Questions for the Cook

I am having a cook-out for 80 and don’t know how much food to buy!

Dear Cooks:

How do I know how much to buy for a cook-out for 80 men? A father/son cook out with hamburgers, hot dogs, spicy sausage, mac and cheese and a vegetable. Thank you for your time!


Grandma Terry

Dear Grandma Terry:

It sounds like you have a good menu planned, and we have an easy way to estimate how much food to buy.

If you have time, check your local super markets for sales, look in the paper or online for coupons, or consider visiting a warehouse club store for your meat as it will be a pretty sizable purchase. As for the rolls, you can also check for sales as they freeze well – you can buy ahead and just pull out to thaw the morning of the cook out.

If you are serving 80 men, plan on a minimum of two items off the grill per person. With 80 people, that means 160 items, and 160 divided by 3 = 54, so roughly 54 of each meat item. Hot dog and sausage packages usually come in packs of 12 or 24, so that’s about 5 packs of twelve or 3 or 4 packs of 24 each hot dogs and sausage (you’d always rather have leftovers then run out of food!). As for meat for about 54 hamburgers,  a good sized burger is 1/3 pound, so you’ll need about 18 pounds of hamburger meat.

Mac and cheese is a good choice as it’s another economical but delicious dish that you can even make in advance and freeze. Prepare it in disposable foil trays that you can bake and serve in, then toss when you are finished. Here is a great classic mac and cheese recipe from Rach – it serves eight people as a side dish, so you will need to adjust the recipe accordingly – you will need 10 one-pound boxes of pasta. It has instructions on freezing, so take advantage and make ahead.

Another easy side dish if you don’t have the oven space to serve all of that mac and cheese hot is a pasta salad. Again, you can make it in advance, you can serve it cold or at room temp, and it has some veggies right in the dish! Try Rach’s Mac and Jack Pasta Salad – it’s hearty and economical. It serves 8 as a side dish, so again, 10 pounds of pasta is needed.

As for a vegetable, give yourself a break and go for store bought coleslaw (look on the package to see how many servings are in each container) that you can brighten up with some fresh squeezed lemon and chopped Italian parsley. Put out a platter of sliced tomatoes drizzled with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper (figure 1/2 tomato per person so 40 tomatoes) and you are good to go!

Here is your grocery list of major items for the cook-out:

  • 54 hot dogs
  • 54 sausage
  • 18 pounds hamburger meat
  • 108 hot dog rolls
  • 54 hamburger rolls
  • 10 pounds pasta (for mac and cheese OR pasta salad)
  • store bought coleslaw
  • 40 tomatoes

Have fun!

4 Responses to “I am having a cook-out for 80 and don’t know how much food to buy!”

  1. Barbara says:

    My addition to this answer would be: buy/serve more of each item on the menu – do NOT add more dishes!

    Example: instead of “Oh, I should serve macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw, and baked beans” – simplify and serve TWO of those. Why make yourself nuts trying to cook too many dishes?

    And do-ahead as much as possible. Cold salads that can sit in the fridge or an ice chest are a way better choice than a fiddly last-minute item. And don’t worry about small things that take time to prep like deviled eggs. Those are great for your family gatherings, but for 80 people? No way!

    Put out plenty of a few delicious items and no one will complain!

  2. Sue says:

    I suggest you recruit some men to help make it food.

  3. Sheila says:


  4. success_1of4 says:

    I agree also, don’t be complicated just do more of what you already plan to do. I don’t know how to prepare for 80 men, however I’ve seen it done before. My advice would have to me more is always better. You can never go wrong with too much food for a load of men. In fact, you will find men enjoy leftover just as much as eating right then and there. Always remember men normally never get full.

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