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Old 08-10-2013, 05:05 PM
Location: Tucson for awhile longer
8,873 posts, read 15,455,294 times
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You already have plenty of great menus here, so I won't add one. Having cooked for and hosted buffets for 100 multiple times, however, I will offer some tips.

Have appetizers, desserts, and drinks on separate tables. Keep the beverages farthest away from the main buffet. If people will be seated at tables even though it's a buffet, consider putting appetizer platters right on the tables. That will give people something to eat so they don't all crowd the main buffet at once. Consider carefully how people will circulate when you put out the food.

Don't use blocks of cheese (or slices) as an appetizer. It's too expensive because people can eat a ton of it without even knowing they did. Make your appetizers be crunchy vegetables so people will know they chewed something, and soft spreads with crackers, so the diners will have to DO something before they devour the item. This will save you money you can use on the main menu. If you have volunteers who will bring something, by all means take advantage of that. But assign them only [SIZE=2]hors d'oeuvres or desserts. You don't want to put your main menu at risk if someone doesn't show up or produce what they promised. [/SIZE]If you have an appetizer table, make sure it has little plates and napkins on it and forks if they are needed.

Go big with the salads and have a green one and a fruit salad. This will cater to your dieters and vegetarians and kids will almost always eat fruit salad. Cole slaw is inexpensive and gives you another green. Pasta salad is a good side if you aren't serving pasta for the main dish, as it is filling. Same with potato salad, but it's time consuming to make. Other potato dishes involve less cooking and chopping. I only serve potato salad for this big a crowd I can buy it pre-made.

Rolls are less trouble than bread, but if you are having meats people will use to make sandwiches you'll need sliced bread, too. Buy only bread that is pre-sliced. No whole loaves with knives for this big a crowd. Have a variety of types of bread or rolls — white, wheat, rye, a flat bread like pita. It's an easy way to cater to a variety of tastes. But get it all at one bakery to save yourself time. Don't forget to put out butter. Even if a sane mind wouldn't think it's necessary, someone will make you go get it and it will then be cold. Don't forget salt and pepper shakers, too. Even if your food is perfectly seasoned, someone will want to add salt. If you have room, put plates of bread at the beginning and the end of the buffet. Sometimes people will not take bread, then decide later they want it and this method keep the line moving.

Roast meats are the least trouble for prep. You can get a ham pre-sliced, of course. Don't do a whole turkey — stick to turkey breasts that you will also slice. If you want to have beef or pork, do something slow-cooked in a cheaper cut to save money. As others have noted, pulled pork is a good option for a crowd. I often do brisket and it's very popular. Just buy several briskets, brown them, cover them with Heinz ketchup, dump one can of beer for each brisket in the pan with them, cover and roast slowly. Easiest thing ever and people act like you gave them filet mignon. A gigantic salmon filet is also very popular on a buffet table and easy to prepare — if it's in your budget.

A vegetable lasagne is a good alternative main dish to have. Even if you don't anticipate vegetarian guests, in a group of 100 you will have at least a couple these days. As someone noted previously, this type of pasta can be made ahead and frozen. But honestly, Stouffers makes a premade one you can buy that is good enough for a buffet table and you can buy it in large sizes at places like Costco.

Speaking of Costco, unless you are going for a gourmet award from your guests, buy as much pre-made as you can. You can pre-order crudite platters, sliced meat platters, gigantic containers of pasta dishes, cakes, and breads for reasonable prices. To my mind, it's also the place to get turkey breasts, salmons, brisket, pork shoulders, and spiral cut hams, unless you have a regular butcher or supermarket you are used to using. You can also, of course, get prepared mashed potatoes and fancy vegetable dishes that just need to be heated.

They also have TONS of ethnic foods of all types if you decide to do a theme dinner. I had a friend who served 150 people at a party with a Mexican theme with one week's notice and every single item on a sumptuous Mexican buffet was purchased at Costco. Appetizer: five-layer dip; main dishes: tacos, flautas, and chile rellenos; sides: beans and rice; copious amounts of chips, salsa, and guacamole; dessert: a gigantic sheet cake. He got the paper products, Mexican beer, tequila shots, soft drinks, and a CD of Mexican music for the entertainment there, too.

Personally, I prefer desserts that are already in serving portions rather than cutting a cake. Unless it's a birthday or wedding, of course. It's also something you can buy or farm out to helpers to save time. Brownies, cookies, and cupcakes are enjoyed by guests just as much as fancy desserts. Did you ever go to a wedding with a cookie table? People stampede it.

If you want your event to be fancier than paper products, rent plates, silverware, glasses, and even tablecloths and napkins. You can cut down on costs buy turning down delivery and pick up. And even if you do that, they don't want you to wash the dishes. You return them dirty. No kidding. Even if you did wash them, the company would still rewash in machines. You can get these items at the same place you rent tables and chairs. It's surprisingly cost-effective and not much extra work for you than paper, especially if you have to rent tables and chairs. And it adds so much ambiance. Guests are always flabbergasted you've gone to such lengths. But it's really no extra work, just some expense. But less than I had expected once I had subtracted the cost of paper products, which are pricey these days.

And don't stress. It's not more difficult than any other fancy dinner — just more work. Preparation and choreography are the keys. Make lists and draw diagrams. Assign some helpers to specific tasks at the event. Good luck.
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Old 08-10-2013, 05:12 PM
Location: In the Pearl of the Purchase, Ky
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Originally Posted by obrienj32 View Post
Pulled pork
potato salad or party potatoes
Some type of Tex-Mex like fajitas, tacos, enchiladas that can be prepared in large quantities. With Tex-Mex you can put out chips and salsa with big vats of queso.
I usually always have veggie and cheese trays like you mentioned.
These are some of my go-to menus for a crowd because they are fairly inexpensive yet easy to prepare in large quantities.
Hope that helps!
I have a meal that would help with something like this and the guests fix it themselves. It's a form of taco salad. You start with some type of chips, we like Tostitos for this meal. Cook up the beef with taco seasoning. Then fix separate bowls of everything someone would like on their taco salad. A bowl of lettuce, one of diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, cheese, etc. The guests put the Tostitos in a bowl, add the meat, then anything else they want on it.
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Old 08-10-2013, 06:28 PM
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My Grandmother used to plan church dinners for 200 or more, the first thing she always figured was how much money did she have to work with, since we have no clue on your budget, it is difficult to Guage.

The other issue is your facility, where are you prepping the food? Do you have a large industrial kitchen, with big fridges and freezers? Or are you prepping from a small home kitchen?

How much help do you have available for prepping, and serving?
What are the expectations of the people you are cooking for?
Is there a theme or occasion?
More information, then discuss menu.

Personally, I am more inclined to do some small cold bites, tapas, a large green salad, a pasta dish or scalloped potatoes, and ham. Melon for dessert. And cake.

Last edited by jasper12; 08-10-2013 at 06:36 PM.. Reason: Edit
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Old 08-11-2013, 03:48 AM
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Smoked brisket
baked beans
potato salad
iced tea
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Old 08-11-2013, 04:55 AM
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good answers..

depends on budget,,,i've done some fundraising, and instead of charging for a meal,,,we ask for donations-
nothing extravagant, of course,,,but my favs for ease, and simplicity,,is a grilled split chicken breast,,,and cheeseburgers..
we would grill the burgers/hot dogs, then place in a slow cooker,, filled with beef broth,,to keep them warm and juicy..(and not having to throw any hockey pucks out-the overcooked/dry ones

both of these are very economical....

we would have a variety of salads/chips buffet style,,so they can choose what they like,,
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Old 08-11-2013, 09:03 AM
Location: Central Midwest
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I have some really great ideas. Cooking for this many doesn't bother me at all, after all I used to be a chef in a huge dining place. But I was just coming up with few ideas on what to fix. This crowd is a very casual crowd, and I've found out that there are some persons who have some special diets, and the most prevalent being diabetes so some of the things I would like to fix are out.

The one thing I am really interested in is the one comment about a roasting a pig. I would love to know how to roast a pig at home.

Thanks for coming up with some super ideas. Keep them coming!
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Old 08-11-2013, 09:08 AM
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Order La Caja China BBQ Grills | Buy Your BBQ Grill Today & Roast Your Pig in 4 Hours!

Most people who do roast pigs purchase a box. The issue though, where can you purchase a whole pig in your area? This is a routine item in South Florida, may not be so easy to find in other areas, start with a butcher shop.

You can also build your own pig roasting box, I gave this project to my kids one summer, they built it in a few days...and we roasted a pig for a Boy Scout function...I think they got badges for it.


A roast pig is delicious!

Last edited by jasper12; 08-11-2013 at 09:17 AM.. Reason: Edit
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Old 08-11-2013, 09:12 AM
Location: Phoenix, AZ > Raleigh, NC
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Originally Posted by jasper12 View Post
Order La Caja China BBQ Grills | Buy Your BBQ Grill Today & Roast Your Pig in 4 Hours!

Most people who do roast pigs purchase a box. The issue though, where can you purchase one in your area? This is a routine item in South Florida, may not be so easy to find in other areas, start with a butcher shop.

A roast pig is delicious!
As much as I love roast pig (and it's easily available here in Raleigh, NC), I'd have to be selling those roast pigs for a profit to pay that kind of money for one of those!
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Old 08-11-2013, 09:30 AM
Location: Wilkes-Barre, PA
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One easy one I have done many times and always goes over well.

Chicken Marsala
Rice Pilaf
Capri Blend Vegetable Mix which is mostly Zucchini and Squash
Pasta Primavera using bow ties and California Blend Vegetable Mix which is Broccoli, Cauliflower and Carrots

There are many steps that make this easy. Don't go crazy with the Chicken, searing and all that junk. Trust me it won't matter in the end. Make a seasoned dredging flour of Kosher Salt, Black Pepper, Granulated Garlic and Dried Basil. Dip the Chicken in the flour and bake on a lightly oiled sheet pan until 165. Cool the chicken set up in the pan you will rewarm in. Make the sauce: Pan Fry Onion while bringing to a boil half Marsala with half water. Add Chicken Base and thicken with roux, add the fried onion and cool. Pour over the chicken on the day of, top with sautéed mushrooms and rewarm to 165 and keep it at 145 in the oven for about one hour while you make the rice. This holding time marries the sauce to the chicken.

Use a converted seasoned rice which is super easy but if done right tastes good. Toss the Zucchini in some butter, that is all. The pasta can be done the day before as well, after cooking the bow ties al dente, shock them in ice water to stop the cooking and add in Parmesan, salt and butter. Blanch the Broccoli, shock and mix into the pasta. rewarm to 165.

if done right, this will always come out good and the tastes match well. I have done this for 500 and never had a problem, always got raves.
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Old 08-11-2013, 09:44 AM
Location: Cambridge, MA
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It might be easier to say what I would NOT cook, for practical reasons. :P

When it comes to meat, chicken or steak would be out of the question, because (at least for me) it takes a lot of extra time to trim it, handle it, etc. Not to mention the price. If it isn't a fancy affair, I'd go for ground beef. Spaghetti or chili is the easy way out. Brown a bunch of meat in a few giant stockpots, drain it, pour in a bazillion jars of sauce, etc.

If you have a group that won't die if there isn't any meat , there are a lot of other possibilities...

I wouldn't bother with too many appetizers...just messy and time consuming.

Desserts? Cupcakes might be worth the time, since they're so nicely portioned out already. I wouldn't do anything that needs to be served or eaten with a spoon.

If it is a family affair, you might even to serve things in portable vessels/have some on hand that you can easily send home with people to keep the leftovers off your hands.
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