Cooking up a pile of delicious, juicy hamburgers is a common way to entertain a crowd. However, preparing for a big party involves proper planning and strategic execution. Between estimating how much meat you need to please your guests to observing proper food safety precautions to topping the burgers with condiments, cooking hamburgers for a crowd can be a lot of work. Ultimately, if you make your party guests happy and have fun behind the grill (or at the stove-top, if entertaining indoors), your party will be a success.
Select your entertaining space. Cooking outdoors gives your guests more space to circulate in, and keeps your home from getting overheated. However, cooking indoors is usually better when the weather is cold.
Check your propane levels if grilling with gas, or the amount of charcoal briquettes you have on hand if that is your fuel source. If cooking indoors, make sure you have adequate pans and plenty of vegetable oil or butter for cooking.
Pre-form patties the night before, or purchase pre-made patties in bulk from your supermarket.
Keep raw patties chilled until just before cooking to prevent food safety issues. Keep your stock of raw patties in a cooler near your grill, or in the fridge.
Estimate how many you patties you will need, based on other foods you plan to serve and the food preferences of guests. If you are entertaining for 30 people, but 20 of them are vegetarian, you will probably need 10 burgers and 20 servings of a vegetarian option. If all 30 guests eat meat, but you plan to serve hot dogs and burgers, you might want to do 20 of each.
Segregate cooking areas for different foods at different stages.. For example, veggie burgers should be cooked on a spot on the grill that has not been touched by raw meat, since this might make them unappetizing to some guests. If cooking just burgers, use one side of the grill for raw patties, the other side for flipped patties that have been cooked on one side, and use the upper grilling tray for melting cheese on the cooked patties.
Use separate tools for raw and grilled meats to prevent cross-contamination.
Set up a condiment station away from your cooking area, and let your guests select their own buns, condiments and toppings. Keep a wide array of items stocked for your guests to select from, including mustard, ketchup, relish, pickles, onions, extra cheese, peppers or barbecue sauce.
Sliders may be fun to eat, but cooking a bunch of smaller patties will prove more taxing than cooking regular-size burgers, so skip the mini-burgers when feeding a crowd.
Tucker Cummings is a freelance writer based in New England. She holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of New Hampshire and is a member of the Association of Professional Business Writers. Cummings is also a food writer and curates the blog, Brave New Breakfast.