Raising The Steaks—Ideas for Great Poker Night Food

Raising The Steaks

IDEAS FOR GREAT POKER NIGHT FOOD

Catering for a poker or games night with friends, family and everyone in between can be an anxiety inducing experience at the best of times. Coming up with a good selection of food that will keep everyone happy on the night is a tall order, especially if anyone has special dietary requirements.

Chips, dips and pizza are the safe choices, but occasionally it's worth aiming a little higher than the status quo. With some pre-planning, luck and a generous dollop of determination, you can host a memorable event with food that goes beyond the standard options. Here are some menu ideas and recipes that could help elevate your poker or games night to a top-notch night at your house. But be warned, do a good job and your guests will always want you to host!

PRE-PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS

Before you don your apron, vigorously start balling a melon or even buy any ingredients, you need to make a plan and figure out exactly what kind of food you want and how to prepare it. Some key considerations before you start might be:

YOUR SKILLSET

Cooking a slow-roasted pig in a sand oven might not be a realistic option. Keep it simple and look for recipes you can realistically cook and prepare in your kitchen with the tools and equipment available.

TIME

If you want to play the games as well, you might not have time to cook a five-course meal between hands. Look for food that’s easy to make or can be left for long periods of time while you play. Alternatively, pre-cook before the game.

It's also worth thinking about how frequently you will bring dishes out. Too little and people will get hungry, too much and you will have a lot of food just sitting around getting cold (or hot) or going to waste.

HOW MANY COURSES?

You need to think about how many courses you intend to have. For example, you could have appetizers, the entrée, then dessert, or stick to a few different plates of appetizers all night. Will everyone have their own meal, or will you go for a buffet-style where everyone takes what they want from larger plates of food? This is an important decision you need to make before you buy ingredients.

SERVING YOUR GUESTS

There is no point inviting over ten people unless you have enough plates and cutlery for everyone. Ensure you have enough plates, glasses and silverware for everyone. Paper plates and plastic silverware are an easy option. They are not overly glamorous, but you can just throw them out when everyone is finished eating. It might also be worth pausing the game and setting up a separate eating area to avoid spillage on the poker table, cards or chips.

WHO IS PAYING?

Probably the most crucial aspect of the whole endeavor. Who exactly will pay for everything? If it's a regular game night, shouldering the cost yourself can get expensive quickly, especially if you’re going for a higher-end experience.

The easiest way to help pay is to ask everyone to chip in, or if you are playing poker, garnish a percentage of the pot, with everyone's permission of course. Other ideas could be making the winner of the game responsible for supplying and paying for food or alternating hosting duties so everyone has a turn. Whatever you decide, make sure everyone is aware and agrees before the night.

And a word to those who are attending, not hosting: don’t be one of those people who say things like, “But I don’t eat gluten, I shouldn’t have to chip in as much, because I didn’t eat the pizza,” or, “I only had one beer, Brad had five, I shouldn’t have to pay as much as him,” because when it’s your turn to host you’ll find that kind of stuff annoying too, and the more you do it to others, the more they’ll do it to you. Everyone agrees up front and sticks to the plan; don’t be a jerk about it. If you’ve got serious concerns about something, raise them with the host quietly and respectfully when you have a chance to talk privately.

DIETARY REQUIREMENTS

Just like at professional functions, it's worth asking your guests if they have special dietary requirements. The last thing you want is to serve up a bowl of nuts if someone is seriously allergic to nuts. The easiest way to get this information is to make a group on social media to organize the game. Ask if anyone has dietary requirements in the chat. You could also give opinions for what you’re thinking about serving on the night, and have people choose their top three and the three dishes with the most votes will be served for the night. Be warned, giving people too many options will only make your work harder, so keep it simple and don’t overstretch yourself. It’s a poker night, not a tasting menu at the chef’s table.

INGREDIENTS

Before you head out to the store, you need to have a rough idea of how much food to buy, so nobody goes hungry, but so you’re not left with enough leftovers to feed the entire cast of Guys and Dolls. Depending on what meal options you’re going with, this can vary. For example, if you are serving appetizers only, you’ll need to make dozens, while if it's a buffet style you may be better off going with something filling like rice or pasta. Ultimately you won't please everyone, and it may take a bit of fine tuning over multiple games nights to get it right.

GETTING CREATIVE

Once you’ve made all the key decisions, you could also consider getting a bit creative and make it a theme night. You could give the food poker-related names, like ante burgers, small blind sandwiches or pocket aces ice cream. Or you could take any food name and add a poker term ahead of it; look at our examples here, which you’ll agree are inspired—king burgers, queen sliders, jack pasta and ace donut holes. Genius.

BRING YOUR OWN (BYO)

Ask everyone to bring a dish to share, which takes the burden off you almost entirely. In the social group, make a list of meals people can bring and ask everyone to commit to making at least one. Also make sure everyone confirms what they’re making and bringing ahead of time, so you don’t end up with 10 people bringing Slim Jims.

HIRE PROFESSIONALS

If you have a lot of spare cash, you could think about hiring a professional caterer to cook and serve all the food. This will leave you free to enjoy the game and not worry about feeding your guests. Ooh la la!

MAKE IT A PRE-GAME MEAL

Rather than eating over the table mid-game, consider making it a more social outing and have dinner with everyone beforehand at a restaurant.

ORDER IN

Some food outlets would be happy to cook you a large takeaway meal for all the players, provided you give them some notice and are willing to pay up front.

MEAL & MENU IDEAS

Fortunately, with modern technology, recipes are no longer just pieces of paper confined to old books in the pantry. There are millions of recipes online that can give you intricate details on how to cook whatever catches your fancy. Here are a few appetizer, entrée and dessert ideas to get your culinary juices flowing.

APPETIZERS

BRUSCHETTA

Grilled bread with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and basil on top.

FRUIT PLATTER

The healthy option. Sliced strawberries, pineapple, apple, oranges, rock melon, mangos and whatever else you and your guests like.

VEGETABLE PLATE

Another healthy option. A plate of sliced vegetables, carrots, celery sticks, lettuce and whatever else you and your guests like.

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Mushroom caps baked with a filling of cheeses, spinach and breadcrumbs.

ASSORTED PLATTERS

A plate with a selection of cheeses, cured meats, crackers, vegetables, fruit and confectionaries.

GARLIC BREAD

Toasted bread topped with cheddar, parmesan and a light layer of garlic butter. Watch out for those greasy fingers on the cards and chips, so make sure there are napkins to hand.

FRENCH FRIES

You know them already. They’re not French, but they are fried.

BUFFALO WINGS

Deep fried chicken coated in various sauces.

ENTRÉE IDEAS

HOT DOGS

Yes, this can be an entrée if you do it right. Can also be a vegetarian option if tofu or non-meat-based sausage is used. Hot dogs can be served with French fries or buffalo wings, preferably both.

HAMBURGERS

Pan-fried, grilled, smoked or flame-broiled patties inside a bread roll or bun with a selection of salads like lettuce, tomato, onion, and whatever else you like to put on your burger in your house. What could be better? Can also be a vegetarian option if tofu or non-meat-based patty is used. Hamburgers can be served with French fries or buffalo wings. Again, or both. Why wouldn’t you, Jonny?

STEAKS

High-quality meat cooked by grilling or frying. Steaks can be served with mashed potato, gravy, vegetables, French fries or buffalo wings. We recommend replacing the “or” in that last sentence with “and,” but the choice is yours.

SANDWICHES

A very versatile option that can suit vegetarians as well. Sandwiches are typically made with bread, but some people make them with other things, but you have to wonder if they’re really sandwiches then, don’t you?

The filling can be anything—beef, pork, chicken, cheese, salad, vegetables and sauces. Sandwiches can be served with French fries, buffalo wings, stuffed mushrooms, fruit or a vegetable platter.

PASTA DISHES

Pasta can be used in many different meals that are also easy to make in a large batch, perfect for feeding lots of people. They are also a good vegetarian option and can be served with garlic bread or stuffed mushrooms.

LASAGNA

Another classic. A good vegetarian option if made without meat, lasagna can be served with garlic bread or stuffed mushrooms. Lasagna can be made in a large batch.

ENCHILADAS

Moving from Italian cuisine to something a little closer to home—a tortilla served with chili sauce, a filling of meat, chicken, cheese, beans and spices and sauces will have your guests drooling for more. Enchiladas can be made with vegetables to make them suitable for vegetarians.

LOADED NACHOS

Tortilla chips covered with chili sauce, melted cheese, beans, guacamole, avocado, bell peppers, meat or chicken. Nachos can be cooked without meat to make them suitable for vegetarians.

DESSERT IDEAS

COOKIES

Make them plain or with any number of delicious, sweet ingredients. Can be heated and served with ice cream.

CAKE

There’s always a little room for cake. A multitude of flavor options, decide on what’ll suit your guests best, or just what you like most. Can be served with ice cream.

PIE

An almost limitless choice of fillings, you can’t go wrong with pie. Unless it’s humble pie, just watch for tilt at the table and you should be good there. Can be served with cream, ice cream or just straight up on its own.

BROWNIES

Comes in a few different varieties like fudge and choc chip or just keep it real with the original. Can be heated and served with ice cream.

And if you don’t know what to do after reading all this, then maybe you should get someone else to organize your poker night.

Most of all, have fun; it’ll all work out in the end.