When serving food at a party it’s very important to keep cold food cold and hot food hot.
Instead of serving lots of food in very large bowls or on very large platters, use smaller bowls and smaller platters and replace empty dishes more frequently. This will let you keep excess food fresher longer. Fuller bowls and platters look more attractive and more appetizing too. The extra bowls and platters can be kept in your fridge and in coolers or in your oven until you need them. Borrow your neighbor’s fridge and oven if you have to.
Keeping cold food cold …
- Fill portable tubs with ice and set your cold dishes in the tubs to stay cold. Inflatable kiddie wading pools are ideal for this! You may even be able to find one in your party “colors” or in your party “theme”. Themed inflatable coolers can also be purchased through graduationparty.com.
- Fill large beverage containers/buckets or large plastic totes with ice and set your cold dishes on top.
- Set smaller bowls in larger bowls filled with ice.
- Buy flat ice packs that are large enough for a bowl or platter to sit on. Flexible gel packs or ice blankets are best especially when covered with a towel or some other non-slippery material. The hard rigid packs don’t work as well as your bowl or platter may slide off.
Remember to check the ice periodically and replace it if it melts.
If you place ice tubs or inflatable coolers on a table make sure the table is sturdy enough to hold the extra weight of the ice. If the table is wooden or can be damaged by water make sure you put some plastic over the table first in case the tubs leak. The plastic can be covered with a decorative table cloth. Themed table cloths and disposable table cloths can be purchased at your local party store or at through graduationparty.com.
If you’re serving your food outside try to use a shaded area. The shade will keep your serving area several degrees cooler and the ice won’t melt as quickly. If finding shade is difficult consider renting a tent or awning.
Keeping hot food hot …
- Crock pots are ideal for many foods that are “spooned” or “scooped” like rice, taco meat, meatballs, chili. Crock pots have a “warm” setting and will keep food warm for several hours. Check with your friends and neighbors to see if they have some you can borrow. Crock pots come in two sizes – small and large. Use large ones if you can.
- If you don’t have enough crock pots then an electric frying pan can be used too. Many of these also have a “warm” setting. Crock pots and electric frying pans will need to be situated near an electrical outlet.
- Chafing dishes are a popular choice. If your food is being catered from a restaurant then check with the restaurant to see if they loan or rent chafing dishes. Many restaurants will include these as part of your catering package. Chafing dishes can also be rented from your local rental store. Or check with your friends and neighbors. Someone may have one or two you can borrow. If you do a lot of entertaining (or have a lot of graduation parties in your future) you may want to purchase your own. Graduationparty.com has some listed on its Catering Supplies webpage.
- If you’re planning to serve your food outdoors then, depending on the food, you may be able to use your grill. If you’re serving grilled food like burgers and hotdogs then use two grills – one for cooking and one for keeping the meat warm. Turn one grill on low and place foil roasters on the grill. Place cooked meat in the roasters to keep it warm. You can even keep side dishes like beans and rice warm this way. However, be careful. Keeping food warm on the grill tends to dry it out after a while.