Stress-Free Tips for Cooking Together with Family and Friends

The more the merrier.

By Hailey Andresen

Last year something magical happened – my husband and I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in our very small galley-style kitchen with our two best friends and it was flawless.

Yes, you counted right – one, two, three, four cooks in the kitchen and we didn’t end up wanting to strangle each other. We were pleasantly surprised with how well things came together, but looking back on it now, there were a handful of ways we organized on the front end that contributed to that zero-stress flow in the kitchen.

Scroll on for my tips to gather those you love in the kitchen and cook a meal you’ll all enjoy! 

Plan every detail of the menu.

The four of us sat down a few weeks before the big day and menu planned. We discussed everything from breakfast the morning of, snacks before the big meal, dinner itself, dessert, anything we might want for leftovers (example: bread for turkey sandwiches) and beverages. This gave us all the chance to voice our preferences for the holiday, put it in writing, and hunt down any recipes we might need from relatives.  

Make a master grocery list.

Once your menu is established, break down every dish and figure out the ingredients you need. From here we were able to cross off things like spices that we already had on-had, and everything else went on our master grocery list. We ordered our groceries online to be delivered, which helped us avoid missing any items and provided general ease and convenience in the city when it came to getting everything to our door without a car! 

Create a kitchen schedule.

Take a look at your menu and recipes and figure out how much time each item will need when it comes to prep, on the stove top, in the oven, etc. Here you can also determine what dishes can be made in advance and then re-heated when it’s time to eat and what dishes can be cooked simultaneously at the same temperature. In this case we ended up needing to bake a handful of things the night before as well as getting a very early start. 

Break down responsibilities.

This sounds over-the-top, but it’s important to be clear about who is responsible for what when it comes to prep or cooking. I promise this helps with overcrowding the kitchen, putting everything one person and the flow of the kitchen tremendously. We found that being ultra organized like this also allowed everyone to really enjoy their day too (so important)!

Setup some prep that’s not in the kitchen.

Luckily we have a large dining room table where prep could easily happen, but if you are also dealing with a small kitchen I would highly recommend even setting up a folding table. You’ll want an area outside of the kitchen to peel potatoes and do other tasks that don’t have to use up valuable counter real estate.

Have a sleepover.

A fun tradition we started last year was having our friends stay the night at our place the night before Thanksgiving. This gave us time to get a head start on baking that evening and a fresh, early start the day of! Of course this isn’t necessary, but we had a lot of fun with it. 

Take inventory.

Make sure you actually have everything you need to make the items on your menu. I’m talking about everything from peelers to knives and baking dishes to tupperware. Luckily our friends were able to bring over a handful of their kitchen gear that made the day that much smoother. 

Schedule breaks in the day.

On top of the sleepover tradition, the guys usually go to the Thanksgiving Day Parade and us gals grab coffee somewhere close by and get started on baking. This time sounds like more of a treat for the guys, but it allows us ladies some space to get ahead on our menu without distraction! 

Let your guests clean up.

Maybe this doesn’t feel the most hospitable, but if your friends and family are offering to clean up the kitchen you worked your butt off in all day, let them do it! It’s their way of saying thank you for preparing such a special meal and gives you a well deserved break. 

Are there any ways you stay organized and stress-free when cooking with a big group?