It can be hard to throw a good party.
You want to make sure you have enough food and drinks for everyone, but you also don’t want to overspend or, worse, run out.
You also want the party to be fun—which is hard when your guests are all hungry and thirsty and looking at you with expectation in their eyes.
That’s why today I’m going to show you how to cook for a crowd!
How to Cook for A Crowd
Cooking for a crowd can be intimidating.
And it doesn’t have to be!
You just need some simple strategies to use when preparing food for groups of different sizes, and you’re all set.
Plan a Menu that You Can Mostly Prepare in Advance
One of the most important things to do when cooking for a crowd is to plan ahead so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
Choose recipes that can be prepared in advance, or can be at least partially prepared before the party.
You might even consider cooking large batches of certain dishes and freezing them until your guests arrive—that way, you won’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen during your party.
You should also plan out your menu well before the party starts to ensure that you have everything you need.
Create a grocery list, and make sure you know what ingredients are required for each dish so that nothing gets missed.
When choosing recipes for a large group, it’s best to stick with simple entrees—you don’t want to try anything too complicated if you’re preparing food for multiple people at once!
If possible, choose dishes that could easily double as leftovers: if you cook enough food for everyone to leave with some extras, your guests will appreciate it.
When reheating leftovers after the party, follow these tips:
- Do not use aluminum foil or plastic wrap when reheating leftovers; this traps moisture inside and causes soggy food!
- Covering leftover containers with paper towels allows steam to escape while still retaining heat. This will prevent condensation from making the food soggy.
Use Dishware that Doesn’t Have to Be Returned
You can’t beat the convenience of disposable dishware.
Not only do you not need to worry about getting it all back, but everything is single use, meaning there’s less clean up.
Paper plates and plastic utensils might be a little rough around the edges, but they are ideal for a casual event.
If you want to give your party a slightly more upscale feel, try opting for fancy disposable ware.
These “nicer” disposables are often more durable than a paper plate and can make your party look more put together while still saving you the hassle of having to get dishes back.
Likewise, drinks don’t have to be served in glass or crystal glasses or mugs; just provide paper cups or encourage people to drink from the bottle or can.
Or ditch cups completely by opting for drinks that are self-serve.
Even the grill doesn’t have to be kept track of if you don’t want it around after the party is over; choose a disposable one instead!
Plan for Leftovers
You’re going to cook more than you think you need, which is one of the best parts of hosting a party.
Everyone can take home some food and eat it later or freeze it if they want, and your guests will be impressed with your generosity.
Prepare extra containers or bags beforehand, so that everyone can easily grab them without searching through your cupboards mid-party.
Ask Some of The Guests to Bring Something
Ask some of the guests to bring something.
That way you don’t have to do it all yourself (which is a big plus) and they feel more involved in the process.
Your friends will probably be flattered that you asked them for help, so don’t fret too much about what they’ll think.
Just keep in mind that you want to choose people who will take your request seriously and follow through on their word, not someone who just says they’ll bring something but shows up with nothing.
If you find yourself wondering how to phrase your invitation, just say something like “I’d appreciate it if you could bring a side dish or two.”
Unless someone offers to make dessert, refrain from asking them for sweets—you’ll have enough on your hands without worrying about keeping track of who’s bringing what kind of brownies or cookies.
Also try not to put friends in an awkward situation by saying things like “I really need more napkins,” or “This would be a great opportunity for you to try out that new recipe.”
Make sure the requests are polite and focused on the party rather than the person—if anyone brings anything inappropriate, like six pounds of caviar when everyone else is bringing casseroles and salads, just smile politely and pretend everything is fine.
Some hosts might worry about their guests going off book and making their own rules at a potluck party; if that’s your concern as well then maybe this isn’t the best option for your group!
Be Sure You Have Enough Seating
Although it’s not as glamorous as picking out a new crockpot or debating the merits of paper versus plastic plates, don’t forget to make sure you have enough seating.
No matter how delicious your food is, guests will only be able to enjoy it if they have somewhere to sit.
When planning your guest list and the amount of space you need, remember that children and teenagers may need their own chairs instead of sharing with adults.
If you think this will be an issue for your party, consider renting chairs or tables from a local party rental company. You can also use outdoor space if available.
There are tons of tricks for making more room: in a pinch, you can set up a few spots on the floor with throw pillows for casual events like movie nights or game days.
But no matter what kind of gathering you’re throwing—casual or fancy—guests won’t be able to stay very long if they don’t have comfortable seating that fits them properly!
Be Sure to Have Plenty of Cups, Plates and Flatware
What’s more, I’m a fan of letting my guests serve themselves, which means having enough cups, plates and flatware for everyone.
Don’t forget to count each plate as a serving vessel. Guests might use two or three at one time.
It doesn’t make sense to do a lot of dishes when disposable plates and cutlery will do the trick just fine.
And if you don’t have enough flatware or bowls, use your serving utensils instead.
Clean as You Go so You Aren’t Overwhelmed at The End of The Night
One of the most common mistakes people make when preparing and cooking for a crowd is waiting to clean up until after their guests have left.
While it might seem like a good idea to keep your kitchen in order during the party, you will be amazed at how much easier your life will be if you clean throughout the night instead of waiting until everyone has left.
How do you get yourself into this habit?
- First, always make sure that you have plenty of trash bags on hand and designate an area where people can set their dirty dishes.
- Place a large bin just outside so that people can easily place their dishes in it and then come back inside for more food or drinks.
- If possible, ask someone else to take care of emptying the dish bin, especially if they are not helping with meal prep or serving food!
As you can see, cooking for a crowd isn’t that difficult if you plan ahead.
Making sure to give yourself enough time and using the right tools and techniques are important, but don’t forget that the key is to have fun!
You’re only going to be able to make these meals one at a time, so no matter how big your crowd, you’ll be able to handle it. Good luck out there, and happy cooking!