tips to stress free cooking for large groups
Weddings, parties, baby showers, and birthdays are all occasions that bring large groups of people together. If you haven't tried cooking for a large crowd before it can be quite daunting knowing that you need to cook for that many people - most likely with tons of different dietary preferences and requirements.
If you have an occasion to plan or are even just having a group of friends round for a dinner party and don't know how you can cook for so many people then don't panic!
We have 9 tips that will help you cook for a large crowd with minimal waste, stress and effort. Read on to find out more information on the below tips to cooking for a large group.
- Buy in bulk
- Serve buffet style
- Stick to the basics
- Cook in bulk
- Choose dishes that taste good warm or cold
- Choose dishes that are easy to prepare
- Be mindful of dietary requirements
- Include make ahead food
- Get everyone involved
Do you have any tips to add for when you have cooked for large groups before? Share them in the comments section below.
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buy in bulk
To avoid spending tons of money trying to feed a large group of people choose food that you can buy in bulk and save money on.
Things like rice, pasta, couscous, beans, and frozen vegetables.
Ask around and see if anyone you know has access to some of the bulk buy stores like Costco or Bookers. Here you can buy tins of tinned tomatoes, tubs of hummus or bags of potatoes to bring the cost of your food down.
Serve Buffet style
Rather than making food that you need to plate up, serve individual dishes buffet style.
This means you don’t have to have food that works together as one meal and you can choose dishes that are easier to put together.
Lay it all out on a table or kitchen counter and let people help themselves to the food they want to eat.
This way everyone will choose the food they enjoy meaning that there will be fewer leftovers, less stress and no food waste.
stick to the basics
Don't try and do anything too crazy that you haven't tried before, especially if you have never tried it on a large scale or struggled cooking it for a smaller group of people.
Stick to the food you know you can cook, food that you know tastes good, and food that will work for a large group of people. Take our Mushroom Tacos, for instance, they are delicious but the amount of king oyster mushrooms you would need to buy and the time it would take to shred them all means that it is not suitable for a large group.
Simple dishes that appeal to the masses work best, especially if you’re cooking for meat eaters as well as vegetarians or vegans. Dishes with a base of pasta or rice are filling and most people enjoy them.
cook in bulk
Just like you should buy in bulk you should try and cook in bulk too. Invest in a big pan that can hold a good amount of food or dishes in a sauce that can be cooked in large quantities and one pan.
Try and avoid food that involves a lot of preparation, too many ingredients, or several cooking processes. Our Lentil Bolognese is a great dish here as not only are the ingredients really cheap but its easily cooked in a few big pans.
choose dishes that can be served warm or cold
You don't want to cook an amazing dish only to find that after being on the side for 10 minutes it turns into a sloppy mess.
Plan dishes that taste great warm or cold so that when people go back for seconds it tastes just as good as it did the first time.
Food like mushrooms, peppers and tofu don't hold up so well and can taste slimy when they’re cold so aren’t great choices.
However, food like pasta, bread, beans, potatoes, onions, carrots and tomatoes taste great whether they are served warm or cold.
Our Chorizo and Vegetable Bake tastes delicious warm or cold making it the perfect dish to serve when you're cooking for a large group.
Choose dishes that are easy to prepare
There is nothing worse than thinking about all the fun times ahead and then remembering that you have a mountain of prep work and cooking. You just know it is going to mean that you will be spending hours in the kitchen, often when you should be entertaining your guests.
This is why you need to choose dishes that are easy to prepare. Think as little peeling and chopping as possible, instead opt for several dishes that use the same base ingredient or add ready prepared vegetables to your grocery list.
Rather than sandwiches that take time when you're making them in bulk opt for a pasta salad so you can chuck all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix it together.
Roasted new potatoes are a great option. Just wash them, toss them in some oil, dried herbs, salt and pepper and roast them for 20-30 minutes - no peeling or chopping needed!
Be Mindful of dietary requirements
Some easy options here are to cook any meat separately so that the main dish is still suitable for a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Choose rice, beans, chickpeas or quinoa over pasta or couscous so you have some gluten free options.
You should also avoid using any dairy products or nuts in your food so someone with an allergy is still able to eat all of the food you prepare.
Include make ahead food
The easiest way to cook for a large group of people is to cook food that you can make ahead of time and get out on the day.
It’s best to focus on food like pasta salads that can be stored in the fridge or falafel that can be frozen and taste good re-heated.
You can also prepare food ahead of time rather than have it completely cooked, like tofu cubes that taste best when they are prepared and marinated ahead of time or sauces that can be made and stored in air tight containers until you need to use them.
Get everyone involved
Don't feel like you need to do all the cooking, especially if you're hosting an informal get together with family or friends.
There are several ways to split food so that everyone cooks and brings a dish.
- You could cook the main centrepiece dish and ask everyone to bring a side
- Everyone brings a dish centered around a theme - this could be picnic, movie night, summer sun, or breakfast for dinner.
- Everyone is responsible for a different part of the meal, so one person/couple brings a protein focussed dish, one person/couple brings a carb focussed dish, one person/couple brings a vegetable focussed dish, and one person/couple brings some sauces.
When you're next cooking for a large group take a few of these tips and feel your stress levels take a dive!
I love to hear from our readers so if you have tried any of these tips then let me know in the comment section below.
I have included some recipes below for when you’re next cooking for a large group. All of our recipes can be modified to suit the amount of people you are cooking for so you can see exactly how much of each ingredient you will need.