Get the do’s and don’ts of hosting a successful dinner party at home
Hosting a successful dinner party is one of the most satisfying achievements any home chef can experience. And in a time when it’s easier to opt for a meal at a much-discussed new restaurant or a trendy street-food pop-up – the humble dinner party is making a strong comeback. Home, after all, is the place to be. Entertaining at home has a tendency to be stressful though, but that’s no reason not to try.
Here are the do’s and don’ts of hosting a well-executed dinner party for 6 in the comfort of your own home.
DON’T prepare a dish you’ve never cooked before. All those delicious-looking recipes on BBC Food and Jamie Oliver might look perfect, but it’s a risk to cook something unfamiliar when the pressure’s on. Opt for a recipe you can cook with your eyes closed.
DO prepare your dish as far in advance as you can. Once the doorbell rings, you’ll have your hands full entertaining your guests, so good preparation is key having your dinner party run without a hitch.
DO make sure that you read the ingredient list and cooking directions over and over. Things happen in the kitchen, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution when 5 other people depend you. Read the instructions carefully and don’t experiment too much.
DO double-check that you have all the ingredients you need. Take all your ingredients out and ready to go before you start cooking – it’s the best way to survey whether anything’s missing.
DO start cooking earlier than you think. Recipe preparation times are often inaccurate, and the last thing you want – is a party of dinner guest still waiting for dinner at 11pm.
DO ask your guests if they have any dietary considerations you should know about. Naturally this should be done well before your dinner preparations even begin.
DON’T worry too much about those dietary restrictions. You don’t need to prepare a separate meal for each guest – just make sure there are options. A tapas-style dinner party is the ultimate solve for picky dinner party guests.
DO make a music playlist. A selection of good background music makes a huge difference and can often help break the ice. Just don’t make it too loud.
DON’T rely on your guests to bring anything. Even when they said they would, it’s best to be prepared with everything your guests could need.
DON’T invite too many new faces. It might be tempting to introduce your closest friends to newer friends, but if they don’t have too much in common, the evening will become awkward quickly. Select your 5 guests carefully.
DON’T force your guests to have what you’re serving. You certainly don’t want to cause any awkwardness after your guest already said ‘no thanks’.
DO light candles. Atmosphere is what will make your party memorable. You table decoration shouldn’t be too over-the-top, but candles are a near necessity to add mood to your dinner get-together.
DO provide salt and pepper shakers. Even if you’re completely sure your dish won’t need it, it’s a common courtesy.
DO serve dessert. It doesn’t need to be anything too elaborate – whether it’s a store-bought dessert of beautiful homemade cake or cheese platter.
DO consider serving dessert away from the table. It’s always nice to move to a new location for coffee and dessert, just be prepared for people to linger if they’re having a good time at the table.
DON’T let your guests do dishes or clean-up unless they’re related to you. Even when they offer, it’s more than likely only done as a gesture.
DO manage your own expectations. Things will go wrong. Just breathe and go with the flow.
DO start the clean-up before bed. You’ll be so happy to wake up to a clean kitchen in the morning. That’s what dinner parties are all about, right? Good times.
Last but not least, don’t take yourself (or your dinner party) too seriously. Nobody will care if the stew is slightly flavourless or that everyone’s drinks aren’t in the same glasses. Your guests are getting free food, great conversation, and tasty drinks.