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How to Choose a Great Potluck Dish

Choose Your Dish Wisely

Last weekend I attended a very large Easter dinner complete with extended family and an excessive amount of food. There were over 70 people so it was a potluck. While the event had a commercial-style kitchen — complete with two ovens — it got crowded in the kitchen fast. While it may seem unnecessary to mention this, be careful when deciding what dish to volunteer. Here are some things to remember:

  • If you bring appetizers: You cannot arrive to the party late. Instead you should show up a little early and at the latest, on time. Choose dishes that can be made in advance, travel well, and need as little time in the oven as possible. My appetizers required last-minute reheating and it got a little difficult when all of the guests started to arrive and bring their dishes into the kitchen.
  • If you bring a main dish: You will have to leave in the middle of the party to make your dish. You should speak with the hostess or coordinator to determine what time the dinner is to begin and to figure out which oven space is yours.
  • If you bring a dessert: Be happy! It's the easiest of options, especially if you make the entire dessert in advance. Avoid any dishes that involve last-minute broiling or baking. Also steer clear of desserts like ice cream that will melt.

I prefer to bring an appetizer or dessert. What do you like to bring to a potluck? Do you have any tips to add to mine? Please share below!


nancita nancita 9 years
Great tips. I always like to bring a salad, since potlucks are often heavy on the meat and dip and cheese dishes. Plus, all you have to do when you arrive is dress it.
guinnevere guinnevere 9 years
my famous baked macaroni and cheese, and store bought cheese empanadas- they're always a hit for dessert and soooo low fuss.
Mel475 Mel475 9 years
We did something similar for our Easter get-together. We have an annual Easter lunch and egg-hunting at my mother-in-law's house and everyone brings something. I've brought appetizers in the past (last year I did the gruyere and prosciutto pinwheels you recently posted) but this year I brought dessert (caramel brownies). Usually the MIL and her mom do the main courses (ham and bbq'd tri-tip this year) so everyone else just brings apps, sides and desserts. I try not to bring things that I have to make there b/c it gets to be a madhouse in the kitchen. I also try to make bite-size versions as people are more likely to take a couple smaller pieces or come back for more when they can just pick-them up and go vs. having to get another plate and fork. Another tip is to make sure you bring all your own serving trays and utensils. People constantly forget and there's never enough at the hostess' house for everyone!
chiefdishwasher chiefdishwasher 9 years
It is great you have such a large extended family. You must be Catholic or Irish.
meijan415 meijan415 9 years
definitely dessert!
will205 will205 9 years
at the last potluck i attended, i actually brought after dinner mints - but i usually prefer to bring a dessert.
randomname12345 randomname12345 9 years
I like bringing salads (easy, no cooking, just keep chilled) or a dessert cheese board (no cooking & keeps at room temperature). I like bringing the cheese as my dessert since not everyone wants a sweet dessert - or some like to mix a little bit of sweet and savory.
Marci Marci 9 years
I don't have anything to add to this, but for some reason it made me thing of the Progressive Suppers they used to have in my neighborhood growing up. Everyone would go to one house for cocktails and nibbles, then they'd all walk to another person's house for the main meal, then to another person's house for dessert and coffee. It was so funny because 30-40 people would be hitting the streets for the next course of their meal, and as kids we got such a kick out of it. It was great because you got to do your share of hostessing without having the burden from cocktails to nightcaps.
fuzzles fuzzles 9 years
Someone recently posted an idea on this site (I wish I could remember who!) about having potluck guests bring their own plates and silverware. I thought the tip was wonderful, as it is much better for the environment than using paper plates and plastic utensils.
GrapeBubbleGum GrapeBubbleGum 9 years
Those are good things to keep in mind. I like to bring a dessert.
mswender mswender 9 years
I love baking and in my set of friends no one really makes dessert so I am the go to person! Made a Texas Sheet Cake with homemade icing for the superbowl that was awesome!
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