4 Easy Ways to Cook lots of Taco Meat for lots of People


So, you found the perfect taco recipe and you’ve got to cook enough to feed an army. Maybe your occasion is a wedding, corporate party, or family reunion. Here’s how to prepare enough meat to go around.

Use a slow cooker, large griddle, or even the oven for cooking large quantities of meats (chicken, beef, pork, and tilapia) to make enough tacos for a large crowd. Cook all the meat at once to save time and effort. All of these methods can be used in multiple applications to speed the process.

Slow cookers double as serving containers, griddles can also warm tortillas, and the oven can perfectly finish more delicate meats. The cooking method really depends on the kind of meat you choose to use. Factors like the fatness or leanness of the meat, as well as the quantity, will help you make that choice.

For cost-efficiency, most people will be using ground beef, beef roast, pork, or chicken, rather than a skirt steak, short rib, or other more expensive cuts of meat. For this guide, we’re not going to be relying on a pan on the stovetop as it doesn’t allow for a lot of food to be made at once.

Slow Cookers: “Set-it-and-forget-it”

Slow cookers are a crowd’s best friend. Nearly everyone has one. If you don’t, then one of your neighbors or friends probably has one lying around. The beauty of using a slow cooker is that they are the ultimate cooking method for having juicy, tender meat that is perfect for tacos.

Pros/Cons of Slow Cookers

ProsCons
Simple OperationThey really are slow!
Very SafeCan only be used to prepare the meat (not tortillas)
They last forever!Require electricity to run
Cook/serve from the same container
Retains flavor and creates tender meat
Available in large sizes

There are so many benefits to slow cookers, even though they really are slow! This is no problem if you’re willing to prepare in advance to feed your large group. If you’re reading this, then I’m not even worried.

Bonus Tip: Slow cookers can work great if you’re a vegetarian, or vegan and want to make a ton of delicious black bean tacos!

Things to know about slow cookers

Like I said earlier, slow cookers last forever! I’ve seen so many by Crock-Pot or Black and Decker that look like they might be older than me and are still running great!

Try to borrow a slow cooker before going out and buying one. This is especially true if you’re just using it for this one event. There are some older slow cookers around that exceed 10 Quarts in cooking capacity. The largest I could find available for regular consumers was right around 10 quarts. This is still a sizeable capacity. That’s 2.5 gallons of cooking space.

That 10-quart slow cooker will set you back about $50. If you think you’ll use it more often, then it is worth the investment. This is a “set-it-and-forget-it” cooking method. If you have one that isn’t big enough, it really easy to just keep adding multiple slow cookers to your cooking setup.

The Griddle: Ultimate Scalability & Versatility

In this category, you have a few options. At the bottom of the totem pole, we have an electric pancake griddle and we move up to stovetop griddles, and even commercial trailer-mounted griddles capable of feeding hundreds, to even thousands of people.

Electric griddles

These are in a similar price range to electric slow cookers. You can just plug them into the wall and have a cooking surface much larger than any pan you could fit on one burner on the stove. These also work great for warming tortillas for the tacos. You can warm 4-8 tortillas at a time depending on the size of the griddle. They are usually between 16″-22″ in length.

Stove-top griddles

These can be purchased in high-quality materials like cast iron, and there are some that come with a grill like surface that can create sear marks on meat even while cooking inside the house. They are used by putting them across two burners on the stove. This has a similar side effect to an electric griddle, but they just use the power of your stove, and only take up the same amount of space as a baking tray. Perfect for those that hate having counters cluttered with cords and electronics.

Large commercial griddles

When you have a massive crowd to feed, these large griddles are a must-have. They’re so large that multiple people can cook on one of these griddles. You can cook meat on one side and you can warm the tortillas on the other side. These should be rented, it won’t make sense for most people, but if you’re the kind of person taking care of huge groups these will be your best friend.

Pros/Cons of Griddles

ProsCons
Can be scaled to suit any group sizeLarge surface is a potential burn hazard
Many have a drain for grease, perfect for fattier meatCannot use for serving
Use for tortillas, veggies, and meatLarge ones are expensive to rent
Smaller ones are relatively inexpensiveMay require extra power, like propane or electricity
No moving parts, easy to operate

Griddles are great for fattier meats. Pork and Beef will sometimes high-fat content. If you choose to make ground beef tacos with a high-fat ratio, a griddle is going to allow a lot of that extra grease to drip off. Make sure you pay attention to the trays that catch that grease!

The Oven: Master of Delicacy

Most of the foods you’ll make don’t need to be made in the oven. If you’re one of the people that can’t live without fish tacos, the oven is a must use method for preparing large quantities of fish. You can also warm tortillas, or make shredded chicken in the oven, but those might be better suited to the other cooking methods that we mentioned.

Pros/Cons of Ovens

ProsCons
Amazing for fishNot as versatile as other methods
Already available to most peopleCan make foods excessively dry
Standard with large capacity
Very even cooking
Very low-fat cooking option

The great thing about ovens is that the cooking surface is removable. When you finish one batch of whatever meat you’re making, you can easily place another batch in. As soon as you pull out the fish, you can have another tray of fish prepared and ready to go in.

A lean cut like tilapia can be prepared in about 20-25 minutes. If you have a smaller oven that only fits one baking tray, then you can pump out 8-10 pieces of fish every 25 minutes or so. With just a little bit larger oven you can cook around 16-20 or more pieces of fish every 25 minutes. Within an hour you could have up to 40 pieces of fish, within two hours you could have 80 pieces of fish.

That’s a lot of tacos!

Fresh Seasonings & Toppings for a Crowd

Sometimes you might be tempted to use a taco seasoning packet that can be purchased from any grocery store. Although it’s appealing for convenience, the problem with these flavoring packets is that they heavily lean towards certain seasonings. They lack a depth of flavor that can be easily be gained by using a variety of spices that can be easily purchased, as well as a few fresh ingredients.

Here’s some of the basics to include:

  • Chopped Onions
  • Minced Garlic
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Ground Paprika
  • Ground Cumin
  • Adobo Goya
  • Salt
  • Cracked Black Pepper
  • Ground Cayenne Pepper
  • Fresh Lime

The recipe that I’ve included will include some of the amounts to use based on the serving quantity. One thing to note about seasoning food, recipes for small groups can’t be translated directly to large recipe sizes. Be sure to look for recipes designed for large quantities.

Finding Recipes

Look for simpler recipes, with few steps. These will be the easiest recipes to scale. Take the recipe and multiply the quantities by the amounts of people. Also, consider your demographics when choosing to be liberal or conservative with portion sizes.

A group of college students having a frat party is going to eat way more than a wedding with really young kids, or older people in attendance who might not have the appetite of broke college kids.

Here’s a quick chart to go with our recipe.

Easy Ground Beef Taco Recipe

Ingredient4 People25 People100 People
Number of Tacos16-20100-125400-500
85%-93% lean Ground Beef1 lbs12-16lbs50-62 lbs
Ground Cumin1 tsp1/2 cup2 cups
Smoked Paprika1 tsp1/2 cup2 cups
Garlic Powder1/2 tsp1/4 cup1 cup
Chili Powder1/2 tsp1/4 cup1 cup
Salt1/2 tsp1/4 cup1 cup
Pepper1/2 tsp1/4 cup1 cup

Directions:

  1. Heat the griddle to medium heat. If your griddle has a temperature gauge this will be between 350-375 degrees Fahrenheit. Ground beef will need little to no oil, as the natural fat will help to brown it.
  2. Place the ground beef onto the lightly oiled, or untreated griddle and break it up into smaller chunks as it browns.
  3. Before the beef has completely browned, but after it has been broken up, toss in the seasonings.
  4. Cook it until the beef has evenly browned. Do not wait for too long. The longer the meat cooks, the drier it will be.
  5. At this point, the meat should be ready and should be in a warming bowl in a buffet style, or should be served into tacos and kept in a catering style warming tray.
Ingredient4 People25 People100 People
Corn Tortillas16-25100-125400-500
Diced Onions (Large White)1/2 Onion3 Onions12 Onions
Chopped Cilantro2 Tbsp4 Cups16 Cups
Topping Salsa of Choice1/2 cup3 Cups12 Cups

This is just one recipe, there are many other great options out there. Match the cooking method with the type of meat you’re using, and season the meat yourself, and you’ll be so much happier with the results with just a little more effort.

Keep browsing cookfofolks.com to learn more about those hard to answer cooking questions. There’s a specific recipe for ground beef tacos as well as guides on which pans to use, how to serve things for a group, and any other crowd-pleasing know-how you might need.

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