I’ve been helping my mom host Thanksgiving dinner for 20-35 people every year for the last 10+ years and we always serve food buffet style. Here are a few tips from our family:
1. Create a list of food items you plan to serve and buy your ingredients early.
2. Have appetizers ready early as people will arrive early and hungry. Having appetizers prepared will keep guests occupied and out of the kitchen.
3. Do as much prep work as possible on the day before. Organize your baking dishes, serving platters, silverware, dinnerware, cups, drinks, etc. and stock up on ice. Chop up salads, mix dry ingredients for stuffing, set the table, and do a quick clean-up of the house.
4. Start your Turkey earlier than you think you need to. Between all the bastings, other baked dishes being checked for readiness, and numerous other reasons for your oven to be opened repeatedly, your turkey will likely take 25% longer to cook than the instructions indicate. Once it’s ready, cut it up, arrange it on a platter, and let it sit in the warming section for a few minutes.
5. Since you have a large group, I’d suggest 2 protein sources. Turkey is the obvious one, but you may want to consider having a ham as well.
6. Have your drinks station located away from your food buffet so that you don’t end up with a bottleneck effect. Same for desserts.
7. Put desserts/pies in the oven right before you start eating and SET THE TIMER. Speaking from personal experience, it’s very easy to forget about a pie in the oven untill you smell the burned crust and then it’s too late.
8. Have 2 outfits for the day: your cooking outfit (dark pants and medium-dark top, comfortable but not too blousy as you don’t want it to get in the way) which will be limp and smell of grease by the time guests arrive. Then about 15 minutes before you eat, take a moment to yourself, change into your dinner outfit and freshen up your makeup and hair. My mother had turkey bits in her hair last year before she changed her outfit and frshened up. Have someone trustworthy man the kitchen while you change (see below).
9. Enlist the help of at least one or two other people who are comfortable in the kitchen. I promise your family will be happy to come early and help out and the extra set of hands will be invaluable on the day of.
10. Lastly, remember that list you made of all the dishes that will be served? Keep it handy on the day-of and check them off as they are baked/broiled/sauteed/tossed/plated/served. That way you won’t find an unbaked sweet potato casserole in the fridge 2 days later (like we did one year).
Final note: Enjoy it! Don’t stress if things go wrong; your families will continue to love you no matter how salty your mashed potatoes are (yep, we did that 2 years ago) or how tasteless your trukey ends up. Good luck!!
Edit: Holy Cow! Sorry about the novel I just posted; I didn’t realize it was so long!