How To Keep Thanksgiving Food Hot When Your Kitchen Space Is Limited

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

There are few meals more impressive than the vast and varied spread of a well-prepared Thanksgiving dinner. The menu almost always includes a delicious and juicy turkey that takes center stage, but the poultry is just a small fraction of the meal.

In many cases, it can be a challenge just to fit a bit of everything on one plate. But on this holiday of abundance and overeating, there is one challenge that is even more difficult than fitting all the food into your stomach, and that’s finding a way to keep the food hot before it is served.

To keep all your Thanksgiving food hot before it is served, use your grill to keep some dishes warm, buy some Sterno cans, and use your camping stove if you have one. Make sure you plan your cooking in advance, and prepare items that maintain heat before those that quickly lose it. Ask guests to bring side dishes that are hot, and use towels and coolers as insulators.

Preparing a delicious spread for Thanksgiving is a marathon of a cooking challenge that often takes several days of work and planning. Making sure all the food is still hot when it reaches the dinner table is a methodical balancing act that can be a huge challenge if you don’t plan properly. The good news is, if you follow the nine tips below, you should have no problem keeping all your scrumptious food at its correct temperature before serving it to your hungry guests.

Nine Tips To Keep Thanksgiving Food Hot With Limited Space

1. Use Your Grill

If you live in a cooler climate, you might think bringing hot food outside is out of the question, but don’t forget about your grill. Firing up your propane grill is a great way to keep some of your Thanksgiving food nice and hot when you have limited space in your kitchen.

Most larger grills can keep at least two aluminum pans warm. Other grills even have a burner attached, which you can use to keep a sauce, gravy, or an additional side dish warm.

Using your grill is a great way to free up space inside the kitchen. You can enlist help from one of your guests or loved ones to watch this area. That way, you can easily delegate responsibility and focus your attention on fewer elements of the meal. Just make sure your propane tank is full before the big day.

2. Buy Sternos And Stands

Sterno comes in very handy when hosting Thanksgiving, especially if you find yourself cooking for a large crowd. If you place the side dishes in aluminum pans and use stands, you can keep the food warm by lighting a Sterno or two underneath each dish. This method is most effective when you are serving Thanksgiving dinner in a buffet style, rather than serving it all on the table.

Using a buffet line keeps the side dishes in order, and it is easier to maintain a safe area. A buffet line is often the best option when you don’t have a large dinner table, or have lots of guests. This way, you can keep all your food warm, and have more room on the table for things like decor, bread, and condiments.

3. Use Your Cooler To Insulate Side Dishes

When you imagine your cooler, you probably picture it filled with cold items and ice. For this reason, it might be the last thing you imagine using to keep food warm. But just as a cooler keeps cold items cold, it can also keep hot items hot.

If you get several side dishes at a very hot temperature, instead of leaving them on a counter to cool, place them in a clean and empty cooler. This can help keep all these items nice and warm. It also frees up counter space for you to cook.

4. Bust Out Your Camping Stove

If you are a camper, you might want to think about dusting off your camping stove before Thanksgiving. Butane or propane camping stoves are fantastic because you can place them almost anywhere where there is a safe, non-flammable flat surface.

You can often keep one or two dishes warm, and you can even heat an entire meal on one. Use your camping stove or stoves to create a small satellite kitchen where you or someone else can heat up several dishes when space is limited. This will cut down on the time it takes to reheat everything and also help with any space concerns.

5. Plan Your Cooking Strategy In Advance

Another effective way to make sure all the food you serve on Thanksgiving is at its proper temperature is to plan accordingly. Planning a meal like Thanksgiving for several guests is a grand undertaking. It deserves ample thought and planning before you even light up the first burner or turn on the oven. This is where a spreadsheet and a strategy come in handy.

Think about what items retain heat after cooking, and which don’t. Hot boiling sauces will stay warm longer than things like stuffing. Plan to finish items that cool quickly last. It is also a good idea to give yourself 20 minutes before serving to heat up some last-minute and unexpected items in the hot oven if necessary.

6. Ask A Neighbor Or Family Member To Use Their Oven

You might also ask for some neighborly help or the help of a nearby family member. Just because you only have one oven, it does not mean there isn’t another perfectly good oven nearby.

If you invited a neighbor for Thanksgiving, or have a nearby family member, then consider asking if you can use their oven before serving food to keep it warm. As long as the food is wrapped in foil and you place it on a baking sheet, you should cause no mess in the oven, and it will be easy to transport back to the house.

7. Encourage Guests To Bring Food Hot

Another way to ensure all the food is hot at the dinner table on Thanksgiving is to encourage all the guests bringing food to bring it hot. This means they should take the food out of the oven and do their best to preserve its warmth for the ride over, and once it arrives.

This way, you can focus your time and energy on keeping the food you are preparing warm. It can be difficult to have to sacrifice space in the oven for someone else’s side dish without warning because they brought it over cold.

8. Use Microwave and Crock Pot For Last-Minute Heating

With all the cooking on the stovetop, oven, and other cooking surfaces, it can be easy to forget about other kitchen appliances like crock pots and the microwave. The microwave is great for reheating last-minute smaller side dishes that don’t need to be crunchy, like mashed potatoes. Crock pots are great for holding items at a warm temperature for hours, like candied yams or even a large amount of gravy.

9. Keep Side Dishes Warm On The Stove Top

Lastly, remember that your stove top is a great way to quickly and easily heat up your Thanksgiving food before it is served. The key to using your stove to keep items hot before serving them is to keep the side dishes in covered pots until right before you serve them.

This allows you to take them off the burner when they are done cooking, and then quickly re-heat them just before removing them from the pot. This way you can cook all items at different times, but reheat everything within a few minutes of each other.

Final Notes On Keeping Thanksgiving Food Hot With Limited Space

Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most elaborate and delicious meals of the year. There is the giant turkey, with its stuffing and gravy, as well as countless sides to accompany this juicy bird. Cooking the food and coordinating the day can take a lot of work, and making sure all the food is hot when it reaches the table requires a few tricks, especially when space is limited.

Make use of your propane grill, a camp stove, and Sterno to keep food warm outside the kitchen. Remember you can use your microwave or a crock pot as well. Use a cooler to keep items warm. Ask guests to bring their side dishes hot, and consider asking a friend or neighbor to use their oven to keep some food warm.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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