Your Guide to Hosting a Perfectly Executed Potluck
We love potluck dinners. They’re the perfect excuse to get friends together for a lively evening of sharing recipes and making memories. But sometimes we end up with a few too many meat lasagnas and not enough carnivores. In order to host a flawless community gathering, we’ve put together a road map for both potluck newbies and old-timers to enjoy. It’s time to host a perfect potluck.
For first-time potluck planners, the pizza potluck is definitely a smart way to go. As the hostess, provide pizza crusts for everyone at your table, and ask friends to supply the toppings. Hosting a grilled cheese potluck is another great option for beginners. Of course, you can go the traditional route, like organizing a Mexican, Italian, or Chinese fête. For an extra-indulgent evening, we love a “breakfast for dinner”–themed potluck.
This is when having a type A personality, like we do, really pays off. Write out the menu on a Google spreadsheet and designate a column for guests to initial next to the dishes/ingredients that they want to contribute. Email sign-ups get messy, and it’s hard to make sure you’re reading the most updated version before you hit the grocery store. So save everyone the hassle of scrolling through an endless email chain, and start a Google doc. Also, it’s easiest to have guests post if they have any allergies/food requirements so all of your contributing chefs know what to avoid. We don’t want anyone to leave your home feeling hungry!
With lots of guests bustling about in the kitchen, the last thing you want is someone to trip on a child’s toy or get knocked over by your very excited golden retriever. Make sure your cooking and entertaining spaces are in order before potluck time. If need be, hire a babysitter or dog sitter for the evening. And make sure your guest bathroom is looking extra fine. We love to add a small bouquet and light a scented candle. Of course, fresh hand towels are a must.
It’s crucial to let guests know everything you have on hand—from oven space to soup bowls. If you’re really organized, you can include a column on your Google doc for this. Limited oven space helps your friends plan to nix high-maintenance dishes before they’ve loaded up on costly ingredients. Knowing what’s on hand also helps friends, especially less–kitchen-skilled friends, bring non-food items that are actually needed. Who wants 50 plastic cups when you don’t have a corkscrew?
Courtesy of Food52
It usually takes a good chunk of time before everyone’s dishes are arranged and ready to go. Have appetizers on hand for people to graze as everyone puts the final touches on their dishes. Something of the baked brie variety really impresses a crowd and is super easy to make. Veggies are usually the forgotten component of a potluck dinner. Make an extra green dish if you have the time and energy. We love garlic artichokes or grilled asparagus.
There is not the time to skimp on booze. If you’re feeling light on the vino, ask your kitchen-phobic friends to come bearing libations. If you’re hosting a themed potluck extravaganza, a signature cocktail is always a crowd-pleaser. These five recipes take basic cocktails up a notch.
As the host, this is on you. Whether you're dining inside or alfresco, lighting is crucial. You want your guests to be able to see what they’re eating but not kill the mood with overhead lighting. We recommend fairy lights or lots of votive candles. You should also consider flowers. To encourage open conversation, opt for several smaller arrangements as opposed to a large centerpiece. And don’t forget the music. Make a playlist that’s light and happy and set the volume to a light hum. You want noise to warm your entertaining space, not overpower it.