Oven Cooking for a Crowd-Win or Fail?
Having the entire family over for a holiday meal, or organising a party for all your friends is as exciting as vexing. There are so many things to consider, as you make your preparations. Do you cook in advance so that you can be more around your guests? What about the heavy cleaning you’ll have to do after? More meals equal more food splatters and your oven will look like a mess if you don’t handle the issue.
Can you simply double the ingredients of a tested recipe or do you need special ones for large meals? Is someone allergic or vegetarian? Does your cooker actually have the capacity for that many people? Don’t worry about the vegans, though — if there are any coming, they are sure to have let you (and everyone else around for that matter) know by now. If you’re already feeling giddy at the thought of all the preparation and cooking, rest assured that it all takes to dazzle your guests and enjoy your social gathering is simply planning ahead and some basic organisation, as these tips will show you.
Regardless if you’re cooking for 2 or 20, you always have to make sure that cleanliness in food preparation areas is up to standard. Make sure your cooker is in a tip-top condition, so that it can easily handle the increased cooking traffic flow. Involving yourself in a couple of hours of elbow greasing the oven door, chamber and hob surface will help you with that. But don’t do that prior to the cooking time. You’ll get too tired - make sure you cleanse the cooker a week or so beforehand. You can always reside to expert oven cleaning hands, but we are exploring all our options here, aren’t we?
Also, it is essential that you buy fresh products and that you have a proper cool place to store any foods that could go bad easily. When cooking larger amounts of food, you have to be certain that the temperature and timing are right so that the food is cooked thoroughly. Use a cooking thermometer, especially for the meats during the cooking process to keep things under control and be prepared with proper storage for the hot foods where they will keep the proper temperature and oven cleanliness to prevent bacteria growth. “How fast do paramedics respond to a food poisoning call?” is not a popular game at dinner parties, as fun as it may sound. The oven hygiene plays an important role in the heating, too - a clean cooker takes less time to heat and is more effective.
Also, consider the fact that if you decide to cook more than one more meals in your oven and you just average the required temperature, you will end up with uneven cooked meals. So, don’t overstuff your cooker and consider stove-top or off-the-grill options.
Start with the menu. Make a detailed list of all courses you’re going to serve and plan your budget based on the ingredients you will need. Next, make your shopping list. Think of all preparation work you can do in advance - you can chop some vegetables for soups and stews, pre-cook beans, or prepare cold desserts and appetisers. Make sure you have space in your refrigerator or stove for all the food you will be cooking. Clean them up if you don’t. Go through your cupboards - do you have enough pots, pans and serving dishes for all the food? Most importantly, be realistic whether you will be able to do all the shopping, preparation, and cooking by yourself. Ask for help and delegate chores so you can get everything done right and in time. Batman has Robin after all. And Alfred. And a Batmobile.
Better Safe than Sorry
Making a gourmet meal you saw on telly is tempting when you want to impress the guests. However, trying out new recipes may be too overwhelming, especially when cooking in large quantities. If you decide to prepare something from your "To Try" recipes, you need to have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong. This will only add more pressure to an already stressful day. So, it’s best that you prepare something you’ve done many times before to success. If you still want to experiment, do it with a dish such as an appetiser or a dessert, not the focal point of your menu. Another reason to stay away from fancy recipes is the fact that they may not appeal to everyone’s taste. Unusual flavour combinations are never universal crowd pleasers. Also, make sure your menu is diverse - avoid running a particular component in all of your meals. Imagine if you don’t like mint, for example, and you attend dinner where you are served salad with mint, meat seasoned with mint, and mint-flavoured desserts and cocktails. Hard to believe it, but the plant epitome of freshness might leave a bad taste.
Make Sure Your Guests get a Taste of You
It’s important that your guests are well-fed but it’s more important that they feel welcome. Scurrying constantly to the kitchen will ruin socialising and being absent from the table too often and for too long doesn’t leave a good impression either. So, in order to be able to pay enough attention to your guests, think of dishes you can prepare ahead, which you can simply reheat rather than prepare from scratch. Roasts, soups, and some classics such as lasagne are your safe choice. It’s also okay to cheat a little - buying a few pre-made items will let you focus on the more elaborate recipes and give you more time for your guests. We won’t tell! Plus, less oven cleaning later on.
Unless it’s a formal event, you can make more time for yourself and make guests feel at home by serving buffet-style. Thus, you can offer varied options and give more freedom to guests than with plated meals. Anyone will be able to choose something for themselves, whether they’re vegetarians, have a food allergy, or simply have more specific taste preferences. You can prepare everything ahead and simply refill and top throughout. And, you will also be able to spend more time with your guests. In the breaks they take from instagramming your cannellini bruschetta, that is. Make sure you announce each dish name so they can hashtag it correctly. People already have enough on their minds so the last thing they need is being confused between caprese avocado toast and avocado goat cheese sandwich.