Cooking for a large group can be a daunting challenge. Finding ways to work smarter and not harder when entertaining a crowd can save money and make the event more enjoyable for the host or hostess. Selecting easy meals when cooking for groups is key to a successful and low-stress event.
While the intentions behind hosting a meal for a large group are certainly honourable, a little advance planning can help to avoid frustration, if not outright disaster, later on. Be realistic about your skills in the kitchen. Now is not the time to try a new recipe, no matter how simple it seems. Stick with what you know and prepare larger quantities. Select a menu that is appropriate to the occasion and fits within your budget. Preparation time and quantity must be considered as well. Always allow for ample preparation time. Decide in advance how much food should be sufficient for the occasion and then cook just a little bit more.
If the occasion is informal, the menu can be both easy and festive. Chilli is a good choice for large groups. A pot of chilli that will serve 16 people will require about 1.8 kg (4 pounds) of ground beef. Betty Crocker has a good large-group recipe for chilli. For a little added pizazz, serve the chilli in bread bowls. Hollow out round bread loaves, coat the inside of the hollowed-out bread with olive oil and bake on an un-greased baking sheet for about five minutes.
To really simplify things, make meal preparation part of the event. Stage a make-your-own-pizza night by providing 18 cm (7 inch) ready-made pizza crusts and a variety of pizza toppings. Set out these ingredients in a smorgasbord fashion and let guests have fun creating their own pizza. Lovers of Mexican food can try a similar approach with taco and burrito fixings.
Make-ahead meals might be the answer if time is short the day of the event. Lasagne is an excellent choice and can be prepared well in advance and frozen. A 23 by 33 cm (9-by-13 inch) pan of lasagne will serve about a dozen people.
Barbecued pulled pork can be prepared earlier in the day and allowed to simmer during the hours leading up to the dinner. To serve 15 to 20 people, cook a 2.7 kg (6 pound) pork shoulder roast, onions and barbecue sauce in a slow cooker until tender. This should take about eight hours on the low setting and four or five hours on the high setting. Remove the cooked roast from the crock pot, shred and pull the pork from the bone and return the meat to the sauce.