Cooking for a crowd

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Sarah 1426

Nov 2, 2004
This Thanksgiving I offered to make almost everything but the turkey, so I will be doing 3 appetizers (i just have to set them out, but still), a tossed salad, 5 different sides, and 3 desserts and I have never done a meal this big. Does anyone have any tips for me on cooking all these things around the same time . Also, I really don't have a very big kitchen and there will be other people around so it will be a little tight and any space saving tips will also help!
Well, I suggest you prepare as much as you can the night before. Maybe even two nights before. For some reason, the kitchen becomes a congregation spot when I cook for parties. The already cramped spot gets even smaller. Anything you can have done in advance, do it. For instance, your desserts can be made the day before, and actually should be to insure they are cold and well set. The salads can be prepped without actually being put together. Just have them cut, cleaned and chilled (ready to throw together) when you are ready to.

For your aps, if they are cold dips and deli trays, you can easily do them two days before and have them ready to put out when the guests arrive. This will also keep them away from you when you are working. If they are hot aps, well... you have to cook them on the spot. Just make sure one of the aps are cold veggie and cheese trays. This will keep them busy for a while..... hopefully.

Having the majority of the food prepped before hand will make the actual cooking day go smoothly. You'll be basically baking and warming up your already prepared goodies. If you have to make something from scratch on the day of, keep that dish pretty simple and streamlined. Make it something you've made 100's of times before. No stress.

Good luck. I hope this helped you in some way.

Don't know where you live, but here in Upper Peninsula Michigan, the weather is cold enough that I can use my car, or a covered pan set outside to chill things like jello, soft drinks, or anything requiring cold. It works great. Outside is a great place for storing deserts as well.

Also, for chopping and prep chores, the dining room table, protected and with the help of good cutting board/plastic or wood, is a great place for prep work. Just cover with a plastic sheet or paper first to make clean up quick and easy.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
I don't recognize your state flag from that size, but if fridge space is at a premium and you can't simply put things outside, remove all drinks from your fridge and put in your cooler with ice outside. This frees up a large amount of fridge space. But the best advice has already been mentioned .... figure out what you can make in advance, specifically choose dishes that can be done on Weds, or even today or tomorrow. This'll keep you from going nuts on Thursday; all you'll have to do is thaw and nuke. You can also really cheat in surprising ways. You can cook side dishes until hot in the microwave oven, then put in a standard oven to get a crispy or browned finish. This works amazingly well for things like baked potatoes and casseroles that you might not ordinarly think would come out good just from the microwave alone. Just nuke until nice and hot, then put in a very hot oven (425 minimum) until the crispiness and color you desire are there. This alone can cut hours of time off the cooking. Remember, too, that if you're eating at someone else's house, their oven will be full, so try to arrive with your dishes complete if possible.
Goodweed & Claire, Sarah is in Georgia. According to MSN weather it's supposed to be in the 60's in Atlanta, Georgia on Thurs. Same thing for here in South Carolina. I'm used to freezing my tail off on Thanksgiving week & right now it's about 65F & rainy!! I wish I had the luxery of putting stuff in my car to chill for Thanksgiving! It would make things so much easier.
I second what everyone else has said about doing as much in advance as you can. I always make myself a checklist of what I need to do each day, crossing it off as I go. I work better when I can see things, plus this helps me to not forget to do something (as I did one year when my dad asked for someone to pass the gravy and we couldn't find it--because I hadn't made it--oops!).

As others have said, a lot can be done in advance. Tonight when I go home I'm making the cranberries and peanut brittle (one of my snacks for during the day). Tomorrow I'm mixing up the dips and making the sauce for the cheesecake. Wed. I'll do desserts, bread, and stuffing. Leave the easy things, like slicing cheese for snacks, peeling potatoes, etc. for the day of--if someone offers to help, it's an easy chore to give someone else to do and it makes them feel helpful!

Good luck and let us know how you make out!!!
You can put a bag of ice in a large cooler, and keep things overnight in that - depending on what they are - a sweet potato casserole, or mashed potatoes, for example, will do fine that way.

Do as much of your 'mise en place' or prep work as you can - now! Cleaning veggies, chopping onion/celery, etc. If you're making dips or sauces (ie, cranberry sauce, etc.), make them now - they'll keep just fine.

Can you tell us exactly what you're making? We might be able to help more specifically if we knew!
Everything yall have posted has helped me so much and i have made a list of everything i need to do today, tomorrow, wed., and thurs.
If you can tell me?
What out of these things can be cooked wednesday and heated up thursday:
mac and cheese, green bean casserole, corn casserole, and pumpkin pie.

Thanks a bunch for all the input, its helping a lot!!!!!


and PA baker, that gravy story made me laugh too hard!!!!

and crewsk, i know, it normally is cooler here, and my aunt lives in Iva SC so i go there all the time and might be moving there because i am hopefully going to Clemson in a year (*crossing fingers, knocking on fake wood desk*)...Anyway, do you live near Iva or know where it is, not many people have heard of Iva......
Sarah 1426 said:
and crewsk, i know, it normally is cooler here, and my aunt lives in Iva SC so i go there all the time and might be moving there because i am hopefully going to Clemson in a year (*crossing fingers, knocking on fake wood desk*)...Anyway, do you live near Iva or know where it is, not many people have heard of Iva......

Sarah, I live about 5 miles from Clemson in the little town of Norris. Not many people have heard of Norris either. My fingers are crossed for you too! Clemson is a great school. To answer your question, I have heard of Iva & know kinda where it is, hubby does a lot of traveling with his job & knows more about where it is than I do.
Sarah, everything you listed can be premade and reheated - and don't forget your microwave for reheating - saves room in the oven!
sometimes, somethings can also be placed under the house, kinda like a root cellar.

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