How many appetizers should I serve before dinner?
Appetizers served before a buffet or full dinner are OPTIONAL. They just fill-in, helping the really hungry and the guests who are enjoying cocktails. They DO reduce the intake of dinner food, but only about 10%. If you do choose to serve an appetizer, consider what will be served at the following meal and try to select complementary foods. Make the job simpler by choosing items you can prepare ahead and serve easily.
You do not have to serve a big variety or large amounts; 6-8 “bites” or taste portions per person per hour is a ball park figure. Caterers often plan a minimum of 4 different choices for groups of 25-100 or more, adding an additional choice for each 25 people.
A good rule of thumb for a dinner party, allow for 6 appetizers per person. For a cocktail party consider making 12 appetizers per person.
What should I serve and why?
Veggies, crackers, chips are inexpensive fill-ins appetizer selections. They fill people up and keep well if not used. Be sure to provide at least one tasty dip. Marinated vegetables provide an attractive alternative to the usual carrots-broccoli-cauliflower-ranch dressing platters.
People will eat less if they have to assemble their own appetizers. Chunks of cheese, cheese balls, and make it yourself sandwiches disappear more slowly than cubes of cheese and pre-made tea sandwiches. Try to allow for some extra serving space because people will cluster around these stations.
Except for a few highly desirable items such as shrimp, roast beef and caviar, the more selections you add, the less amount of each item you will need. As you add more items to your menu, reduce the amounts of each accordingly.
Thinner sliced meats, cheeses and veggies and fruit, give you more servings per pound.
Decorate your plates and platters attractively, green leaf lettuce, kale, parsley and edible flowers.
Use toothpicks and small skewers to form interesting presentations. Thin stick pretzels make useful skewers for cheese bites and other dry items.
Deviled eggs, smoked salmon or oysters, tiny open faced sandwiches, are easy and appealing.
Meatballs or tiny sausages in a sauce or a hot spread for dipping can be served in a chafing dish or crock pot/ slow cooker.
Do not attempt individual hot appetizers unless you have adequate oven space and help. If you can only cook a pan of 20 at one time and each pan takes 20 minutes, they are not practical for large parties. Having an equal number of hot and cold foods available is also helpful so that while one appetizer is heating in the oven, a cold one can be circulating, keeping everyone nibbling happily.