We’ve all done it. We have guesstimated over and over again adjusting recipes up and down to meet the needs of our kitchen. More often than not, the results are clumsy. As good cooks we can usually make adjustments and end with a delicious dish. The problem is the factors we need to control as managers fly out the window: costing, efficiency and nutrition.
The solution is as simple as it is elegant.
Recipe Conversion Factor
The Recipe Conversion Factor (RCF) sounds complex, but it’s 4th grade math (I know this because I help my 9 year old with her multiplication and division homework). Most of the time RCF is used to scale the yield (servings) up or down.
- Take the yield you wish the recipe made (decimal form if written as a fraction)
- Divide that number by the yield written on the recipe you’re working from
- The answer is your RCF
- Multiply each ingredient by the RCF
- Some answers are impractical; adjust them for convenience (an answer like 16 tablespoons should be converted to 1 cup)
Yield: ¾ cup
½ cup ancho chili powder
1 T kosher salt
1 T brown sugar
1 T oregano
2 t black pepper
1 t granulated garlic
Let’s say you needed two cups. That’s a little difficult to do in your head because it’s not as clean as doubling or tripling the recipe. Here’s the process with the explanation in brackets:
2 [number of cups you wish the recipe made]÷.75 [decimal form of 3/4 cup from the recipe] = 2.67 [RCF]
2 ÷.75 = 2.67 [RCF]
Then multiply each ingredient by your RCF. If a recipe is either metric or by weight, no further work will be needed. In this case the measurements are by volume and the first numbers won’t be very useful, but it’s an easy adjustment.
½*2.67= 1.34 cups ancho chili powder
1*2.67= 2.67 T kosher salt
1*2.67= 2.67 T brown sugar
1*2.67= 2.67 T oregano
2*2.67= 5.34 t black pepper
1*2.67= 2.67 t granulated garlic
The next step is to make these numbers useful to your cooks. Your cooks need the numbers to match the type of tool they use and I’ve never seen a kitchen with a measuring spoon matching 2.67 teaspoons. In this example each number falls very close to 1/3’s so it’s very simple. We will round to the nearest 1/3. Even in baking recipes this is usually close enough for everything to work without issues.
1.34 becomes 1 and 1/3 cups ancho chili powder
2.67 becomes 2T and 2t kosher salt
2.67 becomes 2T and 2t brown sugar
2.67 becomes 2T and 2t oregano
5.34 becomes 1T, 2 and 1/3t black pepper
2.67 becomes 2 and 2/3t granulated garlic
Now your cooks have something practical to work from.
It works for more than the total yield
It works for any single part of a recipe. The only trick is that you pick one item to do find your RCF. This is useful when using up an ingredient. Imagine if you only had 1/4 cup of ancho chili powder and wanted to use it up with this recipe.
.25 [the number of cups of ancho you want to use]÷.5 [number of cups of ancho the recipe uses] = .5 [RCF]
.25 ÷.5 = .5 [RCF]
When you multiply all the ingredients by .5 they will match the amount of ancho you have and the recipe will be perfect.
How to check your RCF
The simplest way to check your RCF is to compare it to the number 1. Recipes you are trying to make bigger will have an RCF larger than 1. Recipes you are making smaller will have an RCF less than 1.
The Basic RCF Formula
# you want ÷# in the recipe = RCF
This formula will speed up your cooks, improve accuracy and reduce your waste. What’s not to love about 4th grade math applied in the professional kitchen?