When you’re catering for a party, have invited some people over, or are dealing with the intensity of the main festive meal preparation, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Cooking at scale and volume can be an arduous task, and requires deft planning.
This is why a very competent and often highly trained military role is that of the army, navy, or air force cook, those enlisted professionals that spend all of their days preparing, cooking, and providing meals for those who burn more calories than the rest of us. While we may not have a rank to salute in our own kitchen, we can certainly take some of the principles used in those kitchens to make this approach more effective.
Luckily, while cooking for your extended family can be stressful, it’s unlikely to be as intensive as cooking for six hundred soldiers. That’s something at least.
On top of that, we hope to help you apply a few extra considerations to help make this process easier for you. There’s no need to make this process overly complex when time is of the essence. With that in mind, please consider some of the following advice:
Plan Ahead Of Schedule
Hosting a party should be just as much fun as attending one, right? That often requires a little planning. Make as much of the meal ahead of time so you can enjoy the party, rather than being stuck in the kitchen. The best thing you can do is choose a freezer-friendly main dish, and prepare it ahead of party time. Most casseroles, baked pasta dishes, and slow cooker soups and stews freeze beautifully and feed a large crowd. Appetizers, like dips, can be made beforehand, and ingredients for side dishes and salads can be washed and chopped in advance. And don't forget the table: Pull out your serving platters and set the table the night before and thank yourself later.
Opt For Family-Serve Foods & Meals
Opting for family-serve foods and meals can help you more easily cook easily, as when you create one large dish and everyone helps themselves, you don’t have to worry too much about perfect portions and presentation outside of making sure everyone has enough and that the dish looks appetizing.
With this easy recipe for pulled pork crock pot meals, you can see how easy this is, and how beautiful the end result will be.
Pasta is a smart main dish choice because you can feed a large group without emptying your wallet or spending hours in the kitchen. You can't go wrong with a simple baked pasta dish like lasagna, macaroni, and cheese, or baked ziti, which can be adapted to suit just about any crowd, from vegetarians to meat lovers.
Consider Additional Appliances
When cooking for a whole family, or perhaps even two sides of the family, it’s good to enlist help. This might come from other members of that gathering, or it may come from the appliances you use to make sure everything is cooked together evenly.
For instance, using a mini-oven, a rice cooker, and a crock pot to help you cook the disparate ingredients at the same time while a large bird is roasting in your oven and filling out all that space can be helpful. If you make sure you have enough cooking room, you’ll be able to flourish more easily with the rest of your plans.
Make Sure Foods Are Evenly Applied For Even Cooking
It’s true that even cooking is important when cooking at volume. For instance, butterflying (cutting open) chicken breasts in half can be the best way to make sure they cook evenly. Adding layers to certain dishes like lasagne will ensure the coating cooks everything at the same time.
The same goes for continually stirring, mixing, and setting timers based on how long it will take to cook certain items. For instance, cooking brown rice along with larger root vegetables can be similar, which is why planning in advance is so important.
With this advice, you’re certain to cook at volume in the healthiest way going forward.