by Better Homes and Gardens
Just a few tips from an old caterer to help you when setting a buffet for family and friends this Thanksgiving. Buffets are perfect for family gatherings. People can mix and mingle and go back for seconds or even thirds when there's a buffet full of food. Setting up a buffet at home can be challenging but with a little planning you'll love the results.
Pre-Planning is Key to a Successful Thanksgiving Buffet
1. As with any party, the food needs careful pre-planning. Set your menu, first and foremost. You can't plan a buffet table unless you know what and how much space you are going to need. List your dinner menu, beverage choices and desserts so you have a complete menu.
Once you have your menu listed, figure out what serving dishes you want to use and any special containers like slow cookers, chafing dishes or grandma's Depression glass cake stand.
2. Now, you need to choose where and on what you will place your buffet. The key here is to divide and conquer.
By that, I mean, separate your beverages, from your main course from your desserts. It's much easier to find tables or pieces of furniture to hold smaller amounts than it is to find a place for an 18 foot buffet! Consider using a dining buffet, banquet table or a long dresser for the main course food. Typically, this it the part of the menu that will require the most space.
For a beverage station, you could use a smaller round table, baker's rack or an entry table. For desserts, it's much easier and takes up less space to display full cakes, pies and cobblers than it is to pre-plated desserts. Most people like to get a bit of everything anyway, so just pre-cut your desserts into small slices but display them as a whole.
Don't forget, you can use a kitchen island or peninsula as one of your serving areas.
3. If you are having a seat at a table(s) for all your guests, you can save buffet space by placing certain things on the table. That way the guest won't have to balance a bunch of items while going through a buffet line.
Set your table with glassware, flatware, napkins, dinner and salad plates. Have the salad, salad dressings, salt and pepper, rolls, butter, jam, and any other condiments on the dining table, family style. This will leave room for a nice centerpiece too!
Guests can grab their plate from the table and don't have to worry about carrying their flatware too. They can fill their plates in the line and then doctor them up at their leisure sitting at the table.
Same with their beverage choice. They can grab their glassware and head over to the beverage station for ice and a drink without having to get back in a line.
4. Creating different heights for your serving dishes will not only look good but will allow you to use the space more efficiently -- getting more food on the table. Use risers, cake stands or tiered servers to accomplish this. (Some of my favorites are below)
Knowing what food is at each station and what it will be served in ahead of time makes things much easier. You can even to a dry run by placing the dishes you intend to use on the table or furniture you're going to use to make sure it will all fit.