Sharing my top tips for hosting an awesome dinner party + some of my favorite cooking hacks.
Hi hi! How’s the morning going? I’m off to mass with the kids and then hitting an F45 class. I hope you have a great day, too.
For today’s post, I thought we could talk a bit about dinner party tips and cooking hacks. Please keep in mind that I’m NOT a professional (even though we have some people in my family who are professional cooks and others who cook like they’re professionals). I’m just a home cook who enjoys it and also happens to LOVE feeding people. When the Pilot and I first got married, a friend said I needed a kitchen sign that said, “Never leave hungry” because that seemed to my motto. It brings me so much joy to enjoy awesome meals with the people we love, so we love having friends and family members over whenever we can.
Over time, I’ve learned some good dinner party tips and cooking hacks, so I wanted to share with ya this morning. If you have any you can add to the list, please chime in in the comments section so we can help each other out! (* = ones that were submitted from Instagram! Thank you to those of you who chimed in)
Make anything you can in advance
I learned this one from my nana, who will make and freeze as many meal components as possible before a family get-together. She used to own a catering company, so she’s pretty used to making large quantities of amazing food. Anything you can make before a party, do it. This means things like dips, desserts, side dishes, anything. I usually try to pre-make anything I can, so I’m not cooking as people are arriving.
I learned this one the hard way. We invited friends over the first time we lived in Valdosta, and I hadn’t prepared a single thing. They all sat at the kitchen table as I ran around the kitchen, stressed, and sweating from the hot stove and burners. Learn from my mistake, friends.
Never try a new recipe the night of a dinner party
It can be tempting to want to try a cool new recipe you see on social media or a website, but always give it a test run before serving it to another group of people. I’ve had a handful of Pinterest fails and I’m so glad I took the time to try them out in advance. Serve options that you can cook easily and that you know are a hit.
Set the menu strategically
Check in with guests to see if there are any dietary restrictions. Plan out the menu in advance depending on the occasion and theme of the dinner party, plus how many guests you’ll have in attendance. For example, a smaller dinner party would do well with plated options, while larger parties are better for family-style dishes or a buffet setup.
Put post-its on serving dishes and set everything out the night before
I clean the kitchen the night before or the morning of the get-together and put out all of the plates, silverware, and serving dishes. I put a post-it note (“salsa,” “chips,” “guac,” etc.) in each large serving dish so I know where everything is going. Set the table in advance, too.
Empty the dishwasher before everyone comes over
This way it’s easy to add dishes into the dishwasher as they get dirty and run it at the end of the night.
Serve one signature drink or cocktail
I like to always have a special type of drink in addition to the usual La Croix, waters, beers, white and red wine, so it might be something like sangria, house margaritas, or this type of cocktail. Make a large batch and store in the fridge and also ensure you have plenty of drinks on hand for everyone.
Meat thermometers are a GAME CHANGER and helps to avoid dry, overcooked meat. It’s so much easier to poke the meat and know that it’s finished cooking.
Taste the guacamole on a chip
When you’re making guacamole, you’re going to serve it with chips, so taste test on a chip. Otherwise, you may make the guac too salty.
If you enjoy Mexican food, get thee a tortilla warmer ASAP
You will never have cold tortillas with warm glorious Mexican food again. You put the tortillas in the warmer, pop it in the microwave, and the warmer keeps them hot while you’re serving.
Set the ambiance
I like to light some candles before everyone comes over, turn on the sparkly lights outside, and get some music going. I’ll put some music on Spotify on the TV and on the bluetooth speaker outside.
*Write out a cooking schedule
This way you won’t be thinking about it all night and can enjoy the party. I like to plan a schedule for the day leading up to it, including which items will be prepared at each time, and small reminders, like “take out the trash,” “ice the drinks,” and “turn on the music.”
*Use the oven!
Bake or roast part of the meal, and this way you can put anything you’ve made in advance directly into the oven. Once it’s cooked, turn the oven down and keep it warm in the oven before serving.
*Don’t make everything yourself
I LOVE this tip and it’s such a simply way to remove some of the stress from doing allllllll the things. Find a couple of options you can outsource from a local spot, like sides, dessert, or a charcuterie board.
*Always cut out a piece of a cake
Guests won’t want to cut into something, but will eat it if it’s already cut. The same goes for cheeses on a cheese board- cut out some slices in advance.
If you can read, you can cook
These were words of wisdom from my nana, after emailing her to tell her I was struggling in the kitchen. When we first got married, I had to learn how to cook and there were so many fiascos along the way. (Once I made meatloaf that turned into sloppy joes, which we called “sloppy loaf.” Delicious.)
She said to take my time, and if you can read directions, you can cook. It gave me confidence to keep going and I eventually fell in love with cooking.
Dinner party essentials:
Dinner plates (these are the ones we have!)
If you’re looking for disposable plates, these are our go-tos. They’re sturdy, look nice, and are compostable and biodegradable
So, tell me, friends: what are some of your top cooking or dinner party tips?
What do you typically cook when you have friends or family members over? Do you make the same things or switch it up?