Cooking for a Crowd Made Easy with Convection
Updated: Jan 6
Entertaining at home for the most part is less formal than in days gone by and now that the kitchen is often integral in the living space, it’s easier to participate in the party while keeping an eye on the cooking. Many homes are equipped with amazing appliances and spacious islands perfect for setting up a buffet; however, the key to making it all work is understanding how your appliances can work for you.
How Does Convection Make Cooking for a Crowd Easier?
The best entertaining recipes are the ones that can be prepared in advance and brought directly from the oven to the table. Here are some things to consider when planning a menu for entertaining.
When using Convection foods have better moisture retention, you can cook on multiple racks at one time and there is no transfer of flavor.
Many ovens can accommodate two 9 x 13” casserole dishes or braising pans, side-by-side on the oven racks.
Large capacity rimmed baking pans in the ¾ size are perfect for roasting large quantities of vegetables or chicken pieces or for baking appetizers and they fit perfectly in 30” ovens.
Larger range ovens can accommodate two ½ size rimmed baking pans side-by-side.
Convection and Steam Ovens are ideal for reheating foods such as pulled pork or braises and casseroles that have been prepared in advance.
Many ovens feature an electronic meat probe that will ensure accurate results when roasting larger cuts of meat. Because meats need to rest before being carved, side dishes can be placed in the oven when the meat is removed so they will be piping hot when the meat is ready to be served.
Many ovens have a Keep Warm mode or you can set the oven to the Convection or Convection Bake mode at 140 degrees and keep multiple covered dishes warm until ready to serve.
Adapting Recipes for Oven Cooking
If you usually are cooking for 4 people and plan to cook a dish to serve 20 people then chances are you might not have large capacity pans for cooking that amount of food. Before you rush out to buy new pans first consider if part of the meal can be prepared in your Convection oven.
For example, Arroz con Pollo is a wonderful dish perfect for entertaining but you would need an enormous pan to accommodate enough food for 20 people. I have found that a better option is to prepare the rice on the cooktop and the chicken in the oven with no sacrifice of flavor. Once the chicken pieces are cooked through, I cool them slightly then slice the meat off the bone and add the chicken and pan juices to the rice. The results are delicious and the food is easy to eat with a fork.
This recipe provides shows how to cook Arroz con Pollo in the traditional method or the Convection method. Dishes such as Jambalaya and Paella can also be prepared the same way with the meat or shellfish cooked in the oven and added at the last minute.
Be the Conductor - Give Each of the Appliances a Job
When you are planning the dishes you want to cook, keep in mind how you can benefit from the Convection features of each oven. For example, a delicious feast of Stuffed Pork Shoulder Roast, with Baked Peppers, and a White Bean Casserole can be prepared in advance and set to cook in Convection. Once the roast has rested it only needs to be sliced and a fabulous feast is ready to serve.
A menu that might include Asian Pork Meatballs and Chili Garlic Sauce Chicken Wings baked in Convection can be complimented with a dish of Steamed Eggplant, together with steamed rice and vegetables that can be cooked all together in the Steam oven.
When you plan your menu with the knowledge of how your ovens can work for you a lot of stress can be avoided but it does take planning. Also, when multiple dishes are cooking in the oven you can focus on any last-minute cooking that has to be done on the cooktop more easily.
I hope you will find these tips helpful when you are planning your next event and please check back for my next Blog Post, Baking Delicate Foods in the Steam Oven
Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast