10 Tips for a Perfect Potluck

Headed for a summer reunion, birthday bash, or graduation party? You'll find great ideas here!

1. When I fix hot dishes for potlucks, I use foil pans and lids. Then I wrap each pan in a thick layer of newspaper, like a gift package, sealing it with tape. This makes for easy transporting, food that arrives hot, and no need to worry about losing a good pan. – Patricia M., Chesapeake, Virginia

2. To fix an extra-large batch of potato salad, I first mix all of the ingredients except the potatoes into the dressing. Then I stir a third of the potatoes with a third of the dressing and transfer that portion to a serving bowl. Repeat until all potatoes are coated. The potato slices stay intact, since they’re not overmixed. – Jessie S., Santa Barbara, California

10 Tips for a Perfect Potluck
3. When I’m in a rush to fix a cold salad for a gathering, I add several ice cubes to the noodles in the colander after draining them. I gently stir until the ice is melted and the noodles are chilled and ready to use. – Joan G., Morgantown, West Virginia

4. A cooled pan of brownies or bars can be ready to serve in short order by making slices with a pizza cutter instead of a knife. – Gloria K., Redwood City, California

5. Don’t discard the empty plastic cups from snack-size yogurt and pudding. Wash them, fill with punch, and freeze. Later, use these large ice cubes to chill a punch. They last longer than standard-sized cubes and don’t dilute your beverage. – Dorothy S., El Dorado, Arkansas

6. I’ve found that mayonnaise-based pasta and potato salads take on a lovely rosy tone when I stir in a bit of beet juice. – Shirley E., Genoa, Nebraska

7. Before covering a frosted cake or cupcakes to take to a gathering, I coat the plastic wrap with a light layer of vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray. My frosting arrives intact. – Hazel G., Spring Hill, Florida

8. In addition to parsley, any fresh herb sprigs from your garden can be eye-catching and fragrant garnishes for meats, pasta, fruit, and sandwich platters for a gathering. – Barbara R., Klamath Falls, Oregon

9. When I share a potluck dish that has salsa, a dip, or a sauce on the side, I provide paper or foil muffin cups. That way, folks can put the condiment into the cup so it doesn’t run all over the plate. – Rachael M., Norwich, Connecticut

10. For perfect potato salad, I bake (rather than boil) the potatoes. Once cooled, they slice well and are never mushy or crumbly. I get lots of compliments on my salad. – Holly S., Hinckley, Minnesota