Cooking for a Crowd?

Questioning your sanity? Don't!

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

buffet table with platters of food

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 or even hire a culinary school student to act as assistant.  This may be a good idea for crowds from 10 to 100, depending on your entertaining and cooking comfort zone.

More Cooking for a Crowd Help

'Kitchen Warriors' Q & A 

Money Matters

Your budget will decide the number of guests, location, type of service, length of the party and the type 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.  

For example: 

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

Related Pages

Party Planning 101
The purpose? The people? The place? Answers to these and other burning questions get the party (planning) started.

When and How to Serve
Brunch or lunch?  Buffet or sit-down?  How about potluck?

Party Food
Appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts.  Planning the party menu is taking shape. 

The Menu
Consider color, texture and taste when creating your well-balanced menu.

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:

  • 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.  See this food quantity chart for more help
  • The portion size of each dish can be determined by the recipe and the crowd.  For instance, a group of college football players will most likely eat larger portions of chili than a group of pre-teen soccer players.
  • When using prepackaged food items (pastas, sauces, frozen veggies, bagged salad greens, canned beans, etc.) use the serving size recommendations on the side of the package in order to determine amounts.  For example, if you are preparing pasta for 25 and the box of dry pasta says it serves 8, you will need at least 3 boxes.  Prepare more if you want extra servings...better too much than not enough

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