Successful Pot Lucks


’Tis the season for potluck gatherings—they’re very popular with offices, book clubs, classrooms and even busy family gatherings throughout the holidays. Here are some tips to ensure your potluck is trouble-free and satisfying for all who participate.

Rule # I: If you’re the host, it’s okay to be bossy

Pick a theme, and assign your guests a category (appetizer, salad, main dish, dessert, beverage). If you really want to stay in control, simply assign specific recipes to guests. If they’re choosing their own recipe, ask them to check in with you about it beforehand. (You want the dishes to be harmonious, don’t you?)

If you can’t stand particular ingredients/foods, ban them—you’re the boss! At my potlucks, we forbid canned whipped cream, Miracle Whip and American cheese.

If anyone attending your potluck has a food allergy or aversion, ask them to bring a dish that he/she can eat safely.

Rule #2: Help your potluck guests to be successful

Make sure you tell your guests how many people will be attending the party, so they can make the right amount of food.

Ask guests to bring oven-ready or table-ready items. You don’t want eight people in the kitchen preparing a recipe from scratch.

If guests need special equipment for their dish (like a blow torch or chafing dish) make sure to ask them to bring it.

Are any of your guests kitchen-challenged? If so, ask them to bring beverages, napkins, or even fresh dinner rolls from a local bakery.

Rule #3: Get organized, and be prepared

Main courses like roast turkey or beef are difficult to transport, and challenging to re-heat. Consider making the main course yourself and asking guests to provide everything else.

Decide your beverage strategy in advance: Will everyone bring their own wine or cocktail ingredients, or will you provide them? What about non-alcoholic beverages?

As the host, you’ll need to provide place settings, serving utensils and glassware. Do you have enough for the number of guests attending?

Find out if anyone will need to use your oven for a quick warm-up. If the list of reheats is long, consider whether some people should show up a bit early.

People love to exchange recipes at a potluck dinner. Have a handful of pens and a stack of index cards on hand for guests who want to scribble down their recipes.

Return the containers in which your guests brought food before the end of the party—you don’t want to be stuck with unfamiliar containers and have to fret about getting them back to the right people later.

Ask friends to bring containers for taking home leftovers, or plan to have some plastic bags on hand. That way, you won’t have to send your own containers home with someone (and worry about getting them back).

Rule #4: Remember the little ones

If there will be kids at the potluck, don’t forget about their dinner—maybe one guest can be assigned the organic chicken nuggets, applesauce and juice boxes.