A home is more than just a place to rest your head at night. It's a warm and happy place that you can open up to friends and family to enjoy special occasions, holidays or just a delicious meal for no reason at all! The kitchen is an especially important part of home entertainment - it's where all the food prep and cooking takes place, which is usually a centerpiece of any get-together. Inviting a group of guests over for dinner always sounds like a very good time - but sometimes playing host to a large group can feel a little overwhelming.
Don't let the idea of cooking for large groups stress you out! There are plenty of things you can do both in advance and during a party to make sure that anxiety levels stay low, and you and your guests have an enjoyable time.
Just follow some of these handy tips to serve your large group of guests with ease and grace.
Stick With What You Know
No matter whether you're a novice chef or have years of experience in cooking, it's always best to stick to recipes you've tried before when it comes to cooking for large groups. Save the experimenting for when it's just you and the family or a close friend or two, and go for recipes that you know you can trust. It's always best to test recipes once or twice before serving to a big group. If you want to try something entirely different, experiment with appetizers, sides or desserts rather than the main course. You and your guests will be happy that you did!
Consider Your Audience
Though you might be dying to whip up a fancy dish of Asian-fusion cuisine or a trendy new Latin American dish, stop to think about the flavor palates of your guests. Many people are reluctant to try new foods unless you've made that a theme of the evening, so it's best to stay away from unconventional treats like quail eggs or pork belly. Instead, go with something that is more likely to please people with a broad range of eating preferences, such as a mild chicken dish or a vegetarian option.
Pick Easy-to-Prep Dishes
The last thing you want to be doing is rushing around like a mad person from the moment your guests arrive, to the time food is served. You can help keep your cool by doing a lot of the prep work beforehand - and that's a lot easier if you choose dishes that allow you to get a lot of the work out of the way in advance. There are plenty of dishes, like casseroles, lasagnas, etc., that you can make in big batches ahead of time and then just reheat when the guests arrive. You're not doing anyone any favors by chaining yourself to the stove stirring fancy sauces and stir fries all night.
Cook More Than Enough
One of the worst things that can happen at a dinner party is running out of food! Try to make enough food so that there is some to spare - even if a guest brings another person without letting you know in advance. If you're offering more courses, the portion sizes can be smaller but be sure to divide the food so that there are enough servings for every guest.
Go Buffet Style
One of the best things you can do with a big group is to offer a buffet style dinner. Plated meals are better for more formal gatherings, but if you're hosting a casual affair, it's super easy to set up food on a long table and let guests serve themselves. That way, guests have the ability to choose only the foods they'd like and go back for seconds if they wish. Extra Tip: Put easy dishes, such as veggies and dip, at the start of the table, and keep the exquisite stuff for the end. Your guests will fill their plates up, and it helps allow everyone a chance to try everything.
Get Super Organized
Even the most relaxed dinner parties require a lot of organization. Before the big day, you'll want to make a lot of lists, so you can outline everything that you'll need. Make sure you know how many guests are coming so that you can have the table laid out with place settings, silverware, and glasses in advance - this will make it easier for you to focus your attention on the food that evening. If you're doing a buffet, get all of your platters, dishes and serving utensils set out long before guests arrive. Clear out the fridge so you have room to keep all the food you're prepping. And make sure that your recipes can work in cahoots with each other, so the oven doesn't get overcrowded.
Keep It Healthy
One of the biggest fears in cooking for large groups is making sure that meats, fishes, and other dishes are properly cooked so that bacteria doesn't cause anyone to get sick (talk about an easy way to ruin a great party). Make sure that you chop veggies, bread, and other non-spoiling foods on a different cutting board then you're using for raw meats, poultry, and seafood. Use a food thermometer to measure the temps of all meats you're cooking and don't serve them until they've hit the minimum internal temp suggested for each type of meat. And don't let any raw meats sit at room temperature for more than an hour.
Follow these tips when cooking for large groups to ensure that you have a successful dinner party and send your guests home with a full stomach, great memories and a smile on their face!