It’s the kind of party that hosts love to throw and guests love to attend: a potluck. Hosts aren’t required to labor over the stove or cutting board for hours making elaborate dishes all day and then set a formal dinner table. And guests are given a chance to share their culinary expertise by bringing a dish of their own choosing (and often liking). But to ensure your potluck party goes off without a hitch (or two of the same dishes), there are a couple of things both hosts and guests should keep in mind.
As a host of a potluck party, when you’re inviting guests and taking RSVPs, it’s best to assign each guest a course (and then have them tell you what exactly they’re bringing to avoid dish duplication) so you have a variety of things on the menu. This will also give you the chance to talk with your guest to see if they need any special serving utensils or equipment (and same goes for guests if they expect to need a dish or special serving utensils). No one wants to discover at the last-minute that a guest has bailed on bringing cold spring rolls and has instead is carrying a lasagna that needs to be cut and served hot (especially if you're potlucking outdoors).
As for the perfect potluck dish? It’s one that can be made in advance, is easy to transport, and is best served at room temperature, like deviled eggs or sesame noodles. When I'm hosting a potluck in my own home, I tend to take on more challenging main dishes like pulled pork, while leaving the easy-to-make (and transport) salads, casseroles, and appetizers for my guests to tackle. And when I’m a guest, I try to think of dishes that are out of the ordinary and only need a spoon to serve (if that) — like a clafoutis or a cold soup I can serve in small Dixie cups or shot glasses.