If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, there’s enough to plan without stressing about fussy appetizers. There’s the turkey of course, but there’s also all the sides, the pies, the place settings, and making sure everything is served more or less warm. But it’s nice to offer something for your guests to nibble on while you put the finishing touches on the gravy.
So this year we’re going to let you in on a little secret – the Thanksgiving trend that’s actually worth trying. It’s called a grazing table.
What is a Grazing Table?
Think of a grazing table like a cheese board or crudité platter on steroids. Everything is beautifully laid out on one table – either flat or on platters of varying heights – and guests are invited to graze. It immediately sets a festive, relaxed vibe in which folks help themselves. Conversation – and drinks – start to flow, and people arrive to the dinner table warmed up but not overly stuffed. Grazing tables are an eye-catching and gracious way to start a meal. They’re all the rage in catering right now, but they are accessible enough for anyone to pull off.
Secrets to a Memorable Grazing Table
With a little planning, grazing tables can be easy to set up but also have some serious wow factor. Here are our top grazing table tips:
Focus on the food.
- It might sound obvious, but before you get to the presentation, think about what you’ll serve. Since a heavy Thanksgiving meal will follow, you may want to keep your offerings light; think raw vegetables, dips, fresh and dried fruit, olives, nuts, and crackers. Depending on the size of your party you may opt to throw some cheese and charcuterie into the mix.
Think about layout.
- Do you want your grazing table flat on wood boards, for example? Or do you prefer to mix and match props to get some height? If using serving vessels of varying heights, put the tallest ones in the back if your table is against a wall or in the center if it’s pulled out.
Source festive props.
- While the emphasis should be on the food, a few seasonally appropriate props can really make your grazing table pop. For Thanksgiving, things like dried ears of corn, decorative pumpkins and squash, pine cones, eucalyptus, berry garlands, and horns of plenty can add a festive touch. Some whole pears, apples, and carrots with the greens still on can make the whole thing extra Instagram-worthy.
Don’t be too fussy.
- The whole point of a grazing table is to be laid back, so go ahead and let loose. Let it have a wild feel. Instead of daintily placing your ingredients, try sprinkling them around in criss-cross patterns. If you find it helpful to work with guidelines, consider either consciously color blocking (keeping cucumbers, peas, and green apples together in one section with radishes, beets, and strawberries in another, for example) or alternating contrasting colors.
Set it and forget it.
- Once you’ve set up your grazing table, don’t worry about refreshing it as supplies dwindle. This isn’t the meal, just something to tide folks over until the main event!