Rice makes an economical choice for a side dish when serving a crowd of 200 people, but it can be difficult to prepare when the right equipment isn’t available. Most rental kitchens in churches, community centers or schools already have large batch cooking equipment, such as “hotel-style” pans and industrial ovens, but it's best to check before getting started. Once you’ve got the right cooking equipment and ingredients in place, cooking rice for a big group isn’t the monumental task it may seem to be.
Figure out the amount of rice needed to feed 200 people. The standard serving of rice per person for a side dish is 4 oz. One pound of regular, medium-grain white rice yields about 3 lbs. (or 2 quarts) of cooked rice. Using that measure, a crowd of this size requires about 16 lbs. of dry rice.
Divide the rice into two measures of 8 lbs each. If a weight scale is not available, use a gallon measure. One pound of dry rice equals about 2-1/4 cups, meaning 8 lbs. would equal 1 gallon and 2 cups (18 cups).
Pour the rice into the hotel pan. Use one hotel pan for each 8 lbs. of rice. Some venues will only have the 2-1/2 inch deep hotel pans available. If this is the case, split the rice up into four batches, placing 4 lbs. of rice into each pan (9 cups). Set the hotel pan on the stove, placing it so the bottom covers two of the stove's burners.
Add 2 gallons of water to the pan along with 2 1/2 tbsp. of salt and 1/2 cup of butter. Substitute all or a portion of chicken or vegetable broth for added taste if desired. If using the shallower pans, use 1 gallon of water (or broth) and 1 1/4 tbsp. of salt and 1/4 cup of butter per pan.
Turn the heat on under both burners and bring the rice, water and seasonings to a simmering boil. Stir thoroughly, cover the pan and turn the heat down to low. Cook the rice for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rice absorbs all of the water. Do not lift the lid to check the rice until the end of the cooking time. This just releases the steam and interrupts the cooking process.
Allow the rice to rest covered for five minutes with the lid on. After resting, remove the lid carefully and watch out for rising steam. Fluff the rice with a large fork or serving spoon.
Serve the rice directly from the hotel pans if possible. Use a portion-control measure, such as a 4-oz. scoop, to serve each guest the same amount of rice.
Bake the rice in an oven to save space on the stove top. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and follow the same steps of measuring the rice and water into hotel pans and bringing to a boil. Cover the pan tightly with a lid, along with a layer of aluminum foil on top. Place the pan in the oven for about 30 minutes and remove. Allow to rest for five minutes before removing the lid.
Different types of rice have different cooking times. Brown rice, for instance, can take twice as long to cook as white rice. Also check the package to see if the rice has been parboiled, which increases cooking time five to 10 minutes. Read the directions on the package to determine the proper cooking time.