Cooking for a Crowd

Holidays bring lots of friends and family to the table, sometimes more than you were planning on. A large holiday dinner takes a bit more planning, but with a few basics, you can serve 2 or 20 with style. Our Thanksgiving experts have compiled the common questions and informative answers when cooking for a crowd. You can also check out our handy Serving Guide for estimating the right amounts of food to serve.

If a lot of people are coming, I can just double or triple my recipes, can't I?

Not all recipes are easy to double or triple. A better approach is to make the same dish twice. Keep a duplicate dish in reserve so as you run out of one, you can substitute a fresh dish on the buffet or table. Or vary the selection by making two different kinds of stuffing or several side dishes. Keep in mind that the more different dishes you serve, the smaller the serving portions.

Where am I going to put all these people?

You don't have to all sit at one table. Go casual and serve dinner buffet style. A buffet is friendly and informal. Set up extra seating throughout the house where guests can sit comfortably and dine from their laps. Borrow or rent extra chairs, if necessary. Nice, clean patio furniture can provide extra seating in a pinch.

Is it OK to ask my guests to bring something?

Guests like to bring something to a gathering; it makes them feel included. What's the first thing most people ask: "What can I bring?" Take them up on their offer! Ask guests that like to cook to bring one of their specialties, or to bring some nice bread, a bottle of wine, rolls, a pie or an easy appetizer.

Should I add more menu items if I'm adding more guests?

For an expandable menu that's pleasing to both eye and palate, it's smart to add dishes if you're adding guests. Just make sure you have enough of the old favourites. Click here to use our handy Serving Guide to determine the proper amounts. If serving a large number of people, consider serving a turkey and a ham for variety, or instead of one large turkey, roast a full turkey and a turkey breast.

I'm running out of ideas. How can I make my menu a little more exciting?

Start your menu plan with time-honored favourite dishes your family won't do without (like stuffing and potatoes), then supplement it with some fresh ideas. Spice up some traditional favourites with new flavours. For a twist on traditional pumpkin pie, try our Cranberry Pumpkin Cheesecake. Cranberry & Carmelized Cranberry Stuffing and Rosemary Hazelnut Cranberry Bread combines traditional flavours with unexpected new tastes.

I always end up with so much leftover food. How can I get it just right?

Take into consideration the age and appetite of your guests and how many leftovers you're willing to store. And remember, the more dishes you serve, the smaller portions you should plan, and remind everyone to save room for dessert. Use our handy Serving Guide to determine the right amounts for your number of guests. And if you really count on leftovers, roast an extra turkey or turkey breast to have plenty of sandwich fixings or make extra of any dish your family loves as leftovers.

What am I going to do with all these leftovers?

Sometimes the best part of the holiday meal is the leftovers. If you have an abundance of leftovers and little space left in the refrigerator, send guests home with "doggie bags" of turkey and cranberry sauce for their day after sandwiches. Keep disposable plastic storage containers or take out containers on hand so you don't have to track down your dishes later. And leftover turkey and cranberry sauce is not just for sandwiches. Check out some of our delicious recipes for creative ways to enjoy leftovers after the big meal.

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