These Creative Tricks Will Keep Your Sides Warm During Thanksgiving Dinner

Entertain, Holidays, Learn, Thanksgiving, Tips & Techniques

You’ve spent days prepare an incredible Thanksgiving meal, and now it’s time to serve. The real challenge now? Making sure everything is warm when it hits the table—and stays that way as guests enjoy the feast. If you’re worried about cold rolls and mashed potatoes, then consider these resourceful ideas for keeping your dishes toasty up until the very last minute.

Option 1: A Chafing Dish

It’s an obvious solution, but chafing dishes are perfect for keeping food warm on a buffet. Fancier versions will also look lovely in your food display. Consider a chafing dish for your mashed potatoes, casseroles or stuffing.

Option 2: A Microwave

While we wouldn’t recommend cooking your entire Thanksgiving meal in a microwave oven, it can be helpful for reheating dishes. Alternatively, use the space without the heat; the microwave is insulated, so it will keep hot dishes warm even when turned off. Simply transfer a dish from the oven to the microwave to hold it for a little while.

Option 3: A Cooler

Like microwaves, coolers are also insulated spaces that will keep food warm. Carefully stack your hot casseroles in the cooler, close it, and they can hold for about 20 minutes or so without losing too much heat.

Option 4: An Electric Steamer

A steamer like Breville’s Steam Zone would be a good choice for warming a dish like mashed potatoes.


If you already own an electric steamer like the Breville Steam Zone pictured above, take advantage of its keep warm functions and its dual steaming baskets to keep multiple dishes warm, much like a chafing dish would. Note that you shouldn’t use it on anything you’d want to keep brown and crispy, like roasted brussels sprouts or sourdough stuffing.

Option 5: Thermal Carafe

Put your insulated coffee containers or thermal coffeemaker carafes to good use on Thanksgiving Day by using them to keep your gravy warm while you put the finishing touches on the meal.

Option 6: Slow Cooker or Countertop Pressure Cooker

The low setting on slow cookers (and often the “keep warm” setting on countertop pressure cookers) can keep sides like mashed potatoes, creamed spinach and corn or gravy warm for an extended period of time. If you’ve made the dishes ahead, you can also use a slow cooker to reheat them with great results.

Option 7: Bread Warmer

Traditional bread warmers are making a comeback, with many attractive vintage varieties available now. Simply preheat the bread warmer in the oven, then serve the bread—or dinner rolls or biscuits—in the basket.

Option 8: Oven Drawer

That drawer under your oven is more than just storage space. When the oven is hot, the drawer is warm, meaning it’s a perfect place to hold casseroles or roasting pans just before the feast is served.

Option 9: Grill

It may be too cold for a cookout, but you can still get value from your grill. Fire it up on the lowest indirect heat possible, and place covered, cooked dishes inside to keep them hot. Just be sure to place the food in heatproof dishes first.

Option 10: Double Boilers

If you have stove top space to spare, double boilers can be used to keep gravy, mashed potatoes and the rest of your side dishes steamy. No double boiler? Bring water to simmer in a heat-safe baking dish or large fry pan and place your prepared side dishes over the water.


A note before you get started: To keep germs from growing, always hold hot food above 140ºF. When reheating the food, bring it up to 165ºF, and don’t leave any food at room temperature for longer than two hours. Tell us: What’s your tried-and-tested way to keep your Thanksgiving dishes warm?

Get more recipes, inspiration, and cooking tools at our Thanksgiving Headquarters

11 comments about “These Creative Tricks Will Keep Your Sides Warm During Thanksgiving Dinner

  1. Tips for Using Your Microwave for Holiday Cooking

  2. Liz

    I just saw a brilliant tip on the Rachel Ray show by Peter Walsh (gotta give credit where it’s due!): use a cooler/ice chest. It’s insulated, meaning it will work for hot things as well. Heat some bricks, wrapped in aluminum foil, in the oven. When they’ve reached 375°F, lay them in the bottom of the cooler, then lay the food on top. A follow-up tip is to use cookie sheets or baking sheets to create layers.

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