Potluck Main Dishes That Do Not Need Warming

by Ann Johnson ; Updated November 30, 2018

Serve cold fried chicken when heating isn't convenient.

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If you are holding a potluck meal at a park or another area where warming the food or keeping it hot isn’t convenient, look for potluck main dishes that don’t require warming. Your primary concern will be keeping the food at a safe temperature until serving, by using a cooler or ice chest.

Meat Terrines

A meat terrine is a moist and rich meatloaf, usually served cold. Made typically from a combination of ground and chopped meat, including veal, chicken, duck, liver, sweetbread, game or another meat, and diced vegetables. The loaf cooks over a bath of hot water. Most terrines take a few days to mature after cooking, in the refrigerator.

Fried Chicken

Cold fried chicken is as delicious as hot fried chicken, which is probably the reason it's the sentimental favorite for the old-fashioned picnic. If you’re buying pre-made fried chicken from the deli section of the grocery store, eat within two hours after picking it up, or refrigerate immediately and chill thoroughly before packing it in the ice chest. If you are making homemade fried chicken, refrigerate it immediately after cooking and chill thoroughly. Place it in the refrigerator uncovered until it cools, to prevent the condensation from softening the crispy breading. Once cooled, wrap the chicken and keep it refrigerated until the potluck.


Cold pasta salad with meat is in essence a cold version of a hot casserole. A basic pasta salad, tossed with diced vegetables, dressing and a meat such as ham, shrimp, tuna or chicken, makes a complete main dish. Some recipes include cheese or hard boiled eggs. Instead of pasta, make the salad with rice or a green salad with lettuce and garden greens. Enriching a salad with nuts, eggs and avocados adds flavor as well as nutritional value.

Chilled Seafood Lasagna

After layering the ingredients of chilled seafood lasagna, it goes in the refrigerator instead of the oven. It is a blend of ricotta and mascarpone cheeses, basil, dill, tarragon and lemon juice, layered with cooked lasagna noodles, cured salmon and a small amount of whitefish caviar. Assembled in a mold and lined with plastic wrap, it takes several hours in the refrigerator to firm. When removed from the container, it makes an impressive presentation on the potluck table.

Spiraled Ham

Although it is customary to heat and glaze a spiral ham, they typically come pre-cooked and are delicious served cold. Instead of heating up the spiral ham at the next potluck, serve it cold as the main dish.

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  • Monkey Business Images Ltd/Valueline/Getty Images

About the Author

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.