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Feeding the Masses


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Cooking can be intimidating for some and cooking for a crowd can seem impossible to many. It’s NOT so hard if you know some simple tips–I actually quite ENJOY it! We will be feeding the masses in just a few days!

Here are some of the things that I have learned by doing. I hope it helps take the fear factor OUT of mass feeding.

  • Limit your menu to a few items and do these well. Having 7 or 8 courses for a crowd is difficult to juggle.
  • Use recipes you are familiar with. This is not the time to try something exotically new or that needs exact cooking times (i.e. prime rib roast, medium rare, for 50 people). Recipes that need long cooking/baking times and/or can be held warm with good results are best. There are “crowd” recipes available online, but the best results I have had comes when I use a “famous at my house” recipe and make it in bulk.
  • Stay somewhat generic in your recipe choices. For example, don’t serve something quite hot and spicy as the only choice–stay in the middle of the road for spices, strong flavors. Not everyone likes their seasoning over the top. Go easy on the salt and pepper as well. Guests can add, but can’t take away.
  • Make a list of what needs done and on what timetable, especially if you have people helping you. Someone can jump in and help by checking the list to see what still needs done without you having to stop and instruct them.
  • Feeding a crowd often involves using disposable utensils, plates, etc. Keep this in mind when planning your menu and purchasing your paper goods. Trying to cut a grilled steak with a plastic knife or a plate with gravy collapsing onto a pretty dress can ruin the entire meal for your guests!
  • Be sure you have adequate cooking equipment. If you need more oven space for everything than is available, be creative. Large electric roasters can cook the main dish or a vegetable, freeing the oven for rolls, etc.
  • Along with your equipment list, check that all items for all dishes are on a list, purchased, and arrive at your location. Even with such planning, problems come up, items may be missing. It’s OK–take a deep breath and plan what to do to compensate. If it’s essential, send someone after a replacement ASAP!
  • Plan and cook a little more than you think you need–about 10%. Running out of food with 10 people in line is NOT good. Serving the food instead of doing a self-serve buffet can help control planned portions.
  • Set up your buffet line sensibly–salt and pepper shakers at the beginning of the line with the plates, for example, makes no sense! Have everything in order–i.e. plates and utensils, meat, potatoes THEN gravy, etc.
  • Don’t forget food safety on the buffet line, especially if the food will be available for more than an hour – keep hot foods at a safe temperature in chafing dishes or a steam table, etc., nestle bowls of cold foods in containers of ice.

I’d love to see YOUR tips, too!

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Posted by on August 30, 2011 | Permalink  

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6 comments | RSS feed for comments of this post

  1. 8-30

    Good advice! Specially about keeping hot food hot and cold food cold. Nothing makes a more memorable party that food-bourne illness.
    Also, it’s a good idea to place your proteins at the end of a buffet line. Let your diners start their plates with salads and sides and add the “stars” of the meal to their already happily full plates. They can always go up a second time, but it is disappointing to the those later in line to find some of the “choice” dishes empty.
    And we all know, there will be someone who will criticize the mashed potatoes, saying theirs is better. And right behind them will be someone saying they are the best darned mashed potatoes they have ever had!

  2. 8-30

    There are always people with diabetes in any group, have you some low carb items. A compliant diabetic will not say ‘Oh this once’.
    Along with sugar free sweeteners for those who use them.

  3. 8-30

    This might seem silly but I alway putty forks, knives, and spoons at the end of the line. Have you ever tried juggling all of that while getting food? It confuses people at first but then they get it!

  4. 8-30

    To keep food cold at parties We would use a kids swimming pool or take those under bed storage containers empty them out and put ice in them and set dishes on top. Also to have room elevate some of your dishes with old coffee cans or even a log of wood. Of course these would be for ones that don’t need heating or cool. You can cover them up with material if you don’t want to see them. Good luck on your weekend. Wish I was coming.

  5. 8-30

    I always seem to find myself feeding large quantities of people in impromptu situations. Thank you for the very useful advice!

  6. 8-30

    Nowadays it’s good to have a hearty vegetarian dish. Labeling it helps. too.

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