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!

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