How to Throw a Cooking Party

By: Stephanie Watson

A cooking party is a great opportunity to get together with friends.
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Cooking all alone in your kitchen can seem like a chore, especially if you aren't particularly gifted -- or interested -- in the culinary arts. But when you invite a few friends over and turn it into a party, suddenly cooking becomes a lot more fun. A cooking party is a great excuse to host a get together, and enjoy some delicious food that you and your friends make together.

There are a lot of reasons to host a cooking party. You can throw one for your child's birthday, or use the party as a team-building exercise for your employees. It's also a great way to celebrate the beginning of summer, or an excuse to visit with your neighbors.

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Whatever your reason for throwing a cooking party, you want to do it right. In this article, you'll get some fun cooking party theme ideas, find out how to plan your party and learn what supplies you'll need to have on hand before your guests arrive. At the end of the night, you'll know you've had a successful party when your guests go home full, happy -- and a little more skilled in the kitchen.

Cooking Party Ideas

If you have a reasonably large kitchen you can host a cooking party right at home. But if you're somewhat space challenged or your kitchen is in need of major renovations, host it at a local cooking school or restaurant (which will cost more, but will also save precious clean-up time). Some companies will bring the party to you, and others will host it at their facility. A few companies will set up a cooking demonstration in your kitchen with the goal of selling cooking equipment to your guests.

If you're planning to run the party, make sure you know how to cook. Your guests are going to expect some guidance as they work their way through the recipes. If you're not much of a cook, consider hiring a professional chef to man the kitchen for you.

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Once you've decided on a location, figure out how many people you want to invite. Don't go overboard. Depending on the size of your kitchen, it's better to keep the guest list small (six to eight people) so that everyone has room to cook, and there's enough space in the oven for everyone's dish. If you're having the cooking party at a restaurant, you can have 20 or more people, but you still don't want so many guests that you don't have time to spend with them all.

Next, figure out what you'd like to cook. A good guide is one entire meal -- an appetizer, two entrees, and a dessert. Choose recipes that are relatively easy to assemble and that you know you can make without the evening ending in disaster (a sunken souffle can really put a damper on a cooking party).

If you're hosting a kids' cooking party, plan a kid-friendly dish that children can customize. Pizza is a perfect choice because kids can roll out the dough and add their own toppings. Cookies that they can bake and decorate themselves make for a great dessert.

Finally, prep your guests. Send them the menu and/or recipes ahead of time, and let them know what to bring, like wine or a particular ingredient.

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Cooking Party Themes

Cooking parties can be quite creative with a little planning.
Cooking parties can be quite creative with a little planning.
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You could probably come up with hundreds of different themes for your cooking party. Here are just a few ideas:

Around the world: Have each guest cook a dish from a different country. You can either distribute recipes at the party or ask your guests to bring their own family recipes. Another option is to pick just one country, like Japan or Italy.

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Girls' night: Make it a ladies' night by inviting over a few of your girlfriends. After a few glasses of wine, it won't matter what you're cooking because you'll be having so much fun.

Date night: Invite a few couples over for an intimate evening. Cooking is more fun when you do it with the person you love, and your guests can bring home recipes that will make their own dinners easier and more fun.

Dinner and a movie: Start by cooking a couple of entrees, and then end the night with a fun flick.

Life's a grill: Take the party outside. This is a great way to spend a warm summer evening. Come up with a variety of grill-friendly recipes (you can even do dessert over the coals), and let your guests take turns playing grill master.

Wine pairings: Choose three or four of your favorite vintages (which can include different combinations of white, red and sparkling wine). Then cook one course to go with each wine.

Now that you have some ideas, what do you need to pull them off? Find out on the next page.

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Cooking Party Supplies

Here are all the things you'll need to host an unforgettable cooking party:

Invitations: You can have fun with the invitations by attaching recipe cards that your guests can detach and use at home after the party.

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Ingredients: Shop the day before or on the morning of the party (you don't want your lettuce to wilt and your fish to start stinking) so your fridge and pantry are stocked with all of the ingredients you'll need for your party. Prep the food as much as possible, cutting up veggies and dividing up spices ahead of time so your guests won't have to waste valuable cooking time doing prep work.

Snacks: It's hard to cook when you're starving. Set out a tray of munchies, which can include veggies and dip or hummus and chips for your guests to snack on until their own dishes are finished.

Tools: Assemble all of the pots, pans, and other cooking utensils you'll need. Make sure you have enough cooking tools, as well as plates, glasses and silverware for each guest.

Party favors: Send your guests home with a cooking- or food-themed memento of your party -- such as a placemat, apron or wine glass with the guest's name hand-drawn on it. You can also print out the recipes that you've made during the party so your guests can try them at home.

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Cooking Party Games

If your party starts to flag a little, a few games should pick things up nicely.
If your party starts to flag a little, a few games should pick things up nicely.
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Party games aren't just for children. Your adult guests will have a blast playing these fun cooking party games, especially if you offer prizes for the winners. Here are a few ideas:

Offer your guests different colored paints (make sure the paints you choose will withstand the dishwasher or washing machine), and let them create their own designs on a plate, glass, placemat or apron. You can also try a blind taste test, where youblindfold each guest and have them either smell or taste different foods to test their culinary senses.

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You can play "guess the measurement," which involves guests measuring out what they think is a cup of flour or two tablespoons of butter without using any tools. Then compare their measurements to the real thing so they can see how they did. This game is not only enjoyable, but it also teaches non-chefs how to measure by eye. Another fun game involves table-setting: Each guest gets the same dishes, glasses and silverware. It's up to them to fold the napkin and place the silverware just right to make the perfect place setting. This is not only an entertaining game, but it also keeps you from having to set the table yourself.

Team challenges are another great cooking party game idea. Divide your guests into teams and give each team a set of ingredients and see what they can whip up in 30 minutes. The best tasting dish wins the prize. If you want a tougher challenge, you can switch this up by giving them a recipe and letting them figure out how to assemble the ingredients.

For more information on cooking and entertaining, see the links on the next page.

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Lots More Information

Related Articles:

Sources:

  • Cindrich, Sharon Miller. "Kids' Cooking Party." Disney Family Fun. (Accessed July 12, 2011) http://familyfun.go.com/parties/kids-cooking-party-704520/.
  • Kenmore. "How to Host a Cooking Party." (Accessed July 12, 2011) http://inspiration.kenmore.com/2010/08/how-to-host-a-cooking-party/.
  • Meal Makeover Moms. "Hostess Tip Sheet." (Accessed July 12, 2011) http://mealmakeovermoms.com/moms-club/host-a-cooking-party/hostess-tip-sheet/.

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