Even if you’re a dinner party veteran, you know that cooking for a crowd can be both stressful and time consuming. It requires simultaneously cooking, serving and mingling, which can be a tall order. But what if you could reap the social benefits of a dinner party and share in the cooking? Enter cooking parties! Friends and family can share in the behind-the-scenes fun, and you can learn new recipes and cooking tricks in the process. Here, some ideas and tips for cooking party success.
Keep in mind the size of your kitchen. (It’s best to start small in most spaces). If you need help getting a feel for a good number of invitees, enlist your family members to move around the kitchen with you, or use chairs as placeholders around the kitchen to gauge the crowdedness.
Prep Your Guests
Before you all cook, you’ll be tasked with gathering the ingredients for all menu items, or distributing the ingredient list evenly amongst guests. (Group e-mails are an effective way to coordinate and get everyone excited!). Ensure that you have all of the necessary kitchen tools to make each dish. If possible, shop for ingredients the day prior to the party (so everything is fresh) and, before your guests arrive, consider performing basic prep work, like chopping or preparing workstations.
Determine the Menu
As mentioned, deciding what to cook is arguably the most fun part of prep. Be creative while selecting relatively easy dishes -- you don’t want your first foray into cooking parties to be frustrating. Ideally, each menu item should take approximately the same amount of time to prep/cook so you can enjoy them together. Keep snacks on hand in case guests want to nosh while cooking!
KISS: Keep It Short and Simple
Guests will look to you to provide direction as they prepare dishes. As mentioned, keep the dishes fun and relatively simple. Guests may become frustrated if prep becomes too advanced, so save deboning that whole chicken or flambé-ing for another time. As you host more advanced parties, dedicating a night to a new technique is fine -- just let guests know ahead of time that it will be experimental!
Task each invitee with a different recipe, or split guests into teams, depending upon how many are attending your cooking party. When assigning partners, try to pair inexperienced cooks with more skilled partners. Pick recipes that can be adapted during the process (like salads or pizzas), and don’t stress if your guests’ creative energy takes hold as they cook their dish.
The After Party
After a successful cooking party, be sure to print out the copies of the recipes you cook. Voila -- instant party favor!