Tips for summertime buffet tables
A buffet is an easy way to serve food to party guests. Plan to make it a happy memory and not a disaster.
This is the time of year for outdoor get togethers and parties and they are often buffet style. Michigan State University Extension wants to help you make sure you and your guests have an attractive yet tasty and safe event.
Five tips for an attractive table:
- Cloth, or even plastic, tablecloths or skirting creates an illusion of a special event and also serves another purpose – they disguise table problems and blemishes
- If you have chosen colors for your event carry them out in the table decorations
- Keep decorations simple. Items that can be spilled or tipped over make messes that you don’t want or need
- For table decorations choose some of the food itself, unless you prefer flowers
- Tiered dishes and other items create a dramatic effect and can be made out of such objects as clean, small wooden crates that you can cover or not cover
You will want to have your buffet set up so that guests go through the food line quickly. The fastest and easiest way to set up a buffet table is to have your guests go down both sides of the table. Put two spoons or serving utensils in each dish so that people from both sides can get the food at the same time and to make sure that no one uses their hands to serve themselves food, such as potato chips and raw vegetables.
There are no set rules as to how to set up a buffet table, but below is a sensible order to place items and food on your table.
- Plates and bowls
- Potato and pasta dishes
- Rolls or bread and butter and condiments for sandwiches
Silverware and napkins are at the end because that way your guests don’t have to hold onto them while filling their plates.
If you have the space, have a separate table for your drinks and a separate one for dessert or one for both drinks and desserts. If you choose to have the desserts and drinks on the main table then the desserts would go after the rolls or bread and the drinks would go after the desserts.
With a buffet, it is most important to pay close attention that hands and surfaces are clean while keeping hot food hot and cold food stay cold. Use your food thermometer to cook your food to the right temperature and then use it to check the food on your buffet so that you know hot foods are being held at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above and cold foods are 40 F or below.
Doing some planning ahead, using the information above, will help make an enjoyable time both you and your guests.