7 Brilliant Potluck Tips from The Pioneer Woman, Dorie Greenspan, and More

updated Nov 7, 2019
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Potluck Season is officially upon us, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. There’s something magical about a crowd of family and friends gathering around a table full of delicious homemade food meant for everyone to enjoy. The best thing about a potluck, though? How much of the prep and cooking is outsourced to the guests. (A busy host’s dream!) To help you kick the season off right, we asked a few experts who love potlucks (and have hosted hundreds of them combined) to divulge their best potluck wisdom. Guests and hosts, listen up!

1. Do a little “maintenance” before guests arrive.

“Before guests come over, I always make sure that I have an empty trash can, empty dishwasher, and cleared fridge — because so many people bring over refrigerated items or beer.” Rebecca Longshore, Director of Growth at Kitchn

2. Don’t worry about how your dish looks.

“Don’t worry about bringing the prettiest treat to a party. I used to do that — but no more! When I make a big-batch dish for a potluck, I focus on how yummy it is instead. That’s why I love a big casserole, slab cookie, or sheet cake.” — Ree Drummond, of Food Network’s The Pioneer Woman and author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks The New Frontier

3. Cook and serve your dish in the same vessel.

“The hardest part of cooking for any potluck is the transfer — making sure your dish gets safely from your stove to your car to another person’s kitchen table. Cooking and serving in the same vessel helps greatly.” — Sierra Tishgart, co-founder of Great Jones

4. Don’t forget the lid.

“Use containers with lids that are easy to travel with. I typically take liquidy foods in my Dutch oven and dry dishes like cakes or salads in baking dishes with lids.” Nik Sharma of A Brown Table and author of Season

5. And maybe try an insulated carrier.

Packing your casserole dish in an insulated carrying case will help keep it warm en route to the party.” — Angela Davis of The Kitchenista Diaries

6. Don’t even think about using your host’s oven.

“Temperature can be tricky when you’re bringing something to a party, so it’s good to avoid bringing anything that has to be reheated, because oven space is usually limited or at a premium when the crowd is large. That’s why I like to bring something served at room temperature, or a baked dessert.” Dorie Greenspan, baking expert and author of Everyday DorieDorie’s Cookies, and more

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Embrace store-bought shortcuts.

Whether it’s due to a busy schedule or just plain forgetfulness, I find myself in a bind more often than I’d like to admit, and judging from the desperate trays of celery sticks and gummy dip that so often populate potluck spreads, I think it’s a common affliction. So I recently started keeping a running list of grocery store items that I could grab the day of, or even on the way to the party, that I wouldn’t be ashamed to bring. (See: 14 Ready-to-Eat Groceries You Can (Proudly) Bring to Any Potluck.)” — Danielle Centoni, Kitchn contributor

7. Don’t forget the extension cords.

“A potluck this time of year generally means lots of slow cooker dishes. And depending on your table placement or outlet situation, you’re probably going to need to have an extension cord or two on hand. (Be careful not to overload an outlet!) This way, you’re ready as guests arrive.” Lisa Freedman, Lifestyle Director at Kitchn