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Scaling: Up Or Down

Let’s say you have a recipe that serves 6 people, but you want to make it for 2 people instead. Or even trickier, what if a recipe serves 4 people, but you need to make it for 6?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re increasing a recipe or decreasing it — the procedure for adjusting the ingredient quantities for a different number of portions is the same. We call this scaling a recipe.

Things to Consider

Some recipes are easy to scale up or down. You simply multiply or divide the ingredients to get the new yield; for example, doubling everything to get twice as many servings, or halving everything to get half as many. But not every recipe is so straightforward, and there are some considerations to keep in mind.

Find Your Conversion Factor

The first thing you need to do is calculate your conversion factor, which is a number you’re going to use to convert all the quantities. There is math involved, but it’s OK to use a calculator!

To find your conversion factor, simply divide the desired number of servings by the original number of servings. The resulting number is your conversion factor.


Scaling a 10-portion recipe down to six portions involves two steps:

  1. Divide 6 by 10, which gives you a conversion factor of 0.6.
  2. Multiply each ingredient amount by 0.6.

Let’s work through a simple example to illustrate how this works. Say your recipe calls for 2 quarts of vegetable stock. All you need to do is multiply 2 quarts by your conversion factor of 0.6: 2 quarts × 0.6 = 1.2 quarts chicken stock.

Making Sense of Measurements

Great! But wait a second… What exactly is 1.2 quarts? There are 32 ounces in a quart, so: 32 × 1.2 = 38.4 ounces. It’d be more clear if it were given in cups, wouldn’t it? There are 8 ounces in a cup, so: 38 ÷ 8 = 4.75. Which means 1.2 quarts is equal to approximately 4¾ cups. That’s all there is to it!

How Much Can I Scale?

Don’t go farther than a multiple of four. Double, tripled, or even quadruple can work with certain recipes. If you need more than quadruple, make several batches.

 Adjustments for Scaling:

  1. Spices and Seasonings: This can be a little tricky, so make sure to start low and taste each time you adjust the seasonings. You’ll likely need to increase the seasonings by an extra 50% in recipes that are doubled. For recipes that are halved, you might need a little less than half. It’s much easier to add seasonings than try to correct an overly spicy or seasoned dish later on.
  2. Butter and Oil: There’s no need to double the amount of fat used for sauteing or browning.
  3. Pan size: If you’re doubling the recipe, use a pan that will hold double the volume or two original size pans. The best bet is to make sure the depth of the food is the same as it was in the original recipe. This ensures even cooking and prevents you from having a mushy, too-thick center, and burnt edges.For thicker baked goods, back the temperature down about 25°F and cook for a little longer. For thinner baked goods, up the temperature and cook for less time. Watch carefully for doneness cues.
  4. Temperature: Stick with the cooking temperatures in the recipe. Watch closely for signs of doneness and/or cook the food until it registers the internal temperature the recipe recommends by checking it with a thermometer. However, if you’re making multiple batches and have several pans in the oven, be prepared to up the cooking time or raise the oven temperature by about 25°F to compensate.
  5. Time: The cooking time can change when you scale a recipe up or down. Use it as a guideline only and check often for signs of doneness, such as appearance and texture. For recipes scaled up, start checking at the original recommended cooking time and keep a close eye on the food thereafter. For recipes that are scaled down, a halved recipe might only take 75% of the original time.Yeast breads, cakes, pies, soufflés, and delicate custards do not adapt well to scaling. The proportions of ingredients are vital to their success, so it is best make multiple batches of them, one by one, according to the recipe.

To double, triple, or quadruple a recipe, simply multiply each ingredient by two, three, or four. You can do this with most recipes, but keep in mind that this process can sometimes modify the texture, taste, or appearance of the original recipe. Follow the tips above to help you get the best results!


Measuring cups and spoons with eggs and oil

Contact Our Expert!


Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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