Culinary Math

Who would have thunk you needed to know math to cook? Unfortunately it’s not all about creativity. The jury is still out about whether we are artists or skilled trades people. I believe we are a bit of both! At the end of the day, if your boss isn’t making money, he could give a rip about your creativity. So, enjoy my small introduction to culinary & baking math fundamentals. Read on below.


A chef’s routine includes simple to complex math calculations. Examples include counting portions, increasing a recipe yield, determining a ratio for preparing a stock, calculating a plate cost, or establishing a food and labor budget. Culinary math begins with the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division along with ratios, yields and percentages. Ingredients must be measured and scaled accurately, food production quantities are calculated, and recipes are increased or decreased to scale based on demand. Math is used for portion control, to maintain consistency in production, and to compute food cost. Mastering math leads to better results in the kitchen through accuracy and consistency. 

Here is a little template for you to use in calculating basic food cost and more. There is an enormous amount of tools available to paid subscription members in the downloads section. The price of membership will be realized by both employees and employers.

Most kitchens use recipes to a certain extent, some more than others. Standardized recipes are important to foodservice operations because they provide consistency and uniformity. These recipes are usually developed, and food costs are calculated by the chef or culinary team, to suit the needs of the operation and to determine selling prices.  Standardized recipes include yield, portion size, ingredients, portion cost, and menu price.

Recipe Conversion

Recipes often need to be increased or decreased in quantity for a specific production requirement. There are ways to increase a recipe by simple multiples, double or triple for example or to decrease a recipe by dividing in half. When a recipe needs to be converted into an odd size like an increase of 40% or a decrease of 20%, it is better to determine a Recipe Conversion Factor (RCF).

Example of a Standardized Recipe with the Recipe Conversion Factor (RCF)
Example of a Standardized Recipe with the Recipe Conversion Factor (RCF)

Recipe Conversion Terminology


Although ingredients can be purchased for use in portion control applications, most ingredients need some processing and therefore require terminology to express their state of process. Fresh produce and meats are often referred to as-purchased (AP) or as-purchased quantity (APQ). Once trimmed or processed the product is referred to as the edible portion (EP) or edible portion quantity (EPQ). Learn to recognize these abbreviations and use them when calculating production needs or food costs.


I could easily write a book about this subject, however this is a blog. If you would like a formal education in Culinary Management, join me in the fall for my year two program, also available now as a paid subscriber. Cheers, and happy, economical cooking!