Thanksgiving buffet

I’m heading to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving this year. It has been a few years since I spent the holiday at my parents’ place, so I’m looking forward to it.

Our Thanksgiving dinners are usually served in a buffet style. This makes the whole process run smoothly and keeps the table free of serving dishes. The table is set with utensils and glasses, but the plates and food are stationed at the the buffet. It is an efficient way to serve your guests, especially if you are hosting a larger party. 

Martha Stewart has some helpful tips on setting up a Thanksgiving buffet. Some of the tips:

2. Position the buffet table away from the wall, so that guests have access from all sides. 

6. Lay out food in a logical order: entrees before side dishes.

7. Save space for food by displaying low arrangements.

If you’re having a party of six or more this year, a Thanksgiving buffet may be something to consider for your meal.

24 Comments for “Thanksgiving buffet”

  1. posted by Peter (a different one) on

    This is a little off topic, but I thought I’d share our plans for Thanksgiving which will make our day less cluttered and hectic.

    Due to travel plans, my wife’s family is going to celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday so everyone can be there. This frees up Thursday to spend with my family.

    At first my wife thought that’s I’d be upset, not having the 2 meals on the same day, but I love it! No hurrying from one house to the next, no anxiety over being late or running behind schedule. Just relaxing and spending two days enjoying family and delicious food.

    I can’t wait. I almost feel like a kid at Christmas.

  2. posted by Meg on

    My mom does this. Even for 5-10 people, it makes things much easier. There isn’t any room for a buffet table so she places the food on the kitchen counter and the stove.

  3. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    One thing that SHOULD be done for every buffet is to put the cutlery at the END of the line. That way people don’t have to juggle it with their plate as they pile on the food.

  4. posted by Peter (a different one) on


    Great point, plus it would be easier to go back and get something you forgot.

  5. posted by Rue on

    We’ve almost always done Thanksgiving this way. It’s so much easier to just set food on the kitchen counter and have everyone get what they want, than to put everything on the table and have 20 hands passing a bunch of dishes around. Plus, it keeps the tablecloth and floor cleaner – fewer things to spill!

  6. posted by timgray on

    add pedestals. this is my favorite I gleaned from the Christopher Lowell show back in the day… Yes married guys do watch HGTV at times.

    Get something to lift plates up on the buffet it makes it easier and actually allows you to put more there in a uncluttered arrangement.

  7. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    oh how I wish I had a buffet as I think this is an excellent way to serve a dinner party! We live in too small a house to have room for such a luxury and end up having to put the dishes on the table. This of course means we have to add an extra leaf to the table just to make room. But it’s good to keep this in mind for our next house…

  8. posted by NancyV908 on

    Jacki–your tip about putting cutlery at the end is so obvious & logical! No one does that, & it is so much more sensible. Thank you!

    This post is also making me question why I have utensils on the buffet–taking up valuable space–in the first place. Almost always, I have a sit-down meal, so I should just put the utensils at the table, right? I was planning to this year because I’m having my kids do a little craft project: napkin rings (toilet paper rolls, aluminum foil, stickers). But now I think I’ll make it a rule, unless people won’t be eating at the table.

  9. posted by Susan on

    @ NancyV908 Your kids can cover those toilet paper roll napkin rings with prettier things than aluminum foil. Use a pretty fabric and attach it with Elmers Glue like wallpaper. Or cover the surface with yarn, passing it through the tube and securing both ends with the aforementioned Elmers.

  10. posted by Anthony on

    Anybody else think it’s funny how the picture above does not adhere to any of the three sample the rules listed? The buffet is right up against the wall, the turkey is in the middle of a bunch of side dishes, and there is a huge arrangement of flowers towering over everything and taking up the most space.

  11. posted by Sian on

    I like my food so I find this idea for a big celebration slightly depressing. I see the point if there’s over 10 people though.

  12. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Anthony — Riotous! Great catch!!

  13. posted by Megan Walker on

    *LOVE* that idea – so great on so many levels……. including why I stopped by today. I just posted some yummalicious hot cocoa recipes on my blog this morning – goes right along with your post! Tis the season!

    Meg 🙂

  14. posted by Fit Bottomed Girls on

    We do a relaxed buffet line in the kitchen and then eat in the dining room. It works out really well, and I’m not tempted to pick at more food since it’s in the other room! 🙂

  15. posted by Nana on

    Recently read the frugal suggestion of putting the side dishes first, so people don’t overload their plates with the meat!
    As for the pictured buffet, “it’s the thought that counts” Surely no one sets a buffet with a carve-it-yourself turkey.

  16. posted by Peregrin on

    “Recently read the frugal suggestion of putting the side dishes first, so people don’t overload their plates with the meat!”

    That’s a good idea–make sure people eat their veggies! 😀

  17. posted by Another Deb on

    Not being a parent, I can only suppose… but the buffet seems to serve their needs as well. The “kids table” with 5 and 6 year-olds always seems to be Mommie -served. If Mommie can cruise the buffet quickly, she can get the kids fed and go back to being with the grownups.

  18. posted by Alison on

    As a mother of three, I’m not a big fan of buffets. In fact, I ate at one tonight. The buffet counter was too high for the kids to get their own food, so I piled food for four people onto two plates and handed cutlery to son #1. I had to go back for drinks. I had to split up the food onto four plates at the table, which makes for a less appetizing presentation. Anyway, you get the picture. If you don’t have the space on the table, then go for it, but otherwise, nothing beats a sit-down meal. And hey, then you don’t need the clutter of an extra table to hold the food!

  19. posted by James on

    I’d really suggest a hostess trolley for such events. We use these for family meals and they work a treat.

    With the meat at one end, 3 trays of vegetables kept warm and 2 shelves below for sauces and the like it means we can keep the dining table for just place settings and still all sit down to a traditional meal. It’s also on castors to easily moved.

    Our trolley is also low enough to be reached by kids and, with a throw over it, serves as a side table when not in use.

  20. posted by NancyV908 on

    OT: Thanks, Susan, for the ideas on the fancier napkin rings. I don’t have scrap fabric, but do have lots of scrap wrapping paper, so that might be more fun for them. We can’t get too fancy though–this is my plan to keep them occupied while I do a bunch of cooking, so they have to be able to do it more or less unassisted.

  21. posted by Annie on

    The beauty of the buffet, is it works even in a small house. Our house growing up was small. Mom just set up the buffet on the kitchen counters and stove. (She would hide the pots & pans on top of the dryer and close the closet door) One year we didnt have enough chairs, so some of us sat on suitcases around the table!
    It’s the company that counts, not the “fanciness”

  22. posted by Joy (from Just Plain Joy) on

    I serve our buffet dinners in the kitchen…huge space saver!

  23. posted by chacha1 on

    Maybe some others will be cruising the site like me and looking at comments now that the holidays are again imminent …

    regarding a buffet in small spaces, a fold-up card table works perfectly. We’ve used one for years, it can slide into the closet when we don’t need it and be set up in seconds when we do. Ours is nice, solid wood from a catalog. What makes it even mo’ better than a traditional, long + narrow buffet is it can be approached from all sides.

    I *don’t* recommend setting up a buffet on the kitchen counter. This would necessitate cleaning up all the prep, plus the traffic would make things difficult for the host/hostess.

  24. posted by glamazon79 on

    We do a modified buffet – there is always soup as a first course, which is served from a tureen at the table, and the rest is buffet-style in the next room.

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