How to Scale a Recipe - Modernist Cuisine

How to Scale a Recipe

MCJanuary 30, 2013

The Mac and Cheese recipe makes five servings, but you’re throwing a dinner party for nine people. You’re in luck: We’ve made it easy to scale our recipes up to greater yields (or down if you have fewer mouths to feed) by using baker’s percentages. Just follow these simple steps.


  1. Look in the scaling column of the recipe, and find the ingredient having a scaling value of 100%. Note the weight given. The 100% ingredient is usually the one that has the biggest effect on the yield of the recipe.
    Example: The 100% ingredient in the Mac and Cheese recipe above is white cheddar cheese.
  2. Calculate the scaling factor by dividing the number of servings (or grams) you want to make by the recipe yield.
    Example: This recipe yields five servings. If you are making nine servings, the scaling factor is 9 ÷ 5 = 1.8. (You can use the weight of the yield rather than the servings to calculate the scaling factor: If you want to make 1,100 grams of mac and cheese from a recipe that yields 800 g as written, the scaling factor is 1,100 ÷ 800 = 1.4.)
  3. Calculate the scaled 100% value for the recipe by multiplying the weight of the 100% ingredient by the scaling factor from step 2.
    Example: This five-serving recipe calls for 285 g of white cheddar, which is the 100% ingredient. To make nine servings, you will thus need 285 g x 1.8 = 513.0 g of white cheddar cheese. The scaled 100% value for this recipe is 513.0.
  4. Calculate the scaled weight for every other ingredient in the recipe by multiplying its scaling percentage by the scaled 100% value from above. You can ignore the weights and volumes given in the recipe—just use the scaling percentages.
    Example: The scaling percentage given for dry macaroni is 84%. Multiplying this by the scaled 100% from step 3, you find that 0.84 x 513.0 = 430.9. Similarly, you need 0.93 x 513.0 = 477.1 g of water or milk and 0.04 x 513.0 = 20.5 g of sodium citrate.

Because volume measurements are often rounded to the nearest spoon or cup, you should not multiply or divide volumes when scaling a recipe up or down. Instead, scale the weights as described above, and then weigh the ingredients on a digital scale.

Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home

12 Responses to “How to Scale a Recipe”

    • M. Seahawk: You’re right. The percentage step is unnecessary. To make 1.8 times as many servings, just multiply each recipe quantity by 1.8. The recipe’s scaling percentages are pointless, or at least redundant.

      A few other notes:

      If your sodium citrate is the fineness of table salt, 11g is two rounded teaspoonfuls. If you don’t have a gram scale, a measuring spoon will do fine.

      Four cups of grated cheese is probably more than 285g. Use 10 ounces (by weight) and don’t worry about how many cups it is. If you’ve only got a half-pound bag or brick, that should be enough.

      The cheese doesn’t have to be finely grated. Use the coarse side of a box grater, or use bagged grated cheese from the supermarket. Dump it into the liquid all at once if you want, even. I do, and it still blends up beautifully.

      This is a great recipe, and it’s even easier to whip up a batch of it than it is to prepare boxed mac ‘n’ cheese. The only down side is that cleanup is no fun. As soon as the sauce cools, it sticks, and it’s weirdly difficult to scrub off. Very hot water helps.

      • Scott Ruskamp

        Steve Kass: I’m sorry, I know said the scaling percentages are pointless already–and that is how it looks to me too–but I’m just wondering how something so obviously simple (ie just multiplying each quantity), how someone could have thought there was a way to improve on that and in the process make it an order of magnitude more complicated. I mean, I just spent 15 mins trying to figure out what was so meaningful about this new process to no effect. If I have to keep questioning every half page in this entire book for its unnecessary complexity, it’s going to take me a few lifetimes.

      • Natalie

        thank you so much for the volume measurement for sodium citrate. I planned on making the melty queso dip for a party today and found out my food scale doesn’t work anymore! I realize it’s best to weigh but t would be nice if the recipes could give an estimate of volume for the powder.

  1. I agree with just about everyone above. I can’t see a reason to permute a simple recipe change though an abstruse “scaling” point. Like much of modernist cuisine there’s a bit too much sciencing. The number portions you want to make / the # portions the recipe makes is the factor you want. Its simple and “scaling” is invisibly built right into it.

  2. I have a recipe that requires 1 pound of flour. (From a restaurant). Need to cut down to normal amount. Never made before and not great at this at all. I want to cut back recipe
    1 pound flour
    1 oz yeast
    1 oz salt
    1/2 is sugar
    1/2 tsp of baking powder.
    2 cups very warm water.
    Very sticky hard to work with.