Hosting an event and feeding a big crowd is a challenge that most people are more than willing to hand over to Professional Chefs or caterers.
Hiring professionals not only ensure that your guests do not leave hungry, and at the same time, they also help you watch out for unreasonably high food cost and having too many leftovers.
Admittedly, with the ongoing health crisis, events with large crowds are not encouraged but even without planning one at this time, many people are curious about large batch cooking in general.
Here are some quick general tips to consider when cooking for a crowd:
Assessment and Preparation
Often, excellent planning makes for successful execution.
When cooking for a big crowd, the first step, as with all preparation, should include assessment.
- What is the age range and quantity of guests?
- How much work will it take?
- What dish works best doubled, or tripled up? How complicated is a dish?
- How many ingredients are needed in a dish? How available are the ingredients and how much time will you be able to procure them?
- What steps can be done ahead?
- What steps need to be done right before serving?
Once you’ve considered the steps to take, make a list of what is needed.
Choosing the menu
Not all dishes work well on a larger scale. Some are more challenging to prepare in large quantities.
People, in general, prefer familiar flavours. One can never go wrong with classic dishes such as roasts, soups and pasta to appeal to a variety of palates. If however, there is a need to include an exotic dish, it is wise to make those in a limited amount. Also, since everyone may have different eating preferences, do include vegetarian options.
How much to cook
Knowing your guests can give you an idea of how much to prepare. Normally, males have bigger appetites than females. The same can be said with teenagers over kids and adults. The time of the event matters as well. It is advisable to prepare more significant portions at dinnertime.
Here’s a general rule for individual portions:
- Appetisers or snacks – two to three portions per person
- Salsa or dip – 3 ounces of dip or salsa (about 1/3 cup per person)
- Soup – One cup of soup (less if it’s a thick soup, like chowder)
- Salad – 3 ounces of salad (about 1 cup)
- Meat or main entrée – 6 ounces
- Starch (potato, pasta, or rice)- 5 ounces
- Dessert – One and a half pieces
Allow for a 5 – 10% overage to be safe and allow for seconds.
Ingredients and Prep Work
Fresh ingredients should be used up immediately to avoid spoiling, wilting, discolouration.
It may seem the right thing to purchase shredded or cut up ingredients, but the truth is, you pay more for pre-prepared ingredients. Buying whole items can give you a better deal.
Costs and wastage can also be reduced through cross-utilisation.
Look at your menu and identify the ingredients that require the same kind and time of prep and do them in one time. This lets you handle a food item that requires the same amount of prep work and clean up.
The best kind of food that will suit a crowd are those that still taste great even if they are not eaten immediately. These are the type that can sit longer without getting mushy, food that does not congeal or thicken immediately.
Storage and Freezing
Use zip-lock gallon size bags as storage and freezing afterwards. The trick to maximise the bag is to zip it tightly without air bubbles to keep it flat for easy stacking.
Freezer bags are made to sustain the harsh temperature, and when used properly, they can provide proper freezing of food. The brand of freezer bag is not as critical as how you use them. It is important that you gently press out the air out as you close it all the way, but even then, this procedure does not guarantee that you get all of the air out. Most restaurants have food vacuum sealers that remove excess air from the bag and collapse it so that the bag wraps around the food item.
Or you can try this hack – slowly lower the freezer bag (with food item) in a pot of cold water, leaving a corner above the water line open and then gently close it as the natural pressure of the water squeezes the air out of the bag. The method of flat stacking allows for neat organisation of soups, liquids and stews. It allows foods to freeze more quickly, and at the same time, it allows for more surface area when defrosting. As always, when storing food, it is recommended to label it properly with name and date.
RELATED READ: Do You Need To Worry About Freezer Burns?
Cooking for a crowd is an overwhelming task. I highly recommend getting the services of professional Chefs and caterers to help you in this endeavour. In the hands of professionals, you can ensure that you serve safe and quality food that are enough without getting knee deep in expenses. Give us a call at Anytime Chefs and we’ll be happy to help you out in your next event.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,