Cooking for a crowd

Im have a cooler to cook in, about the 48 can size, and am looking to cook for 60 people. I will be cooking steak. Does anyone know how many steaks I can cook in one cooler and the amour of time? Im cooking medium rare steaks.
I have 2 coolers and 2 Anova cooker so I can spit into 2 batches.
But 30 steaks per cooler seems like too many? And I’m not sure about the cooking time at all. Im going to assume that once the temperature reaches 53F with the steaks in the cooler it will take 2 hours?
Anyone cook for a crowd like this?
Thank you very much for your help!

Where does “53F” come from?

Sorry I ment 139F.

The biggest problem with your cook is that, if you have the water at temperature and drop in 30 steaks, the cold steaks will cool the water down something drastic, and the Anova will struggle to get the water back up to the target temp.

I would probably start out with two coolers and get them up to target temp, or maybe 5 ºC or so above target temp. Have a whole lot of boiling water at the ready. Drop your steaks in and watch the temperature. Compensate for the drop by adding boiling (or near boiling) water to get the temp back up where you want it. Then let the Anovas do their thing. They shouldn’t have any problem maintaining temperature with well-insulated coolers. You’ll just have to help them along the way a bit.


Following up with some more thoughts…

139 ºF is definitely medium. 135 ºF might be a more conservative choice; that’s at the upper end of medium-rare.

If you are going to pull out 60 steaks more or less at once, you had better have a few helping hands ready to deal with cutting the bags open, patting the steaks dry, etc. And you will want a really big grill with a lot of burners for searing. Otherwise, it’ll be a two-hour exercise just to serve up all the steaks…

This could be where pre-searing could be the best option. If the steaks were seared to get that wonderful color prior to being bagged, then afterward, you could just give them a 1 minute sear with some hot butter. Garnish then serve. But you are right, there needs to be some helping hands.

Wade, Michi has identified a few of your challenges.
Have you done anything near this big before? It’s going to be a lot of work.

Keep everything as simple as possible. Use self service, buffet-style, for everything but the steaks. Have two lines for your guests, one on each side of the table(s). Sides come first and you, or someone responsible, serves the meat last, at the end. That’s so you can be sure it’s one steak per guest. Rolls, condiments and cutlery should be on a separate table away from the action. Desserts and beverages go over there too.

Assign one person just to refill the buffet during service.

I think you are expecting too much out of your Anova’s capacity even with insulated vessels. Consider, if you have 30 8-oz, steaks in each batch, that’s a lot of cold meat to bring up to cooking temperature in those 10 gallon coolers and you are going to have to ensure you have good water circulation for even cooking. I would allow extra cooking time in my plan. I would also do 3 batches of about 20 steaks using more equipment. Cook a few extra steaks too, that’s to allow for the ones that get dropped and stepped on.

If i were doing this i would rent a 48-inch gas grill and get several trusted helper-cooks to sear and pan those steaks. They will need 18" tongs and large mits so they don’t cook too. Just keep rolling the steaks in pairs across the grill and transfer to the point of service. Keep that grill as far away from the guests as possible to minimize the distraction of expert cooking advice and special orders. (You know there will be some that expect well done.)

Also, what else is on your menu and how much of that is last-minute fare? Everything takes time. Anything cold should be made at least a day in advance.

Plan for everything in detail. Have a big map of what goes where.
And have fun.

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1 minute is a pretty standard post-SV-only searing time anyway, if your heat source is up to the task.

Would it not be better to start with the meat in the cold water? Then that way, there is no temperature drop, and the system heats up as a whole too, meaning that the Anova doesn’t deal with a sudden temperature drop.

Just my thoughts, but I usually do it this way and it seems to work for me.

Having to heat the water from a low temperature is going to put the same workload on the APC regardless of whether it started out that way or if it is suddenly cooled down. However, if you add the meat at the beginning then the water temperature will start out much colder than it would be if you add them to an already heated bath, and so it will take much longer for the APC to bring it up to your target temp.

The steaks would also be adding to the density of the water further slowing the temperature rise curve.

KL, there’s some faulty logic there. The water temperature is what it is and the Anova has to bring the water up to the set point using more energy.

Cooking a few portions isn’t so critical. Wade is already planning to push the APC’s to their limit with the mass of food and water required 60 portions. He should be using commercial equipment for his volume. There’s no advantage to his not starting with the most useable heat possible.

LOL! I know what you mean here @Ember, but the way that sentence reads just tickles my funny bone! :slight_smile: