Appetizers are an essential part of any dinner party, but they can sometimes feel like an afterthought compared to the main course. This is a real shame since appetizers are the first food guests eat and the first impression they get of your cooking. To help you elevate your appetizer game, we have rounded up eight excellent tips to help you take your appetizers to the next level and make a fantastic impression on your guests. Grab your ingredients, and let us show you how to make the most delicious and visually appealing appetizers of your life!
Choose your drinks first.
Often, though not always, you will be serving drinks with your appetizers (if you are not planning to serve alcohol, you can skip to the next step). If you plan to do a signature cocktail with a distinct flavor base, then you will want to select appetizer recipes that will complement the drink instead of clashing with it. Even if you plan to keep things simple with a selection of beer and wine, it helps to think about the drink varieties you will be offering and what food flavors will and will not.
Select complementary app recipes.
Now that you have the drinks figured out, it is time to choose the perfect appetizer recipes to go along with them. Focus on easy-to-eat snack items that will not ruin your guests’ appetites for dinner but will also be substantial enough to counteract the effects of the alcohol, so nobody gets tipsy too early in the evening. Also, think about flavor profiles and what will complement (or clash) the drinks you want to serve. You want the food and beverages to work in concert with each other.
Source: Camila ionut/Shutterstock.com
Offer a variety of apps.
If your time and budget permit, it is entertaining to offer your guests a selection of different appetizers to choose from. Two to three appetizers are a significant number to shoot for if possible. Not only does having a variety of apps allow you to accommodate dietary restrictions, but it will also introduce your guests to various flavors. If you have one sour appetizer with lots of flavored tablespoons of vinegar, then pick another one that features sweet ingredients, such as raw honey. If you have one app with meat in it, offer another without meat for your vegetarian friends, etc.
Decide if you will pre-assemble the food.
There are two main approaches to appetizers, both of which are equally valid. First, lay all the ingredients out on a charcuterie board or similar presentation, then let guests mix and match to their heart’s content. The other pre-assembles the food into bite-size snacks that guests can eat at once. Some recipes require one presentation, while some work equally well for both approaches. It is up to you how you want to stage things.
Source: Yulia Grigoryeva/Shutterstock.com
Scale down the size.
Just about any food can be an appetizer if you miniaturize it! When choosing your appetizer recipes and planning out the presentation, think about how you can make them smaller. Bite size is ideal, and ensure it is no bigger than a couple of bites. Keep in mind that appetizers are supposed to be a teaser, not the main course, so you do not want to go all out with portion size at this stage. Instead, keep things smaller and consider this an opportunity to master the art of making tiny food.
Get out the unique serving dishes.
If you have an appetizer that needs to be served in a vast dish — like a salad of some kind — this is the moment to bring out your special serving dish and give it its time in the spotlight. You do not have to stick with the typical plate, container, or bowl. You can repurpose cupcake tiers, a cake platter, dipping dishes for extra virgin olive oil, and any other food-safe item as a serving dish if you are creative enough. Let your imagination run wild, and your appetizer display may become the hot topic of conversation at your dinner party.
Source: Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock.com
Prep the apps ahead of time.
The whole point of appetizers is to give guests something to have a snack while they wait for the main course to be ready, so it does not make sense if guests have to wait to eat the apps. When thinking about cooking for a dinner party, appetizers should ideally be made ahead of time by at least a day, if not two. That way, the appetizers will simply be waiting in the fridge, and you can lay them out right before the guests arrive. If your appetizers entirely cannot be made ahead of time for some reason, then make sure that you get started cooking early on the day of the party to give yourself plenty of lead time.
We eat with our eyes and mouths, and presentation is vital for both appetizers and the main course. As you are putting together your presentation, think about unusual ways you can display the food beyond just eye-catching serving dishes. For instance, you can assemble ingredients on kebab skewers, place them in shot glasses, roll sandwiches into pinwheels, and more. Embrace this opportunity to create a fantastic tablescape — and your guests will surely appreciate it! This presentation may not directly influence the flavor of the food, but it will make a difference in how your guests experience it for the better.
Follow these tips to elevate your appetizers to an imposing level the next time you host a dinner party. If you have been thawing frozen appetizers this whole time, use these tips as a launching pad to start making your delicious starters that are sure to wow your guests.