Advice on Writing Standardized Recipes: Converting Ingredient Amounts

The To Your Credit article in November 2016, entitled “What’s Standardized About Standardized Recipes?”, takes you through the creation of these valuable tools and how to apply them to your school meals operations. Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS, K-12 school nutrition consultant, writes the article as a “how to, why to” but this online extra, on the Factor Method and converting ingredient amounts, includes a lot more “what.” Read below for specifics on converting your recipes to the Factor Method.

Many foodservice operations design recipes to serve a standard number of students. This number needs to work for your size operation. Large districts that have varying-size schools often adapt the same recipe, but for different batch sizes. It is common to see recipes for 50 servings in food service; although, if your operation feeds 900 students, a recipe that is geared towards 100 servings would be better suited and would also allow less room for error. Small facilities or operations that offer many meal choices may need recipes for 25 servings. This should be predetermined before you begin. If you know your desired yield and the “factor,” the amount of each ingredient can be calculated from there.

Calculating meal pattern contribution may not always be part of your original recipe. Use the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services’ most recent edition of The Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs as a tool for meal pattern calculations.

Know Your Yield – The Factor Method

If the recipe already has a desirable meal pattern credit, you can use the “Factor Method” (Desired Yield divided by Current Yield = Ingredient Factor). This factor can be applied to each ingredient to determine the new amount.

Let’s take a closer look:

  • Original Recipe Yield: 5 servings (serving size, ½ cup per portion)

Meal Pattern Contribution = ½ cup fruit per serving

  • Desired Yield: 50 servings (serving size, ½ cup per portion)

Meal Pattern Contribution = ½ cup fruit per serving

  • 50 servings divided by 5 servings = an ingredient factor of 10 (or 50/5=10)

Step Two - Adjust Accordingly

Remember for this example the desired yield is 50 servings and the ingredient factor is 10. You will need to calculate a new factor for each recipe. Tip: You can use the same method to decrease a recipe size.

Item Description Original Quantity X Factor New Quantity
Fresh cantaloupe diced 1” cubes ¾ cup (or .75 cup) X 10 7 ½ cups (or 7.5 cups)
Fresh seedless watermelon diced 1” cubes 1 ¼ cups (or 1.25 cups) X 10 12 ½ cups (or 12.5 cups)
Fresh honey dew diced 1” cubes ½ cup (or .50 cup) X 10 5 cups

Some things to consider – the new quantity can be converted to a more appropriate and useful measurement: Given 1 quart = 4 cups, 12 ½ cups can be represented as 3 quarts + ½ cup. The new measurement will allow staff to fill a quart container 3 times and a ½ cup measure once as opposed to filling a 1 cup measure 12 times and a ½ cup measure once. Basicsat a Glance offered by The Institute of Child Nutrition is a great guide to use for common measurements.

Not all recipe ingredients work with a straight factor. Herbs and spices as well as baking ingredients use different percentages of the original amount as the batch size increases. Herbs and spices build in flavor once a recipe exceeds 100 servings, reduce herb and spice increases to 25% of your factor.

For example:

  • 50 servings of chili uses 4 tablespoons spice mix / 100 servings of chili uses 8 tablespoons spice mix.
  • 200 servings of chili uses 9 tablespoons spice mix.
  • Recipes can always add more spice later. The exact amount for your customers can be determined during the testing phase.
  • Baking requires ratios that vary greatly. If you plan to do scratch baking, taking small batch recipes and simply increasing ingredient amount may not be successful. Start with recipes designed for foodservice.

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