Party Tricks: Cooking for a Crowd
We never turn down a chance to entertain. That can sometimes mean cooking for a hundred or more people, and though we're not caterers, we've learned a few great tricks for cooking for a crowd. Whether you're hosting a dinner party for five or a barbecue for eighty, here are a few tips for entertaining like a pro.
How much meat do I need?
The rule of thumb is a ½ pound of meat per person. If you are having a dinner party for four, for example, two pounds of steak makes for simple, even serving. Of course, it gets complicated when your guest number rises. When we are cooking for a crowd, we like to serve lots of little things for guests to try, and some guess-timating is required. If you are making chicken wings, Wagyu sliders and a brisket, you can imagine that each person on average will eat one to two wings, a quarter pounder slider and less than a quarter pound of brisket. If you are cooking for twenty people, you should buy five packs of wings, five pounds of Wagyu ground and one brisket (hey, there are few things better than leftover brisket).
When to DIY and When to Buy
Know when to cook things from scratch and when to supplement. For a party, invest your time in the headliner, the meat, and buy things like sides and snacks from the store. Go for one or two big meat cuts if you are cooking for a group larger than ten. People will remember the chicken under a brick or the grilled steaks, not the chips and dip. We do offer some easy grilling cuts like marinated sirloin steak fajitas that come perfectly seasoned. All you have to do is grill and slice.
Have your Tool Kit Ready
Sous Vide. Caja China. Smoker. Grill. Slow cooker. YETI cooler.
Use these tools to make your life easier when cooking for a crowd! Sous vide your chicken wings, steaks or even burgers beforehand and finish on the grill. Roast a whole pig or pork shoulder in the Caja China. Smoke a brisket or pork belly. Slow cook a porchetta (tenderloin wrapped in pork belly). These are all (nearly) set it and forget it tools that are designed to cook your meat to perfection.
If we are roasting a pig, then we are sous viding our steaks. If we are slow cooking a pot roast or pork shoulder, then we are flipping burgers on the grill. Take time the day before your event to plan around your tools to balance the workload and avoid time crunches. While burgers may only take a few minutes once they hit the grill, it will probably take at least twice that long just to get a charcoal fire at a stable temperature. If you're planning to do prep work just before grilling, make sure a deputy gets a fire going with plenty of time. A whole day of cooking can be soured when a perfectly smoked brisket has rested and is ready for service, only to be delayed by a miscalculated grill time.
Let Your Guests Help
Uncle Ted wants to flip burgers? Have an apron and a Shiner at the ready. Let your guests help you in the kitchen and on the grill. Of course, Ted may have a tendency to let his burgers overcook for a few minutes, but communal cooking relieves stress around the kitchen and lessens the gap between host and guest. Take the chance to show off your Maldon salting technique or how to slice against the grain while Uncle Ted’s grilling. Win-win.