Food For A Crowd

As home cooks with delicious and easy-to-make recipes, we have been asked by friends and family to help prepare food for a crowd for parties, celebrations, and other large gatherings.

We typically make at least a few recipes for the menu in an electric roaster. Here are the tips that we have learned when planning a graduation party buffet, DIY wedding, large funeral meal, family reunion, retirement party, fundraiser dinner, concession stand, big birthday party or holiday meal.

Lids resting on the back of foil lined electric roaster ovens on green plastic lined tables.

Meal Planning For A Big Crowd

We have noticed the key to planning to feed a crowd whether that’s 30, 50 or more than 100 people is taking the time to plan out the details is important. Planning is the best way to decrease stress and increase success!

Most of us don’t have experience hosting big events, so we need to practice and allow plenty of time to think through and write out a game day plan!

When I recently hosted my dad’s birthday party this is the timeline I used to plan the food:

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  • 2 – 4 weeks – plan which recipes to make and who is bringing what food
  • Cook pulled pork and freeze meat
  • 1 week – plan grocery list and shop for non-perishable items
  • 5 days – plan to eat existing food in the refrigerator and clean it out to make space
  • 3 days – finish grocery shopping and set up food tables in party area
  • Plan space for plates, slow cookers, roasters, buns, fruit trays, etc.
  • 2 days – chop veggies, brown ground beef, cooked pulled pork, marinate meat, defrost meat.
  • 1 day – do any remaining prep work possible.
  • Day of Party – last minute cooking.
Five electric roasters with meat, potatoes and beans for a party buffet on several long tables with bbq sauce, buns and spoons also on the table.

Time Saving Tips

I like to draw a picture of what food will be set-out in what order. Planning serving utensils and thinking through every detail possible ahead of time is very helpful. I can only do this step when my mind is clear, when I’m in a hurry I’m not as successful at planning.

Do round or rectangle trays fit better on the table along with the warm appliances?

Plan to have enough refrigerator and freezer space for the ingredients, finished food and drinks.

Plan for someone trustworthy and able to full focus on the meal to tend to the food the day of the party. This job includes monitoring the roasters and slow cookers to adjust heat, stirring the food, keeping the serving tables and utensils clean, replenishing food, etc. Especially at graduation parties the parents get busy visiting with guest and need this extra support for a seamless party.

Fruit tray with one side almost empty and the other side almost full.

It actually blesses friends to be asked to bring desserts, a side dish, easy salad or no-bake cookies. This will also make your job easier. Don’t hesitate to extend the invitation to help! We like to ask 2 weeks to a month ahead of time.

Most of my recipes in this list were prepared for friends who asked me to help and I’m forever grateful that they reached out and asked me!

Have some self sealing bags or containers under the serving table to give leftover food to guests to take home.

Tips For Using Electric Roasters

Warm side dishes and main dishes are common at most parties. Using a large electric roaster can be a great way prepare and serve warm food.

Plan where you will plug in the appliances ahead of time. Roaster cords are often very short. These roasters were rotated to more easily reach the electric outlet. In other cases I’ve seen extension cords with 3 way plug adapters serve as the solution.

Electric roasters with foil liners to make cooking food for a crowd easy.

Using roasters with cords does require some extra planning and management. We find roaster ovens are easier than having a burner under raised foil pans (flames easily blow out and height makes them less steady) or lots of slow cookers.

Buy extra cans of non-stick cooking spray and use a thick coat of spray on the roasters OR on the foil liner insert.

Have long handled serving spoons or long handled tongs to set in the roaster or rest on a plate in front of the roaster. A long handle will prevent the spoon from disappearing. This typically happens and that’s another reason having a helper ready with a clean cloth to wipe the handle is super helpful.

Using a foil liner makes clean-up easier. They are not cheap, but will save a lot of scrubbing when the event is over. A sharp spoon or utensil may leave a scratch in the foil, but clean up will still be much easier.

Roaster of meaty baked beans lined with a large foil liner.

Do NOT use the plastic liners in a roaster. I tried a plastic liner once and it melted to the side of the roaster insert and ruined the entire thing. We find slow cooker liners to be helpful in a crock pot, but do NOT use them in roasters.

Roaster temperature needs to be managed and adjusted while cooking and serving. Stirring often is much more critical to cooking evenly, especially when making the Cheesy Potatoes and Macaroni and Cheese.

Electric roasters come in various sizes and can vary in the heat level. Some cook much hotter and faster than others.

There are typically little metal hooks near the handle that allow the lid to rest in them to sit up like this making serving smooth!

Lids resting on handles and back side of roasters with big batches of food for 100 or more people on white tables at a large party.

Plan where you would like serving utensils to rest. Will they sit on a plate near or in front of the roaster? Will you have buns and bbq sauce to fit in the line-up? What else will you need to make space for on the table?

The party below did a great job keeping lids on the roasters and making a clear, visible label as to what type of food was inside!

Roasters on a table serving a buffet table of food at a graduation party open house with plates for servers and a plastic red table cloth.

I often see people adding water to roasters underneath the pan. Typically you should not add water to the roaster under the insert unless otherwise directed by the directions or owner. This habit comes from much older roasters and some commercial roasters.

Comparing Common Brands Of Roasters

  • Oster – Another widely recognized brand name. Lighter weight. Comes in alloy steel which is weaker than stainless steel.
  • Nesco Roasters – are typically white, we have a silver one and it cooks much slower than other common brands.
  • Rival – no longer made, but a good, reliable brand.
  • Hamilton Beach – widely recognized brand, but made with different materials than the best sellers on Amazon.
  • Sunvini – Popular, affordable, brand on Amazon that I purchased and have used without a problem. I have a 20 quart roaster in silver, to match my other roasters.

A List of Easy Recipes For Big Groups Of People

These are catering recipes for the typical home cook to share with family and friends.

Mac and Cheese For A Crowd
Our most popular party buffet recipe in America is mac and cheese! This goes with pulled pork, shredded chicken, beef sandwiches or a deli tray! It's so versatile, filling and everyone loves it!
Check out this recipe
Serving spoon of cheesy and creamy macaroni for a crowd
BBQ Pulled Pork
So easy to make ahead and reheat while maintaining an excellent quality and taste. Serve with a variety of BBQ sauces so guests can personalize their flavor.
Check out this recipe
Pulled Pork Sandwich on white plate with potato chips, broccoli and glass of milk
Fruit Salad For A Crowd
Using a variety of fresh fruit to make a delicious fruit salad compliments most meals and makes a nice lighter option for dessert too.
Check out this recipe
Long handled silver serving spoon with freshly chopped mixed fruit being lifted above a pan full of fruit salad that was made a day ahead of time for a crowd at a party.
Cheesy Potatoes For A Crowd
A classic American side dish, we have a tried and true recipe to make in an electric roaster to serve 100 people! This one is popular and gets positive reviews regularly!
Check out this recipe
Cheesy potatoes on a white plate and red plaid napkin
Pasta Salad For A Crowd
So simple to make a couple days ahead, visually attractive and universally popular this big batch of pasta salad is one of our most popular recipes on Pinterest for good reason!
Check out this recipe
Tri colored rotini pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, olives, cheese, bell peppers and Italian dressing
Baked Beans For A Crowd
Our first graduation party request was from our beloved family babysitter. Her daughters remembered my mom making these baked beans and asked for enough to feed 250 people. I'm so glad that she asked and that we were able to help!
Check out this recipe
Spoonful of the best meaty baked beans
Vegetable Tray Ideas
A great way to give people healthy options to compliment all of the other delicious dishes we have tips on how to offer a great Vegetable Tray as part of a party buffet.
Check out this recipe
Easy vegetable tray idea with colorful vegetables like baby carrots, yellow peppers, white cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes
Brisket In A Roaster
A premium item to share at a graduation party, but one that people are sure to remember this recipe is easy enough for the home cook to make and save quite a bit over purchasing or catering.
Check out this recipe
Close up roaster cooked and shredded beef brisket
Corn For A Crowd
Creamed corn has a few add ins that enhance the flavor and make corn very enjoyable to serve at parties all year around. This side dish is very affordable.
Check out this recipe
Long handled wooden spoon stirring corn for a crowd of 100 in a roaster.
Green Beans and Bacon For A Crowd
Frozen green beans cook to tender and are enhanced with simple spices and meaty bacon to make a very popular side dish that is economical to share.
Check out this recipe
Plate full of big batch of green beans with bacon
Macaroni Salad For A Crowd
Creamy, tangy and delicious this is another popular side dish that goes great at a party, cookout or barbecue.
Check out this recipe
Close up serving spoon full of the best macaroni salad with celery, green peppers and shredded carrots
Black Bean Salad For A Crowd
Fresh, earthy flavors make this Black Bean Salad with corn, tomatoes and a light lemon dressing a delicious side dish or salad to feed a crowd.
Check out this recipe
Overhead view of a pig pan of a black bean salad recipe on a brown wooden counter top.
Deli Meat and Cheese Tray
Another great food tray that gives guests a lot of variety and options to guests to have their own finger food, snack, slider or sandwich.
Check out this recipe
Overhead view of rolls of deli meat and circles of cheese neatly arranged around the outside of a tray with salami laid in the circle in the middle on a red and white napkin.
Shredded Chicken Sandwiches
So easy to cook and keep warm in a slow cooker, simple ingredients make these high quality sandwiches perfect for concession stands and fundraisers.
Check out this recipe
Creamy shredded chicken with quality white chicken breast meat showing from the sandwich bun with ruffled potato chips in the background on a red napkin
Big Batch of Coleslaw
Super easy to toss together this is great to served with shredded meat and a generally popular potluck item in America.
Check out this recipe
Overhead view of a wonderful creamy coleslaw for a crowd in an aluminum pan on a yellow and white plaid napkin.
Shredded Beef
There's a secret ingredient that the meat simmers in and becomes so delicious and tender! I love how it's so common, yet creates these wonderfully memorable sandwiches that reheat very well!
Check out this recipe
Generous pile of shredded beef piled on a fresh bun on a white plate resting on a red and white plaid napkin.
Ham In A Roaster
Two to three hams can easily be made in a roaster. Slicing a boneless ham and heating in a roaster and serving along side slices of cheese is popular and easy!
Check out this recipe
Close up of tender ham fanned out on a white platter on a red and white napkin.
Sloppy Joes For A Crowd
A simple recipe to make ahead of time and reheat for the party this saucy and meaty mixture holds well in a slow cooker while being served.
Check out this recipe
A hearty sandwich generously filled with saucy sloppy joe meat on a fresh bun with ripple potato chips on the back of the white plate and a slow cooker in the background.
Loaded Baked Potato Bar
Having a variety of toppings for loaded baked potatoes is one of my favorite ways to make a customizable party buffet. Just make sure you have enough space and dishes for all of the toppings and can keep some of them chilled if necessary.
Check out this recipe
Close up DIY baked potato toppings for loaded potatoes
Turkey In A Roaster
The most common recipe made in a roaster oven, cooking a turkey outside of the main oven at the holidays allows more to get done in one kitchen.
Check out this recipe
Juicy and delicious turkey cooking in a roaster with a browned skin from butter and green herbs on top in a roaster oven.
Spaghetti For A Crowd
If your graduate really loves spaghetti then this is the perfect recipe to use for a big party!
Check out this recipe
Spaghetti and meat in a roaster for a crowd of 50 people.
Corned Beef In A Roaster
A flavorful combination of corned beef on a bed of cabbage, potatoes, carrots and onions makes a delicious meal.
Check out this recipe
Sliced beef roast on a bed of cooked vegetables on a large serving platter.
Chicken and Noodles For A Crowd
A delicious comfort food meal for cool weather and winter college graduation parties this is a dish guests love eating.
Check out this recipe
Tender shredded chicken in a rich and creamy sauce with tender noodles in a bowl of chicken and noodles sitting on a red and white plaid napkin.
Breakfast Casserole For A Crowd
An easy way to make breakfast for a large group one big pan feeds 20 people a sausage, egg and cheese casserole.
Check out this recipe
Extra large commercial pan to make a breakfast casserole for a large crowd of 20 people on a white napkin on a wooden table.

A large sheet cake or a variety of cookies are the most common party desserts, but we've got other great options to consider.

Dirt Cake For A Crowd
We share all the tips on how to make one of America's favorite dessert in a really big batch.
Check out this recipe
Spoon full of dirt dessert above a 9 x 13 dish filled with the creamy pudding mixture and topped with a generous amount of crushed Oreos.
Banana Pudding For A Crowd
We made this really big batch for Vacation Bible School volunteers and the pan was clean super fast!
Check out this recipe
Long handled silver serving spoon in the corner of a big batch of banana pudding in a large foil pan on a bright blue and white napkin
Cherry Cobbler For A Crowd
A warm cherry cobbler in a commercial sized pan is perfect to serve with vanilla ice cream!
Check out this recipe
Large serving spoon full of Easy Cherry Cobbler over top of a large pan made to feed a crowd

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