Potluck Questions and Tips

By: the Editors of Easy Home Cooking Magazine

Keeping food at the right temperature is essential at potlucks and buffets.
Keeping food at the right temperature is essential at potlucks and buffets.


Q. I'd like to set up a buffet table for my next party, but I'm not sure what layout I should use. How can I create the perfect buffet table?

A. Entertaining at home should be a joy, not a nightmare. By following just a few tips, your buffet and dining tables will come to life and your party will be an absolute success.

  • Plates should be placed at the front of the buffet line with flatware and napkins placed at the end. This way, your guests won't be fumbling with too many things to hold while they are serving themselves.
  • Be creative in laying out flatware. Ceramic planters, bread baskets, even cookie tins are delightful holders for knives, forks and spoons.
  • Condiments should be placed in small, decorative bowls and set next to the foods they are to be served with.
  • Chafing dishes are easy to rent and will keep your food hot and fresh. They come in different sizes and shapes and there are even disposable ones with aluminum foil inserts.
  • Add a bit of whimsy with fun and fancy ice cubes. Freeze berries, edible flowers or mint sprigs inside ice cubes for a playful effect. Flavored ice cubes (lemonade, coffee, etc.) are also simple touches.

Q. My friend is having a potluck party. How can I keep the dish I prepare safe during the ride to her house?

A. When transporting foods to a party, remember these important food safety rules.

  • Keep hot foods hot (above 140 degrees F) during transporting and serving. Wrap hot dishes in several layers of newspaper or place in insulated containers for the trip and serve within two hours.
  • If this is not practical, make hot dishes a day ahead, refrigerate overnight and reheat just before serving.
  • Food that has remained unrefrigerated longer than two hours should be discarded.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

For more tips on potlucks, buffets, and food safety see: