PRE-COOKING & STORING MAKE-AHEAD PARTY FOODS

Option 1: Buying Pre-Made Foods

Option 2: Cooking Party Food in Advance

precooked party foods There are times when nothing will do for a party but home cooking. However, there's also nothing worse than spending all your time at a party in the kitchen instead of enjoying the event you worked so hard to arrange! Careful planning is once again the key to making sure that everyone — including you — has a great time.

The most important thing about cooking party food in advance is knowing how it's going to be stored in the interim and what (and how long) it will take to be ready to serve at the actual event. For each make-ahead item, make sure you have dishes to store the food, space in the refrigerator or freezer (not necessarily your own), and a plan for final prep and service.

  • Think spatially: Ever play farming games like Farmville or Clash of Clans? Apply those skills to your party planning! Timing and resource management are key elements to a successful event.
  • Work backwards when planning your menu: Start with a plan for how and when things will be served. If your planned dessert will need an hour in the oven, but that will overlap with the main dish reheating at a different temperature, you have a problem. Plan your dishes accordingly.
  • Make a reheating chart: It might seem like overkill beforehand, but since there's no such thing as being too organized in party planning, create a chart that blocks out:
    • The time range for the event, starting with the earliest time that prep need to start. Block times out in hour or half-hour increments on the left side of the chart.
    • In the second column, list every dish that will be served, next to when they will be served.
    • Across the top row, list all the devices that will be used to cook or reheat the dishes. If necessary, add a column for anyone who will be bringing ready-to-serve or ready-to-reheat items for the event (catering companies, friends, etc).
    • Fill in the blocks for each dish-and-device combination, blocking out when and where things will be cooked.
  • Make a cooking chart: Once you have a manageable menu chosen, research each dish on how far in advance it can be made. Create a separate chart of when each dish can be prepared. Be aware that (in general):
    • Some foods, such as pasta salads, potato salads, and some soups, improve when made 1-2 days in advance and refrigerated.
    • If freezing dishes, make sure to check if they need to be fully defrosted before reheating, and plan accordingly.
    • Certain foods do not freeze well, such as leafy greens, raw celery and cucumber, fully cooked pasta dishes, fried foods, creams or custards, and yogurt, sour cream, or milk sauces. Many seasonings, herbs, and spices can change flavor when frozen, so should be added during the final reheating or cooking process.
  • Make a serving chart: Create a similar chart for the serving dishes and utensils needed for each dish.
  • Make an event-prep checklist by date:
    • Create one list showing all things that need to be done, in order.
    • Include anything that needs to be done, including shopping, cooking, invitations, defrosting... everything.
    • Keep the list wiht the cooking, reheating, and serving lists.
NEXT:

Option 3: Ordering Pre-Made Restaurant Food

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