Six Secrets for Stress-Free Entertaining

Take the pressure off the next time you host a dinner party with these easy tips.

Carl Nevins
Carl Nevins

Learning how to cook from his parents as well as working in a high-volume catering operation while in college, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and writing for his blog His favorite technique is to cook outside on a grill or with a smoker.

If you are anything like me, then you love to socialize. The thought of having friends and family over, relaxing in the backyard, chatting and laughing at just about everything, is right up your alley. The only thing that stops you is the thought of having to cook for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking. I enjoy making meals for the family and baking cakes for special occasions, but I’m sure you will agree, making a meal for four is a lot different from providing dinner for a crowd. So many people put off inviting friends and family over for just this reason. But, you will be happy to know there are a few handy tricks to make entertaining a breeze.

Guests pitch in

The best way to simplify catering for larger numbers of people is to get a little help. Why not ask those invited to bring something small with them? For example, you could ask some to bring drinks, others to bring a salad and a few to bring appetizers, so that you only have to worry about the main part of the meal. Make a list of who is bringing what to keep organized.

Tray-bake your desserts

Tray-baked desserts can be whipped together quickly, popped in the oven and forgotten about. Forget rolling, icing and dressing things up. Instead, make chocolate fudge brownies, butterscotch and pretzel millionaire shortbread or even salted caramel and pear blondies. You could even try doubling the recipe of your favorite dessert and slicing it small for everyone to have a little taste.


One of the most stressful things about a dinner party is making sure guests have enough of what they want to eat. Serving meals buffet-style takes the pressure off. It can even be out more pleasant for your guests as they can simply pick up what they want to eat, rather than feeling like they have to politely accept an item that is not to their taste when served individually.

Keep it simple

Instead of choosing complicated recipes or highly convoluted appetizers with fancy drizzles, opt for making something that has been tried and tested in your family. Avoid cooking dishes that you have never made as you won’t be familiar with the steps. Instead, make family favorites such as spaghetti Bolognese, creamy baked pasta, traditional cottage pie, or southern fried chicken.

Avoid allergies

It is a nice idea to cater to those who have food intolerances such as to gluten or lactose. But, instead of making one dish for the group and another separate meal with gluten-free pasta, opt for rice or potato-based dishes instead. If you are feeding friends with a lactose intolerance, substitute almond or rice milk (as the recipe specifies) for cow’s milk so that everyone can tuck into the same dish.

Appetizing appetizers

The perfectly rolled and beautifully placed appetizers that appear in cook books and on the internet look fabulous. But are they worth all of the effort? Why not simplify your starters by buying a tasty selection of mixed nuts, olives, cheeses and potato chips. Having a selection of dips and chips on a table in the living room will keep your guests busy while you put the finishing touches on the main meal.

Don’t be afraid. Invite the family over this weekend and apply these tips and tricks so that you too can get the most out of the evening.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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