First off a little backgound: I am a member of a cooking club in my local village center. We have a reasonably well fitted kitchen, but the logistics of cooking in it for 20 people are always a bit tricky. We start at 17:30 and our menus always consist of an amuse, 2 starters, a main and a dessert. The aim is to serve the main between 21:00 and 21:30.
For this question, please assume that the oven is always taken for a different dish, so the stew has to be prepared from start to finish in a large pan.
We have often found that we fail to get stews cooked in time for serving. I am aware of the following factors that will increase the total time from start of prep to serving:
- It takes a long time to prepare and brown 20 portions of meat before adding it to the stewing liquid
- It takes longer for the stewing liquid to get to simmering temperature because of the higher volume
Even when taking these factors into account, there seems to be a sizeable difference between the cooking times we are used to when cooking 4 to 6 portions and the time it takes for the big pan for 20 portions.
We have a theory that this might be due to a temperature gradient between the bottom and top of the pan, but I don't know if this makes any sense.
Can anyone come up with something resembling a formula to adjust our cooking times in this situation? It might help us decide which dishes are (not) feasible to cook in the available time.