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How to Prepare Your Kitchen for Small Gatherings

by Bill Welles

A kitchen is always a welcoming place, but it requires a little extra care and attention the day before a gathering. Nowadays, our gatherings have been reduced to just a handful of family members or close friends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still throw a great celebration. While we’re focused on small gatherings for our safety, there’s still lots of work to do to get your kitchen ready before your guests arrive. 

Create a Checklist

Start by creating a checklist of what you’ll need for your gathering. Since the focus of the kitchen is always on the food, make a list of the ingredients you’ll need for whatever dish you plan to serve. Make note of serving dishes, plates, utensils, and anything else you would need for your meal. Are you cooking everything fresh or reheating your food in a warming tray? These are important items to consider so you are fully prepared by the time your first guest knocks on the door. 

Clear out the Junk

Unlike most rooms in your house, the kitchen clutter seems to grow exponentially. The counter is always a convenient place to set down bills, keys, purses, and other items you don’t want out during your kitchen gathering. Make sure your entertaining space is clear and organized.

Clean out your refrigerator and get rid of any old or expired food. If you’ve asked people to bring any food items, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of space in your fridge until the food is ready to serve. Guests will usually bring a bottle of wine or other beverages out of courtesy, so it’s a good idea to make some room beforehand.

Do Your Prep Work 

Cooking and preparing food the night before is the easiest way to ensure everything is ready on time. Scrambling at the last minute to finish setting up, cleaning, and taking the casserole out of the oven can leave the host overwhelmed. You won’t be able to enjoy the night if you’re too busy preparing everything while the gathering is taking place. The various microtasks that can be completed ahead of time, should be. And since kitchen space is such a commodity, you want to maximize your counter and serving space the best you can, which is a much simpler feat when you’ve already done most of the cooking and cleaning ahead of time.

Once it’s party time and your guests are arriving, you’ll be able to focus your time and energy on your friends and family and enjoy the inviting and welcoming space you’ve created for the occasion. 

Cook Your Go-To Dish 

When you’re hosting small kitchen gatherings or any gatherings for that matter, this is not the time to experiment with your menu. We all like to try new foods and see if we can beat Bobby Flay, but when you’re serving food for guests, stick with what you know. You want to serve food that tastes good that you are confident to serve. If it’s a dish you’re comfortable with that you’ve prepared 100 times, you’ll feel much less stressed out about your meal prep.

Once your meal is prepared, labeling everything is key. You don’t want your guests to constantly ask you what the dish is or what’s in it. Labeling your food helps people identify what they are eating and keeps their attention towards the kitchen. You can create printed labels or get crafty and design them yourself. It’s a great idea to label food if you know your guests have dietary restrictions or food allergies. Tagging items that have nuts, gluten, wheat, and so on, allows everyone to enjoy the gathering and the food without the worry of what they might be eating. 

Keep the Kitchen Cold 

An equally important but sometimes overlooked aspect of hosting kitchen gatherings is making sure your entertaining space is nice and cool. Open the windows or blast the AC before your guests arrive. It’s much easier to heat your kitchen later rather than try to cool it down. Especially if you are cooking and using the stove or oven, once people start to fill in, your kitchen will turn into a sauna in no time.

Happy Hour 

Any good host knows they must supply their guests with cool refreshments. Especially during the heat of summer, a fresh cocktail is the best way to kick things off. Once the gathering gets going, you’ll be shocked at how little time you have to prepare anything. You’ll start fielding questions of where’s the bathroom, what kind of dog is this, why do I need to take my shoes off, and you’ll feel like your head may explode. So, to help alleviate the tension, keep a large-batch drink chilling in the fridge so it’s ready to serve. You’ll feel like a true Food Network host artfully pouring a ready-made elixir for your thirsty guests and give them something to do—drink and drink some more! You can’t go wrong with a refreshing pitcher of margaritas. 

Don't Forget the Tunes

A kitchen gathering no matter how large or small needs a fun atmosphere and ambiance. Music is the best source of entertainment to liven the party and bring your guests together. Listening to music while you’re cooking is almost a rite of passage. Music and food go together so well, it’s almost an insult to have one without another. If you're whipping up Nona’s famous spaghetti and meatballs and cracking open a bottle of wine, are you telling me you’re not going to play a little Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin? That’s what I thought! 

If your kitchen is the heart of your home, your guests will be drawn to the warmth and relaxation of your gathering regardless of size. With these helpful tips, your kitchen will be ready to host your next special gathering. And if you need and new kitchen appliances or cooking accessories to make sure your gathering goes off without a hitch, give us a call to stop by our store to shop our entire collection. Our expert staff is always happy to answer any questions you have.