How to Coordinate a Pot Luck Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving doesn't have to be the traditional formal meal that often comes to mind when we think of this gratitude-themed holiday. A less casual yet equally celebratory approach? The Thanksgiving potluck. Wondering how to pull off the perfect all-hands-on-deck...

Thanksgiving doesn't have to be the traditional formal meal that often comes to mind when we think of this gratitude-themed holiday. A less casual yet equally celebratory approach? The Thanksgiving potluck. Wondering how to pull off the perfect all-hands-on-deck affair without ending up with three turkeys and no sides? Read on for a roundup of seven tips aimed at helping you pull off an amazingly appetizing Thanksgiving potluck dinner.

Thanksgiving
What will be on your Thanksgiving table this year?

1. Spread the Word

While there's nothing wrong with extending last minute invitations to any holiday "orphans" you encounter in the immediate days leading up to Thanksgiving, getting the word out early is an important part of the planning process -- for both you and your guests.

Whether you go with a conventional paper invitation or a less formal evite, this is also the time to inform people about the potluck theme so they can start thinking about what they'd like to bring.

2. Talking Turkey

Asking a guest to buy, prepare, and haul a 20-pound gobbler to your house on Thanksgiving Day may be a hosting faux pas. Instead, commit to taking on the turkey yourself. The good news? Cooking a turkey may not be the colossal challenge most sitcoms suggest that it is -- especially if you used the Food Network's "World's Simplest Turkey Recipe."

3. Check In

While you may feel comfortable suggesting some essentials to closer friends, most experts agree that allowing guests to bring the menu item of their choice is the best way to go. Still, it's not a total free-for-all. You'll want to check in with them in advance -- both to stay organized and to make sure you'll have everything you need to serve up a complete and delicious Thanksgiving meal.

One critical tip? Don't hesitate if someone asks, "What can I bring?" Not only are they asking because they genuinely want to know, but this can help ensure that your holiday spread doesn't end up short something critical, such as stuffing or a pumpkin pie. All good hosts learn quickly this one simple tenet: When you have the opportunity to delegate, do.

4. Label Everything

From food allergies to special diets, people have all kinds of dietary restrictions today. While you have no obligation to honor these as the event host, you do have the obligation to adequately inform your guests about what they're eating. (That said, a thoughtful host would make sure to at least have one or two vegetarian and nut-free items in the mix.)

Prepare a decorative label for each item on your buffet. This is also a terrific excuse to check in with guests about what they're bringing. (See #3.)

5. Plan to Pack It Up

Don't forget that everyone loves Thanksgiving leftovers. Stock up on takeout containers and set up an easy-to-access food packaging station. Invite your guests to fill their own containers with their favorite selections from this meal. Sure, this may mean fewer leftovers for you, but it also sends your guests out the door with a smile...and a tasty midnight snack.

Thanksgiving
For fans of "Friendsgiving," a potluck is the perfect way to celebrate.

6. Take on the Table

Hosting a memorable Thanksgiving isn't just about the food. It's also about the ambiance, and this starts with your table. You don't need to bust out your wedding china to make the meal special, but taking a few minutes to consider your tablescape as well as your overall decor will imbue your event with an appropriately festive feel.

7. Expect the Unexpected

While it pays to consider in advance things like whether you've got enough salad bowls to whether your roasting pan is up to the task, there will inevitably be instances in which your plans fall short.

From unanticipated "plus-ones" to lack of oven space, be prepared for whatever might head your way. Asking a friend to bring over extra seating or investing in an electric griddle or slow cooker can help you manage what's happening in the kitchen.

That said, you can't prepare for everything, but if you keep the true meaning of the holiday in mind and let go of unrealistic expectations of the "perfect" holiday meal, you can count your blessings and call it a success. We hope you'll let Cilantro the Cooks Shop help you get your planning and preparation off to the best start this Thanksgiving. Browse cookware, bakeware, ovenware, and more today.