'Tis the season of pitch-in dinners.
Advertisement
Friends standing in buffet line
Credit: Getty Images / Jupiterimages

Everyone has their dish. You know, the one your friends secretly hope you'll bring to every shindig. Maybe you make a mean potato salad or people go crazy over your banana-bread brownies. Whatever it may be, potlucks give everyone a chance to shine. Plus, they take pressure off the host—making it a relaxing, enjoyable experience for everyone around the table. But, there are a few things to be mindful of to ensure your good intentions aren't giving off the wrong idea. Read on to hear what not to do at your next potluck.

1. You decide what to bring at the last minute.

It seems like a good idea, right? You'll wait to see what everyone else is bringing before you sign up for your contribution. But when every guest takes this approach, the host doesn't know who's bringing what—making planning extra difficult. If you're feeling flexible, you could make a decision early on but let the host know you're happy to fill in any gaps. (As long as they let you know a couple of days in advance so you have time to prepare.) If you're struggling with what to bring, you can't go wrong with the hallmark of all potlucks—a casserole

2. You bring guests with you.

"The more the merrier" doesn't necessarily apply to pitch-in dinners (unless the host specifically says it's OK). Usually, potlucks are strategically planned to make sure there is enough food for everyone; hence the contribution-attendance trade-off. Bringing empty-handed guests is an easy way to tank food supply fast and put the host in an awkward situation.

3. You bring a dish that needs to be heated up.

There's nothing worse than serving a hot dish cold—except for hogging the oven. Oven space is limited in a potluck setting, and your host may need it to finish preparing their own contribution. If you want to bring something that needs last-minute reheating, ask the host's permission in advance. It might be just fine! But you're much better off bringing something ready to hit the table. If you're worried about keeping it warm, pop it in an insulated food carrier or take it out of the oven as you're headed out the door. 

4. You use the same utensil to scoop up multiple dishes.

This one is a hard no. Not only does this practice risk cross-contaminating food (which could be a huge problem for any guests with food allergies), it can also create a chaotic scene at the table and hold up the line. You're better off gently tapping your host for another one. Bonus points if you bring along the right utensil for your dish. 

5. You pour a glass of wine (or beer or cocktail) when you don't intend to finish it. 

What's a potluck without an adult beverage? But finishing off an open bottle of wine or cracking open a beer when you're not sure you'll like it is wasteful. Don't be shy to pop a new bottle you know you'll actually like. It's a win-win for everyone, and you won't be left pouring a perfectly good drink down the drain at the end of the night. 

6. You're the first to go back for seconds. 

Still have room? Even if more taco salad is calling your name, hold off before going up for another round. Even in a relaxed setting, it's important to make sure each guest has had a chance to take a first pass through the line before going up for seconds. 

7. You take your dish when you leave early.

We get it. You have an emotional attachment to the heirloom-esque serving platter you've had for years and want to make sure it gets back home. But it's rather impolite to abruptly pack up your dish while guests are still chowing down. If you do have to skedaddle early, bring your food in something you don't mind leaving behind (like a disposable serving tray) or pack a storage container to transfer in whatever is left. That way, you can take your favorite platter while guests keep eating even after you head out.