The Dinner Party Mistake Ina Garten And Nigella Lawson Avoid At All Times

Hosting a dinner party can be hugely exciting — but also stressful. Even the most confident person in the world will want their guests to have a great time, and that can require a whole lot of planning for perfect execution. If you've watched cooking shows with hosting experts like Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson, then you may aspire to hold one of their glamorous dinner parties for your nearest and dearest. But before you plan an elaborate, over-the-top menu, you might want to take some of their best hosting advice to heart. 

In a recent conversation the two had during Lawson's 2022 book tour (via EatingWell), they both agreed that the worst thing you can do during a dinner party is to spend too much time cooking. Rather than creating a huge spread of the most impressive dishes you can think of, cook something simple — a dish that you'll also look forward to eating. Remember, a dinner party is about the vibe and the people, not just what's being served.

Spend time with your guests

If you're hosting a dinner party, it doesn't mean you need to spend hours in front of your stove before and during the party. Remember, if all your loved ones wanted was a delicious meal, they could go dine out at their favorite restaurant. Attending a dinner party means they are there for great company and conversation, especially if it's a large group of friends or family who all know each other. 

Are your guests made up of folks you're hoping to introduce? Then it's even more important that you be there to bring those folks together. If you're excited about new recipes you've discovered, or if you've learned a new culinary technique, it can be tempting to want to bust out your best stuff to impress your guests, but if it leaves you exhausted at the end of the night, was it even worth it?

Instead, try keeping your menu simple. Maybe you cook one really impressive dish you love and have all your sides be store-bought or simple. Or maybe you feed your guests a meal that consists of heavy appetizers with a side of homemade aioli perfect for grazing. Most people won't be upset if you serve up a giant charcuterie and cheese board in lieu of a three-course. Plus, an evening of heavy apps means people can continue to mingle and move around as the night progresses. Better still, you won't have to continue clearing and serving dishes.

Hosting hacks so you can enjoy the party

No one is suggesting that you have your entire event catered so that you can enjoy your guests, but there are some ways to cook simple and tasty dishes without missing the party. 

First, opt for foods that can be easily made in bulk. A dinner party isn't the time to make each guest individually pan-seared steaks. If you're serving a protein, try a sheet pan recipe (like this roasted chicken and fennel) where you can prepare multiple pieces of protein in one dish. These recipes are especially wonderful if they include vegetables that can double as a side dish. Casseroles are another great way to go because you can feed a crowd easily, and it makes for minimal cleanup at the end of the night. 

Whenever you can prepare something in advance, go ahead and do it. You don't want to dress a salad the day before your party, but if you're preparing anything that tastes just as wonderful re-heated, then give yourself that grace. Perhaps you're preparing your famous beef chili or a decadent meat sauce that goes with pasta that you'll prepare fresh before serving. Don't hesitate to make those sauces, soups, and stews in advance. A bit of planning ensures that you can enjoy yourself. Don't worry about having a spotless kitchen by the conclusion of the evening. Enjoy time with your guests — it's the most important ingredient.