The concept of metabolite profiling has been around for decades, but technical innovations are now enabling it to be carried out on a large scale with respect to the number of both metabolites measured and experiments carried out. Here we provide a detailed protocol for gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS)-based metabolite profiling that offers a good balance of sensitivity and reliability, being considerably more sensitive than NMR and more robust than liquid chromatography-linked mass spectrometry. We summarize all steps from collecting plant material and sample handling to derivatization procedures, instrumentation settings and evaluating the resultant chromatograms. We also define the contribution of GC-MS-based metabolite profiling to the fields of diagnostics, gene annotation and systems biology. Using the protocol described here facilitates routine determination of the relative levels of 300-500 analytes of polar and nonpolar extracts in approximately 400 experimental samples per week per machine.