5 Tips on Cooking for a Crowd

5 Tips on Cooking for a Crowd

Preparing a meal for a large group can be overwhelming. This holiday season, minimize stress and enjoy time spent with your family and friends by following these simple guidelines.

Make the Right Amount of Food

How much food should you make? It’s a tough question, especially when guests eat different serving sizes and help themselves to seconds. As a rule, plan on a total of about 1 pound (500 g) of food per person, not counting drinks or dessert. Use the suggested-quantity listings below to calculate more exact amounts. To make sure there is plenty for everybody, always round up your estimates.

Food quantities per guest:

Hors d’oeuvres: 4 to 6 bites per hour
Boneless poultry, meat, or fish: 1/2 pound
Pasta (dry weight) for main dish: 1/4 pound
Potato: 1/4 pound
Rice or other grains: 1/2 cup
Beans: 1/2 cup
Vegetable side dish: 1/2 cup
Green salad: 1 1/2 cups
Rolls: 2

Make Enough Sweet Treats

The amounts below are based on serving one dessert at your gathering. However, if you have more than one dessert, you’ll need fewer servings from each. When serving two or more treats, reduce the quantities by about half.

Dessert quantities per guest:

Cake, tart, pastry: 1 slice
Pudding or mousse: 1 cup
Ice cream: 1 cup

Plan Your Menu

Choosing what to cook can be as perplexing as how much to cook. For a big gathering, rely on crowd-pleasing dishes that can be made in large quantities. Make sure you have a mix of hot and cold dishes and recipes that can be made ahead, leaving only one or two dishes that need to be made the day of the event.

Share the Load

Consider co-hosting the event or asking others to bring specific dishes, potluck-style. If your family members are handy in the kitchen, put them to work chopping vegetables or just washing up.

Make Meals ahead of Time

Whenever a window of time opens and you’re in the mood to cook, put together a large dish that freezes well, such as a casserole or pot of chili. Simple sauces like salsa, chutney, and pesto are also great to have on hand. Try freezing cooked vegetables, too. Main dishes have a freezer life of two to three months, while sauces keep for up to six months and vegetables for up to a year. Breads and desserts can last about a month in the freezer. Always be sure to cool food and wrap it well before freezing it, and don’t place too many unfrozen dishes in the freezer at once.