Whether your table will be filled with friends, family, or both, hosting Thanksgiving can be an epic undertaking. That’s why we’re big advocates of going the potluck route. Not only does it lessen your time and budgetary burden, but it’s also a fun way to incorporate a variety of traditions and dishes that you might not otherwise. Still, it has its challenges. To ensure that you potluck is a success, keep these seven tips in mind as you plan the big day.
Our Top 7 Tips for Hosting a Potluck
- Take the turkey. As the host, take charge of the turkey and gravy—a cooked turkey is tricky to transport and is a big (not to mention potentially expensive) burden to place on one guest. Pick up a couple bottles of wine and some beer to have chilled and ready when your first friends arrive, and leave the rest up to your guests (it is a potluck, after all). If there’s another dish you’re particularly attached to (like your beloved aunt’s cornbread dressing) consider making that as well, but if you’d prefer not to, don’t sweat it.
- Have a system. As for the rest of the menu, be sure to have some sort of system for delegating who is in charge of what. This can be as simple as asking guests to reply with what they’ll bring in an email thread or creating an online document with slots to sign-up for the major categories like mashed potatoes, stuffing, different offerings of alcohol (always important), dessert, and appetizers. No need to micromanage (now is not the time to assign out specific recipes!), but it’s helpful to assign out specific courses so that you know your bases are covered.
- Make it a BYOD (bring your own dish) affair. Unless you have enough platters, large bowls, and serving utensils to go around, ask guests to bring both something to serve their dish out of and something to serve it with. Yes, it may look a bit mismatched in appearance, but that’s part of the charm.
- Make space for everyone. Don’t have a large enough table for everyone to sit at? Don’t stress. Instead, get creative: Side tables can be cleared off and used for a buffet, some guests can eat at the coffee table, and chairs from elsewhere in your home can be repurposed for seating.
- Clear out your kitchen first. Prior to the day of, clear as much space as possible in your fridge, on your counters, and on the stovetop so that there will be room for your guests to chill and reheat their contributions as necessary.
- Label everything. Set out cards or sticky notes and consider asking your guests to label each dish with its name and whether or not it’s gluten-free or vegetarian (if applicable). This way guests with food allergies, dietary restrictions, and pickier palates can easily assess the situation.
- Stock up on supplies. Make sure you have plenty of tinfoil, plastic wrap, and disposable containers for leftovers (or ask guests to bring their own) so that you have an easy way to send everyone home with extras.