Anyone who has invited a group of people over for a meal understands that doing it by yourself can be a heavy lift. A potluck party allows friends and family to share the load. “During the holidays especially, a potluck takes some of the pressure off a host and makes it easier for them to celebrate with the people they want to hang out with,” says Shira Bocar, editor at large, food and entertaining at Martha Stewart Living.
But a potluck faux pas could lead to a frazzled host, angry guests and a trashed kitchen.
Although these gatherings are by nature casual affairs, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an unwritten code of proper behavior in the world of seven-layer salads and zesty meatballs. We asked food and entertaining insiders for their dos and don’ts.
• Do arrive with your dish ready to serve: Walk in with your chilled shrimp or hot chili ready to put on the table, without having to be heated or chilled. Hosts are usually busy, and squeezing another item into the oven may be annoying or even impossible. “If I’m a guest at a potluck, I try to steer clear of the kitchen area and bring things that are delicious at room temperature,” says Bocar, adding that salads are always welcome on calorie-laden tables. “If I’m doing brownies, I always cut them at my house and bring them ready to eat.”
There are plenty of great coolers and thermal bags that can keep your food cold or warm on the way to a potluck. Seeing the need for a good-looking potluck carrier, Deb Johns, chief creative officer of Scout Bags, created Hot Date, a casserole tote that keeps a 13-by-9-inch pan warm or chilled for several hours.