5 Potluck Sins You Do NOT Want to Make This Year

updated Nov 6, 2019
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Invited to a potluck? Lucky you! It’s a really great way to share in the party experience as more than a guest. Plus, you get to try so many more great (and maybe some not-so-great) dishes than at a party where one person does all the cooking. And potlucks give you an easy ice-breaker for conversation with new people — you can each talk about the dishes you brought.

Potlucks are easy, casual, and a whole lot of fun — but as with every social event, you should be aware of the dos and don’ts. As a potlucker, there are certain cardinal rules you really shouldn’t break. Seriously.

Sin #1: Bringing a dish that requires taking over even a corner of the kitchen with last-minute work. Unless you clear it ahead of time with the host*, don’t bring a dish that requires heating in the oven or stove, or any assembly once you arrive. Bring your dish warmed (if needed) and all put together.  

*Also, an overly polite host might say it is okay if you ask ahead of time. So maybe, just don’t even ask.

Sin #2:  Insisting on bringing your signature or favorite dish, or a recipe you have been dying to try. What you bring has to fit into the menu, which the host has the headache of trying to coordinate. If the host asks you to bring a chocolate dessert, unless you have a real aversion to it, that’s what you make. You can certainly gently ask if she needs a chicken dish, but if you sense hesitation, be flexible.

Sin #3: Bringing your favorite or fragile serving vessel just because it’s so pretty. The most considerate serving dish is either disposable or a host gift you will leave behind (that’s how I got my favorite cake plate!). If you absolutely must bring a dish that the host will then have to clean and get back to you, be sure to stick a piece of masking tape with your name on the underside. 

And while we’re on that, it is very helpful to bring a serving utensil for your dish. Tie a small ribbon around the handle so it is easily recognizable when it is time to go home. And if it is piping hot, you can bring a trivet (again, marked on the underside). 

Sin #4: Deciding at the last minute to bring a different dish. Once you commit to a specific item, the host has factored that into the menu. Just because you wanted to get errands done Saturday morning instead of cooking doesn’t mean you can sub a bottle of wine for the potato gratin you promised. 

Sin #5: Showing up more than 15 minutes late. Come ON. You are bringing part of the meal, and this could seriously hold everyone else up. Not only that, but all those warm dishes people brought are cooling down while they wait for you. (And this, after they went to the effort of transporting them warm.) Unless it is set up as an open-house type of event, be on time.