30 answers

How to Cook for a Large Party

I am planning a large party in June, and am wondering what to do for food. My thoughts range from trying to do it all myself, to having it catered in full. It will be for approximately 100 people... maybe even 150. I think I will order fried chicken from walmart, but other than that, I'm clueless. I was thinking about trying to make some large hams and turkeys ahead of time, and then slice them for cold sandwiches, but I am not even sure how to cook them. I also don't have a lot of fridge room, so I am getting nervous about where I will store the food that I try to make a day or so ahead.

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There is a solution! Join Moose International. Any member has the choice of various sized lodges in the area for a fraction of the cost of any other facility. Catering can be arranged at a very reasonable price. The area accomodaes the crowd, and clean up can be left to the maintenance of the lodge. It's casual enough for picnics or can be elegant enough for a wedding. And proceeds go to a great cause Mooseheart. If this doesn't sound good as a solution, definitely go to a pro, there are many reasonable party planners. One I know of is Toni's Party& Event Planning ###-###-####. It's best all around and it's less hassle for you. Enjoy!

Cuomo catering. Lots of GOOD food, great prices. www.cuomocatering.com. I have used them dozens of times and never had even one disappointment. Good luck!

Hi we used Joey buonas for my son's second birthday and house warming we had 125. I think we paid $9.00 a person. we only ordered food for 60 and had plenty it came with a salad, italian beef, pasta and a chicken dish. they set it all up and even bring paper goods. I couldn't have done it myself. good luck

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Hi Party M.! I found a website that I used when I had a party for 50 people. It scales the recipes UP so that you can at least get an idea of how much cooking & ingredients are needed. After checking out this site you'll know for sure whether catering may be the way to go. I actually had to scale these recipes DOWN for 50 people so it should help you make a decision.


You can do a search in the recipe box for the type of food and drinks you may be interested in trying. I did a Tex-Mex theme and their Spanish Rice recipe was awesome. My entire party thought I catered everything!!! Good luck! Cooking is fun but stressful getting the timing right even when re-heating. Judy

1 mom found this helpful

I have cooked for large gatherings, had them catered and a combination. If it's June and the weather would cooperate, there is always something as simple as making a chicken salad (you can purchase the chunks already prepared); some mini muffins in a variety of flavors, some greens and some fruit. Although this does not take a lot of fridge space, if you are worried about space, catering may be the route. I frequently use Corky's. I have also used a slice of Italy in Streamwood. No complaints about either one of those. Most times when I shop for parties or large quantities. I go to the GFS(Gordon Food Service) They have everything and at lower prices.

Also if you are looking for some wonderful desserts, EJ's Cookies is wonderful. You can email her at ____@____.com luck!

Dear party mom, that is alot of People!! I think the chicken is a great idea. Maybe get 2 or 3 can hams. They are already cooked so just have Jewel or wherever you buy them to slice it for you. Buy some cheeses and roll the ham and have a ham and cheese platter. Maybe make a huge tray of mostagoli. Alot of Salads like pasta salad, italian salad some jello etc. If you have some nice neighbors ask them if you can put some of the items in there fridge. Good Luck!! You are a brave woman.

I have cooked every year for our BBQ in June for 8 years now, it is easy and fun if you plan it right. I usually do pulled pork in a crock pot you can start it before you go to bed on low and when you get up you drain the water and pull it and put bbq sauce and let it sit on warm for the party. You can refrigerate it if there is a lot of time before the party, but pull it first. I also to a pasta salad, deserts, chips, salsa, chicken kabobs, that I cut and season the day before and my husband bbq's the day of. I also had people offer to bring sides before, which isn't a bad idea if you are up to it. Keep an eye out for deals on your meat. It is expensive to cater a party that size. Planning and a little help from a friend or family and I am sure you will be able to pull it off. We have grown from 30 people the first year to 175 last year and always seem to have plenty of food and compliments, the most expensive thing I found to be were the drinks, the meat and sides cost around $3-$400. I have also tried meatballs from GFS in a crock pot and they were delicious. Good luck, you have some good advice already!

My BIGGEST suggestion is what ever you decide, avoid things that can't sit out like recipes with mayo in them, you don't want your guests to get food poisoning and dishes with mayo in them can only sit in the heat for about a half an hour before spoiling!

Dear Mommy K, My suggestion to you is to go italian. Pasta is easy and cheap. I do it all the time. My church group does food for hesed house and we always do baked mostaccoli. You need the noodles, hamburger and pasta sauce and some mozz to melt on top. you can make it early in the day and keep it in warming trays (they sell those at the party city cheap) then do salad and bread and cake. tada your done. you can always fancy it up with some trays of veggies and dip and fruit cooking for the masses is not as hard as it sounds as long as you keep it simple. its when you try to go to many different directions that it gets dicey. we had about 150 for each of our kids graduations parties. the chicken and the mostaccoli are huge hits. if you go with catering mikes place in north aurora or elmers dog house (both same family owned) are both great.

I would go the catering route. If you want to check out prices, I've used these 2 places and they have their packages listed on their websites. http://www.salinaspizza.com - I ordered for 50 and had wayyy to much food leftover - like extra pans of everything.

The other place is http://www.frankiesbeef.com/
I think their food is even better. I'm actually having a party catered from there this weekend. Both places are in Tinley Park. I live in Joliet/New Lenox area and they both deliver hot food.

Best of luck!

Hi There!

We did a food for about 80 people for my son's first birthday last fall. We went SUPER casual and just did hot dogs,chips, fruit, and veggies. We boiled the hot dogs a few hours before the party. Then we put them in buns and wrapped them in foil (you can get a package of pre-cut foil sheets at Sam's Club for cheap). Then we placed them in a few large steamers (kind of like a crockpot but there is a holding tank for water underneath) and let them be. It was easy, cheap, and we still got to enjoy the party.

If you decide to do something like this, make sure you rotate the hot dogs in the steamers about halfway through the party so the ones on the bottom don't get crusty (learned that the hard way)!

Enjoy your party!

Hi Mommy K..
with a new baby girl you are thinking about feeding 150 people?? gee.. we had 140 at my daughter's wedding and they had an entire staff to take care of the guests.. I hope you have some help.. maybe you could hire a few teens to help you out with serving or assign some family members some tasks like that..

I would definitely think your guests could offer to help bring things and help seeing how you just had a baby!!
But I'm glad you asked this question.. we are having a grad party for maybe like 50 people and I'm freaking OUT..I mean its not just the cooking.. its the cleaning and getting all of the serving pieces together..all the drinks.. table wear.. chairs.. tables set up.. HUGE undertaking for you with 100 plus people..are you doing this in your home or are you renting a hall??

I love the suggestions people have posted. I have to say. I have done both.. cooked and catered and BY FAR.. DO THE BULK OF THIS MENU WITH CATERING.. !! make a few sides..(you said you are limited on refridgerator space..)

have family bring some appetizers.. desserts and cater the main entree.. it really isn't THAT much more expensive having the main entree catered.. AND YOU WILL STRESS YOURSELF OUT if you don't...yes.. I heard costco has nice cakes at a good price.. I should get a cosco card.. but I always seem to end up buying more things in those kinds of places..

We had rosati's pizza cater our son's basketball party.. worked out great..we did sausages.. meatballs.. pasta.. someone brought a veggie tray.. stuff like that..

may do it for this upcoming grad party too.. we have done bagel sandwiches and salads from the great american bagel.. they cut the bagel sandwiches in half.. and that helps them go a long way.
good luck.. be good to yourself and have some of this catered.

You want to have a good time at the party and not be stressed. If you can't afford to cater - do a combination. Get the chicken and some meat from the deli - look for sales coming up. Make cold salads like cut up fruit salad, tossed salad, pasta salad. For a hot side - try rice or corn on the cob. Get chips and dips for snacking. You said you have a high schooler. When I was in high school and college, when my mom or her friends had a party, they would hire us to cook and serve for them. It was a blast. The mom having the party would have us over the night before to prep food and cook hot dishes to be warmed up the next day, set up tables etc. It was nice because we got to spend time with each other and with the mom and we learned to cook all sorts of things, how to set up party tables, decorate, enter into a business agreement and we made a little cash. Usually 20 - 40 bucks. Which was alot of money back then. Especially with summer coming up - earning money is great for high school kids and a great learning and bonding experience.

I agree with most of the previous posters: have it catered!!! It's so not worth it to do it yourself! We always host parties at my house ranging from a few guests to as large as your party. I have previously tried cooking myself and I end up not enjoying the party or not being able to get everything done because I am so busy with everything else. You'll also be busy trying to get your house ready. And if you have a new baby you'll be tired just being a mom. Believe me, it's so worth it to have it catered. That's pretty much what I do now. If you want you can do a combo, where you do a few things yourself that you know you can handle but that's all I would recommend. I recommend Cory's because I think their prices are reasonable. Check out their website: http://www.corkyscatering.com/

You can find coupons on there as well. They have so many different buffet menus and the prices range from $3.99/guest to +$10/guest. All depends on what you get. Also they give you so much food that you don't have to order for your actual guest count. I usually order less than my actual head count and still have leftovers. Anyway, good luck and hope your party goes well.

100 people is a lot of people to feed. i've done it and believe me I spent A LOT of time planning and prepping ahead of time and ended up not really getting to enjoy the party. My advice is to have it catered if you can afford it. Another option would be to order prepared foods. The next time I had a large party I ordered a bunch of deli and dessert trays from Jewel and had someone else pick them up for me (yes, get others to help!). We had plenty of food, I got to actually enjoy the party, clean up was a snap (use paper and plastic) and it actually ended up being less expensive than the time I prepared all the food. Good luck!

The chicken is a great idea, I have done that as well. I have had large parties like this and I have made mostacholli! I make the sauce the day before (from a jar, usually Ragu and I tweak it my own way!) On the morning of the party, I make all the noodles, cooking them al dente. I usually go to the party store and get those disposable aluminum trays with the covers. I mix the noodles and the sauce together and put the lids on. At the party, I either warm it up in the oven (poor extra sauce over the top to keep the noodle from drying out) and serve it in a chafing dish (alos purchased at the party store). It is very simple and easy and I know I can do it ver fast too! Hope this helps and have fun at your party!!

K. L.

P.S. I had a party for 100 last year for my son's fisrt birthday and I made 3 full pans of pasta. Just thought I would let you k now to give you and "idea" of how much to make!

If you are interested in catering and having someone grill at your home, look into Poochies Hot Dogs. I know they do parties.

If you can afford it have it catered. You will enjoy the party better.

I did my own catering for my parent's anniversary party. I used recipes from Bon Appetit magazine (epicurious.com). For a main course, I made chicken breasts stuffed with olive tampenade. I had to pound the chicken breasts flat and put in the stuffing, roll them and then cook them and cut them into roulettes, then I froze them and reheated them at the party. I served them with a sauce. It was pretty, but after all of the work, buying the chaffing dishes and the mess in my house, I would have rather catered.

I would sooooooo have it catered. If money is tight & that's not an option, then I would buy the hams & turkeys (not cook them myself). Spiral honey baked hams & smoked turkeys are awesome & can sit out for awhile. Don't put any salad or side dish out that is made with mayo, unless the tray is sitting on a bed of ice. Also be aware of which foods discolor after being cut & sitting out (bananas, avocados, most types apples, etc). You can also do those giant subs (6-7 feet). You buy them buy the foot. Little smokies smothered in BBQ sauce in the crock pot are an easy & tasty warm dish. Good luck.

100 is a lot of people. The most I've done is 45, and it took weeks of planning, shopping, and doing prep. If you aren't even sure how to cook the turkey and ham, then I'd highly suggest that you just bring in food.

Costco has tons of things. You could buy a few veggie trays, and do a few cheese and cracker, with fruit trays. I'd also do a few anti-pasta trays (cold meats with olives). You could also buy a few shrimp wheels for starters.

Then, for the main meal: burgers and hot dogs, or, order in Italian. Many pizza/italian restaurants will do big trays of different things, with salad and bread, for a per person cost.

Dessert: buy a bunch of Costco cakes.

If you don't care about cost, then just call a catering company. No hassle, good food, and they will even provide staff to help with all of the dishes --when I did a formal tapas dinner for 45, we bought plastic plates for each course, because there was no way we could wash that many dishes and get them ready for use in time.

We had a party about that size last June. We hired a guy to come and grill out. We bought the hamburgers and hot dogs and he came with his chef's hat on and stood there and cooked for about 2 1/2 hours. We then supplied everything else. Buns, ketchup, mustard etc. We made some salads...pasta salad, coleslaw, potatoe salad some chips and jello.

He cost me about $75 and everything was paper and throw away.

We even rented a pavillion at the park and decorated it. Everyone had a great time and my house didn't get touched.

Just a thought.
K. P

Hi we used Joey buonas for my son's second birthday and house warming we had 125. I think we paid $9.00 a person. we only ordered food for 60 and had plenty it came with a salad, italian beef, pasta and a chicken dish. they set it all up and even bring paper goods. I couldn't have done it myself. good luck

Cuomo catering. Lots of GOOD food, great prices. www.cuomocatering.com. I have used them dozens of times and never had even one disappointment. Good luck!

You're busy enough as it is! Give yourself a break and cater, if that fits the budget. Otherwise, grill sausages, brats, hotdogs and ask someone to help with the grilling. Even borrow someone else's grill to have more grilling surface. We've had parties with up to 100 people, and this has worked out well. Condiments don't take up too much space, and you could do chips and salsa on the side, and grapes or something that's easy to set out. If people have offered to bring something, take them up on it and ask them to bring a side.
Good luck!

You are brave!!
The Taste of Home website has a special section for large parties. The current issue (April/May 2009) has a recipe for sloppy joes that is 96 servings.
If you do this on you own (hats off to you by the way) I would hire a clean up crew!!! Let us know what you decide and how it turns out!

I have never attempted to feed 100 people -- you are very ambitious! For the larger parties I have thrown, I purchase some sandwiches, sandwich roll-ups, bags of veggies, fruits, cheese and crackers from Costco. And then I make a triple or quad. recipe of my homemade spaghetti sauce. I make the sauce a day or two in advance, and then boil mostacholi noodles in the morning of the party. You can "revive" any type of noodle that has cooled by rinsing them in hot water. Believe it or not, even at summer parties, this is usually the food eaten the most. If you have a large crock pot, serve from there -- keeping the bulk of it on the stove and re-filling the crock when needed.

But I also like your idea of baking a ham and serving it cold for sandwiches. That would be very cost effective. Hams are very, very, very easy to cook. They are actually already cooked, and you are simply re-heating them. You can baste a ham with coca-cola while it cooks and bake it for 25 min per pound. I think hams are easier than turkeys, since turkeys are raw and there are greater risks to uncooked meat.

Good luck!

This is a huge job. 100 people is a LOT. Unless you plan on working all day on food prep for the 2 days preceding and day of the party, I would try and get it catered or at least partially catered. Are you planning on enjoying this party yourself? Because you won't if you're worried about feeding 100+ people.

If you want to do deli meats etc, you might talk to someone at Jewel/Dominiks or whereever and see how much it would cost for you to get an entire ham sliced up (maybe they'll give you a deal) versus just paying by the pound for it. Same for turkey. I guess you could do tomato and lettuce ahead of time and just buy a lot of buns.

Back in college I used to help with a weekly pizza meal for about 200 students. Pizza was a pretty good way to go then - we'd get 60 pizzas delivered, and the night before we'd buy about 20 bags of assorted chips, 10 packages of cookies, and 15 cases of soda. Not as "nice" as a cold-cut sandwich meal, but it was much less prep work and we didn't need to worry about storing it.

Have you considered grilling? Just burgers and hot dogs? You could borrow someone's grill to help out and even keep them warm in the oven or use the upper rack on the grills as a holding area. Though most people don't mind waiting until the next batch of food comes off the grill. You can buy the 5 pound tubs of potato salads, big bags of chips, and make whatever else you like. Costco or Sam's Club may have some large quantities you can use; also the GFS Marketplace stores are great for party foods, I believe there's one in Rockford. My dad does catering, and he does this pretty much, sometimes using chicken breasts (not large ones)rather than or in addition to burgers and hot dogs.

We have a large family party every summer and usually grill burgers, brats, hot dogs. Everyone brings something to share, and we may have to eat our sides first while waiting for the meat to cook, but it's never a long wait.

Cooking for a party this size is not something to jump into. It's not a good idea to precook then refrigerate turkey or any poultry and leave it on the bone when you don't know what you're doing in the kitchen honey. Food poisoning can happen easily when you are not experienced. (no offense intended) Shank hams are the most flavorful anyone can make. Spiral cut hams dry out horriably-no matter how much sauce is poured over them. Trim the skin and most of the fat off the outside of the shank ham and roast at 350 derees for 2 hours top. For added flavor pour apple juice or pineapple juice over the hams in shallow pans. Baste every half hour with those drippings and leftover drippings can be used as a pan sauce if you reduce them for a few minutes (after reemoving the ham of course). Use some water in the drippings so they don't become too salty while reducing. It would help greatly if you have a professional kitchen that all these meats could be cooked in. It may be best for you to have the deli at your favorite grocery roast the meats for you and you do the side dishes. Mac salad, antipasto salad, relish trays, veggie trays, etc. Good luck

Hi I would also recommend italian beef...
We get ours from Vallie Produce, or Euro Fresh. I do not know where you are located, but usually the super busy chaep deli's offer that! The places I mentioned the beef is usually 3.29-3.99 a lb. They give you the juice for free.
You just heat the juice, add the meat and voila! You will need some gardinare, and lots of french bread, but that can be purchased the day before. Sams Club has great french bread, and it is cheap. I would call and order ahead. (both the bread and beef) Mostaciolli is good too, but becareful with the strenos, they will burn the mostaciolli very easily! Put another pan under neath the food pan with a bit of water (1/2 inch)that will keep it from burning. I would cater however for that many people... Corkeys has some cheap packages, so does browns chicken. I also have used portillos.. They are also surprisingly cheap. I did beef, sausage, and mostaciolli for 150.00 for 50 people.(for the portillos food only)
I had the sausages cut in half (25 of them). The bread cut small for the sausage and beef, 1 tray of most. and I think 10 lbs of beef (maybe 8, I am not sure). I bought salads dips sternos and the holders and beer from costco. Aldi has cheap plates, plastic wear, chips salsa and cups. dollar store has cheap table cloths etc. I do my own parties all the time.. Even with catering it is alot of work! Good luck!

Well Mommy K - I'm with everyone else.....that's a whole lot of people for you to try to cook for yourself. Do want to enjoy this party at all? Then I would cater. You don't say what your budget is so these suggestions may not work but I think Italian is a good idea too. Maggiano's does really delicious party trays that are relatively inexpensive. So get a couple different trays and some big green salads (you could do that on your own) and some bread and call it a day. Good luck.

I have fed about 150 people in the past. I would get chicken (from Berkots), and get Beef from a place on the North side, even though any brand will do. I also make dumplings, because I can make them a week a head of time and freeze them. Sausage and peppers are really easy and go with the rolls for the beef too! I am polish so I make polish sausage and sauerkraut. Plus I'll typically make pasta salad because it is better if it sits a few days. My family loves helping out too so many of them make sides...which isn't a bad idea to ask them for some help if possible.

There is a solution! Join Moose International. Any member has the choice of various sized lodges in the area for a fraction of the cost of any other facility. Catering can be arranged at a very reasonable price. The area accomodaes the crowd, and clean up can be left to the maintenance of the lodge. It's casual enough for picnics or can be elegant enough for a wedding. And proceeds go to a great cause Mooseheart. If this doesn't sound good as a solution, definitely go to a pro, there are many reasonable party planners. One I know of is Toni's Party& Event Planning ###-###-####. It's best all around and it's less hassle for you. Enjoy!

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