How Do I Cook for 20 Friends Before So I Can Enjoy Visiting?

Updated on December 08, 2010
K.B. asks from Dulles, VA
13 answers

I am wondering how you all cook for so many at the same time. I am thinking of hosting a 2 hour come and go for a bunch of our new neighbors to meet everyone. Do you cook it all the day before or in the morning of? Do you leave things in the oven, in the crockpot, or whatever? I want to try to cook a big meal and serve it buffet style. Walmart had triple buffet pans for $19 one year and I thought about setting the food up before people arrived and leaving it plugged in for two hours during the visit.
I thought about a lot of finger foods that people don't get every day as well as ham and maybe brisket(the precooked, presliced kind).
I have a small kitchen and hate people in it helping and I don't want people to have to bring things unless they want to.

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answers from Detroit on

I would probably have some hot things in crock pots (like meatballs, etc.) and trays of cold stuff (finger sandwiches, veggies), plus other finger foods (cheese and crackers, etc.). If it is a come-and-go type of affair, that might work best since it's not like everyone will be sitting down and eating at once.

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answers from Phoenix on

between my M. and I we have 5 crockpots. she had surgery the day before tgiving so I had to do it all by myself. I googled easy thanksgiving crockpot recipes and they were great! it took me about 2 hours total to get everything in the pots but once i did, you just turn on low and leave it alone! and they were great just set on "warm" and people were happy with nice hot food. maybe do this and set out carved turkey and ham. doesn't matter if they get cold or not, no big deal and everything in the crockpots will be hot! and you can even do desserts. good luck!!!



answers from Honolulu on

Get food trays from Costco or any other grocer/Whole Foods you choose.
Then, on the side, you can if you opt, cook your dishes. If you want. Not ALL the food... has to be home-cooked by you. Just maybe 1 dish.
Make everything BUFFET style.
With disposable plates/cups/utensils.

Or, many restaurants also do take out... for larger parties.
So you can do that as well.

THEN you do not have to cook all day nor during, your visiting hours.
And then you don't have to cook EVERYTHING in your 'small kitchen' and toggle all the stove tops and oven racks... and have a scheduling issue with all the dishes....

You time everything.... per when to put out the foods... per your visiting hours... and the food should be fine... being out. For only 2 hours. And the temperatures are cooler now this time of year.... so food should be fine just being out.
No need to be like a "caterer" and put ALL the foods in heating pans on the buffet....

all the best,



answers from Chicago on

I will be honest--the only way that you can cook for 20 people and not be exhausted by the time they get there and not have to worry about clean up is to have it catered! Consider some local places. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. You might be surprised what you will spend on the food to make it versus just getting catered food. If you really want to cook, stick with things that will sit well for a couple hours and can be prepped the night before.



answers from Philadelphia on

Have you ever made a frittatta (or maybe a breakfast strata)?. You can prep all the ingredients the day before and cook that in the AM. I think an egg dish (that can be cut up and tastes good lukewarm or hot) like that plus some muffins (bake or buy), fruit salad, and a green salad could be good additions to what you want to serve and would make a good menu.

When I do parties, I have found that it is good to have some food that doesn't have to bake in the oven. I also like to make some food ahead. You just need to have foods that reheat well. For time management, it is always good to mix some things that you find easy to prepare, or buy some things premade.

Finger foods are fun, but sometimes a lot of work (since you want to do things people don't eat every day). Sometimes I like to have fun drinks and that livens up a menu. We do a lot of gourmet sodas, hot cider, special ice tea recipes, etc. Maybe if you buy croissants, you could get some exotic jams and spreads, or do a hot chocolate bar that has fun mix ins, then you would have something different that wouldn't involve a lot of "prepping".



answers from Pittsburgh on

Have you ever had Creme Brulee French Toast???!!! Soooooo good. And you have to prepare it the night before then put it in the oven the day of. You can keep it warm with a buffet pan & those candle warmers. That and fresh fruit/juices/coffee and tea would be a HUGE hit.
Here's the recipe:



answers from Philadelphia on

Sorry if i repeat... in a hurry :(

Homemade spaghetti and meatballs is good in a crockpot. So is a nice homemade soup served in really good bread bowls. Another nice easy idea is a ham. I just pour coca cola over, tin foil and bake. You can pre make mac and cheese. Hot roast beef sandwhiches with a nice green salad is easy. Homemade ziti and fresh crusty bread. (you can make the ziti the day before and wrap in the fridge) You can also fry chicken for chicken parm the day before and do an easy sauce. That way you only have to cook the noodles.

I have so many ideas :) I have finally learned after many years of entertaining. (husbands family alone is 32 people... without my side!) The first few years i cooked my butt off and was always in the kitchen! I have finally learned :) Now i reheat and enjoy my wine with the rest of the family.

Hope i helped :) Please message me for more ideas of recipes if you are interested.


answers from San Antonio on

I like the idea of crock-pot queso. Sautee ground beef and hamburger sausage. Put into the crock pot with a can of rotel and melting cheese (I like the WHITE off-brand velveeta, mostly just because white velveeta is not the usual for queso).

We have company coming soon and one thing I've done is pre-made banana bread. Cookies and sweet loaf breads like banana often freeze well, tasting the same when thawed.

that's all i got. GOOD LUCK! I think the pot-luck idea is great. I don't like going to parties w/o bringing something. Make it easy like "odd number houses bring A and even number houses bring B" and you provide the plates, utensils, drinks, etc.



answers from Oklahoma City on

An awesome easy crockpot recipe: Pork tenderloin - you can probably get 3-4 in a crockpot. Smother with bbq sauce and 2 dark beers - you don't need any other seasoning. Let it cook on low for 9-10 hours. It pulls apart super easy and is great for pulled pork sandwiches. Buy a big tub of potato salad and slaw at sams - they're like $5. Buy a multi-pack of assorted chip bags ($12 for 50) and have a fruit salad. You don't want to over-do this type of thing. You'll be surprised how many people will probably not eat regardless of what you provide. That's really nice of you -hope it's a success.



answers from Topeka on

If it is a "brunch" then it doesn't have to be a big could make up trays before hand and just put them out on the table...and then you are free to mingle...other than refilling plates as they empty out.
How about these possibilities...
Fresh Fruit and Yogurt Dip
Fresh Vegetables and Ranch Dip
Finger Sandwiches
Meat, Cheese and Cracker Tray
Cheese Ball and Crackers
Home Made Cookies

For Drinks you could have punch bowl - hot spiced tea
I always cut up the veggies and such ahead of time...put them into zip loc plastic bags and fill the tray from could do the same thing with most of the fruit that you don't have to worry about turning brown
You and your husband can just keep an eye on the table and fill things up as they need it.



answers from Detroit on

Have a pot luck. When some asks can I bring anything say . I decided to make this a pot luck so we can all visit. Can you bring a,b, or c let them choose. Have fun!



answers from Jackson on

I would say a few things in some crockpots then maybe some type of meat and make your own sandwiches would be all you need. Oh and they got lots of great cainisters you can put some type of drink in this time of year. Saw some on sale at sam's if got one near you. Good luck!



answers from Milwaukee on

Ask your guests to bring either an appetizer or a dessert. Order a party sub and you are all set.

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