Hosting a big meal is a blessing and a curse. It’s wonderful having so many people over, but if you’re doing the cooking, it’s a serious project. If if you have one oven, it’s hard to cook everything and have it out on the table in time. It’s even worse if you have a smaller home. You’ve got some workarounds in the kitchen; not everything needs to go in the oven.
The Week Before: Eat Down the Fridge
Right about now, you need to start emptying your fridge. The more you can cook in advance, the less work you’ll have to do on the big day. Now’s the time to eat what you’ve got in the fridge and pitch the stuff that’s expired. I like doing this because it also makes sure that we have what we need.
The Outdoor Grill
That grill is designed to cook food after all. It gets hot and stays hot. Regulating the temperature can be tricky, especially if you’re using charcoal. Here’s the place to keep the main dish like a turkey or ribs warm. To prevent it from drying out, I usually put a pan of water on the grill to create moist heat. The grill also works great for keeping baked potatoes or other dishes warm. Use a meat thermometer to make sure it’s at the right temperature of 165 degrees.
I always use the slow cooker to make stuffing. If you’re stuffing the bird or need another way to use the slow cooker, check out our other slow cooker suggestions like making potatoes or even baking bread. This works best for dishes where the presentation isn’t as important. For standbys like green bean casserole or sweet potato casserole, do the major cooking in the slow cooker and then transfer it. To crisp up those fried onions or toast the marshmallows, pop it in the oven for finishing while the turkey rests.
Things like poaching, steaming and grilling all work great in a coffee pot. You won’t be able to cook a large amount, but for smaller side dishes it works great. You’ve also got a hot plate built right in, so you can keep those dishes warm. Yes, I’ve even put gravy in the coffee carafe. Just be sure to use vinegar to clean it before and after.
Just like with the other devices, you can make almost anything in a breadmaker. It heats up and even stirs things. I’ll make gravy in a breadmaker. It reduces lumps and frees up a burner on the stove.
I’ll admit I never tried cooking with the dishwasher, but I went to a festive meal where the cook was a big believer in this. When she first gave us the mashed potatoes she didn’t tell us she prepped them in the dishwashers. The dishes came from there, so it makes sense. Hot water with racks.
Distribute the Labor Amongst Your Guests
I was always taught not to come into a home empty-handed, so I always ask the host what to bring. As a host though, I always say just bring yourself. Not for a big meal though. I’d rather have a cooked dish I don’t have to worry about. I know as a guest, I like bringing a recipe and sharing it. Now as a host, I’m less shy about saying “Sure, could you bring…”
Use the Neighbor’s Kitchen (with Permission)
If you’re feeding the neighbor’s cat or walking the dog, ask them to use the kitchen. You’re doubling your kitchen space. Check with them first, especially about any food they’d prefer you not cook, and make sure you leave the place in better condition than you found it.
What Are Your Tricks?
These are tricks I’ve learned over the years, but feel free to share yours in the comments.