Cooking for a Crowd?

Questioning your sanity? Don't!

Cooking for a crowd of 25 or more guests for a luncheon,church function, cocktail party or home brunch is a large undertaking, but you can pull it off with style and grace...yes you can!.

You Need Help...Fast!

Sure, you can do it all, but why should you? Call your most helpful friends and family members into service. It's the best idea you'll have all year! Make sure helpers have a passion or readiness to take on the challenge of cooking for a crowd.

Consider hiring a caterer or personal chef to do some if not all of the cooking, on the day of the event or ahead of time.

Hire a culinary school student to act as assistant or to supervise servers

This may be needed for crowds from 10 to 100, depending on your entertaining and cooking comfort zone.

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Money Matters

Your budget will decide the number of guests, location of the event, type of service,length of the party and the type and quality of the food. In turn, each of these will structure the menu. It is best to work backwards with your budget. Don’t start planning and spending money on what you really want without considering your bottom line. Find ways to compromise between what you would like and what you can reasonably afford.

Who's Coming to the Party?

The purpose of the event will shape the list of people invited to the party. The number of invited guests will be shaped by your budget. When cooking for a crowd, it is crucial to have a “very close” head count of the number of attendees before you confirm the event space, the menu, food quantities and purchases.

Men eat more than women, except when only women are eating together (in my experience).

Children younger than 10 hardly eat anything but the amount they eat increases significantly after age 14.

A cocktail party menu is best for a crowd of young professionals and a brunch menu is a great idea for a bridal shower

Menu Planning

It goes without saying…if you are cooking for a crowd of people your menu should be as simple as possible. Choosing a simple menu with simple recipes goes a long way in reducing your stress levels and allowing things to run smoothly.

  • Choose recipes with minimal preparation time
  • Include dishes that can be made in advance and frozen
  • Focus on tried-and-true favorites such as chicken, pasta, potatoes and green beans
  • Choose foods that can be reheated and/or held at temperature while still retaining taste, texture and visual appeal.

Tips on Estimating Food Quantities

Calculating food quantities is one part “guestimation” and one part math 101. Here's why:

  • If you are serving food items without a problem. But more often you will want to prepare your favorite recipes for your guests. With some recipes it may be feasible to double or triple the ingredients and turn out a fine dish, but most 4-8 serving recipes will not retain the same quality if expanded to feed more people.
  • Knowing exactly how much food your guests will eat is almost impossible. Having a general idea of the preferred portion size of each dish is necessary when figuring out how much food to purchase. The portion size of each dish can be determined by the recipe and the crowd. A group of college football players will assuredly eat larger portions of chilli than a group of pre-teen soccer players.

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