of beverages your guests will drink can be calculated by multiplying the number of guests times 1 plus the number of hours your party lasts.  For example, 100 guests will drink 500 drinks in 4 hours.  Smaller children are more active and will drink more.

For Adam’s Wedding, we calculated the following:

225 guests for 6 hours will drink 1575 drinks (225 * 7).

We broke down the following percentages (This was weighted heavier toward beer since it was an outside wedding.  For a more formal affair, cut the beer in half and double the hard liquor):

ItemServing SizePercentage of Mix
Wine4 oz10%
Hard Liquor1.5oz27%

We also planned to serve tea and lemonade in large coolers.


Buy equal amounts of Rum, Whiskey, and Vodka.

Be careful with Tequila because it makes her clothes fall off.

Setups (for alcoholic drinks):

For every liter of hard liquor you serve, you need 3 liters of setups.

We used the following:

MixerLiters for every Liter
of Hard Alcohol
Sweet and Sour Mix0.1110%
Roses’s Sweetened Lime Juice0.06 5%
Cranberry Juice0.4250%
Pineapple Juice0.4250%
Orange Juice0.4250%
Zing Zang0.2120%
Club Soda0.2220%
Diet Coke0.28 30%
Sprite0.28 30%
Tonic0.14 15%
Soda (In addition to the soda for mixers):
  • Club Soda
  • Coke
  • Diet Coke
  • Sprite
  • Tonic
  • Don’t forget sugars and creamers.

Depending on the availability of tap water, you may want to bring some bottled water.

Catering Equipment Checklist:

5 day cooler
5 gallon Canning Pot – For moving water to and from Sous Vide
Butane Burner
Bus bin
Cutting board
Dish soap
Dish Towels
Extension cord
Food saver
Food saver bags
Fry pan
Gallon pitcher
Gas for burner
Gott cooler x2
IR Thermometer
Large SV tub
Lexan SV containers
Paper towels
Poultry scissors
Power strip
Rubber / Silicone gloves
Scotch Brite pad
Silicone trivets
Stock pot
Stock pot lid
SV racks
SV sticks
SV weights
Trash Bag Stand
Trash Bags
Foil Steamer Tray Lids
Fire Extinguisher
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