Cooking for a Crowd

Cooking for a crowd can be a back-breaking, foot aching labor of love. The only way to survive is to be organized and plan well in advance.

You don't have to be a professional chef to pull off a large just need a little confidence and a passion for cooking for those you love.

Cooking for a Crowd-First Things First

Plan, Get Organized

Cooking for a crowd requires you to plan of the entire process. The process starts with setting a budget and ends with a gigantic sigh of relief after a job well done!

Every detail surrounding the menu, the kitchen, the equipment, the shopping, the cooking and the service should be carefully thought out and written down in a step by step format.

If friends and family are helping, decide each person's duties and make schedules that include deadlines (they will love you for that). The goal is to ensure a (mostly)smooth running event where everyone maintains some degree of sanity.

Cooking for a Crowd To-Do Lists

Making to-do lists is mostly about breaking down each major task into smaller tasks or goals.

  • These small tasks must be completed before moving on to the next bigger or overall goal.
  • These tasks and goals may span over many days or weeks and should be written down in a calendar or computer spreadsheet.
  • Once tasks are drawn out you will then know what can be done in advance, which is a major time-saving advantage.
  • The most important to-do lists involve the menu and the recipes.Study your menu and recipes very carefully and group common recipe ingredients such as onions and garlic.

As in life, take it one step at a time and the final goal will become that much less irritating and intimidating. I promise.

Take my advice and avoid my aggravating experience of forgetting to purchase basil for the basil and pistachio pasta. Somehow,it never made it to the list

Kitchen, Ready?

Cooking for a crowd in the home kitchen requires organization and lots of space. You will need space for food, supplies, extra equipment and of course for cooking and serving. This is is a good time to clear the kitchen clutter which should be done as soon as possible.

  • Store purchased non-perishables on the kitchen counter or in a safe place on the kitchen or dining room floor
  • Throw out old food from your freezer to make room for foods that can be made in advance and frozen
  • Make sure to separate and label "party food" from your everyday items. You don't want that expensive jar of sherry vinegar to be accidentally opened and consumed

If necessary, contact party stores for information on renting specialty kitchen equipment for the home cook. In using your home equipment. Plan your menu to make use of all of your appliances such as the stovetop, microwave, portable grill, crock pot, toaster oven, etc

Consider using a commercial kitchen if your crowd numbers 75 or more. Your menu decisions will be that much easier.

Service Styles

Without a doubt, buffet-style service is the best way to serve a crowd. Arrange buffet tables according to your space and what you are serving. Have friends or volunteers serve the main dishes. This helps to control portions and keeps the buffet line moving smoothly.

More information on service styles

Using chafing dishes for a buffet

Important Food Safety Tips

Unfortunate cases of food poisoning are often traced to failure to follow simple food safety wisdom:

All foods should be kept at a temperature between 40°F - 140°F depending if the item is to be served cold, warm or hot. This is the food safety zone.

  • Do not allow food to sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Discard food that does
  • Replace the entire empty platter rather than adding fresh food. This helps to avoid cross contamination from guests' hands
  • Place cream or mayonnaise-based dishes nestled in bowls of crushed ice
  • Only put out small amounts of foods like fish, stuffed eggs and meat canapés
  • Keep the rest hot in a 200 - 250°F oven or cold in the refrigerator until serving time
  • On the buffet table, keep foods hot at 140°F or warmer, by using chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays

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