#1 Cook to Order
As much as you would like to make your own holiday favorites, remember that you are cooking for your guests. Make the effort to ask if there are any special dietary restrictions or flavor preferences before you shop for the meal. If you discover that most of your guests would like beef over turkey maybe you should take another look at your menu. It is also tempting to make all the sides that your mom or grandma made. Think about how much time all that would take. Then make a smaller list that will be well balanced with what you have for the main protein.
#2 Plan Ahead
What takes the longest on your menu? What are the easiest to execute? Write out detailed prep lists and make a separate timeline sheet. In the first draft of these start at the time you want everything to hit the table and work backwards. How long does each recipe say it takes? How many recipes can you prep the raw ingredients for and set aside, each recipe in its own set up package. When its turn comes around to assemble, everything is together and ready to go.
#3 Temp Wisely
Don’t rely on the pop-up timers preinstalled in a turkey or roast. Invest in a food grade digital thermometer, you will be glad you did. Remember that cooking will continue during the resting period so pull your roast from the oven when it reads 5-10⁰ lower than your final temperature.
Medium Rare 135⁰
Medium Well 150⁰
#4 Make it Work
If you have limited oven space, look out back, your grill and or smoker will provide additional space to cook your dinner. Refrigerator space will similarly be at a premium. Do you have a fridge in the garage? Coolers full of ice will fill the bill as well.
#5 Apps and Snacks are Strategic
Don’t overdo it and if it looks like dinner is moving along quicker than you thought, pull them sooner or if you hit a snag let them hold your guests over for a bit longer.
#6 Buffet Rules
Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Ice trays and steam tables will assure your guests a consistent experience. After the first wave goes through and most everyone has eaten, replenish the buffet but make a judgement call on whether to refill to brimming trays. Food in a steamtable can dry out quickly. It may be better to hold back and if someone wants another helping well past everyone has started watching the game a quick reheat is all that is necessary.
#7 Quick refrigerate
When you’re sure everyone has had enough, get those leftovers into the fridge quickly. Two hours from initial service is the best guideline. It will ensure that all leftovers can be enjoyed safely.