A friend or family member asks you to chip in a dish for Thanksgiving dinner — now what? This can get tricky, especially if you’ve got a long car or train ride ahead of you. Here are some things to consider before you decide what to tote along.
It’s best to ask the host what they need before you start planning in order to avoid duplicates. Thanksgiving dinner would really stink if everyone brought mashed potatoes and nothing else. It’s also important to be mindful of allergies, so ask if there is an ingredient you need to pay special attention to (like nuts, milk, eggs).
The one thing you don’t want to do when you get to the host house is get in the way. With that in mind, avoid having to do any major cooking or prepping in somebody else’s kitchen. The last thing your host needs is a guest walking into their busy kitchen, unpacking ingredients and getting to work. If you decide to bring a dish that needs reheating, ask if they have room in the oven and minimize oven time (no more than 30 minutes). Of course, you’ll want to give the host a heads up that you’ll need oven space.
Another no-no is complicated, sloppy or delicate dishes–—like soups, saucy dishes and souffles. If you get assigned to bring one (maybe it’s your signature dish), then seal well in containers and wrap in plastic bags just in case it leaks.
Beware of Time and Temperature
A simple rule of food safety is keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If you are traveling more than a few hours, then you’ll need to find a means to keep your food at the right temperature. If there’s no way to do so, then stick with room temperature items like breads and dessert. For hot foods, cool first, then keep cold with ice packs or in a cooler (some cars come equip with an icebox that plugs into the car). Reheat it at the host’s home.
Here are some easy-to-tote and less-messy options:
- Dinner rolls: Freshly made bread, dinner rolls or a lightened version of cornbread are delicious and easy items to bring.
- Cookies: Fun to make and easy to carry, bake up some cookies. Keep cookie size small for portion-friendly dessert.
- Cold hors d’oeuvres: Go simple with chips and dip or a crudité. Remember, if you’re a fashionably late person, you may decide against bringing appetizers.
- Salad: A big concern with salads is the dressing. DO NOT dress the salad until you get there. You will end up with a soggy salad.
- Roasted Vegetables: If you have a short ride or walk to your dinner, this may be a good option.
- Wine: Remember, some bottles need time to be chilled.
TELL US: What are your favorite dishes to bring to Thanksgiving dinner?
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »