Go With Make-Ahead Cocktail Snacks
The key to happy holiday hosting? Having snacks pre-made and ready to go when guests arrive! Make this Oniony Spinach Dip or this luscious Cheese Ball a day ahead, then simply pull it from the fridge just before you’re ready to serve. And don’t forget the appeal of a bowl of Homemade Roasted Nuts, which can be made up to three days before the big event.
Stick to No-Cook Appetizers
Simple appetizers, like our Endive Cups With Ricotta, Stuffed Sweet Peppers, Smoked Salmon Triangles and Crisp Pears Wrapped With Blue Cheese and Prosciutto require no oven space; in fact, they need no cooking at all—just a few minutes of countertop prep. Their luxe ingredients make these options extra festive.
Swap Out Your Turkey for a Quicker Cooking Ham
In just one hour, you can prepare a cooked ham (glaze included!) big enough to feed a crowd, and have more time to use the oven for sides and other dishes. To keep cooking time quick, be sure to pick up a ham labeled “fully cooked” or “ready-to-eat,” rather than a fresh ham, which will have a “cook thoroughly” note on the label. You can also purchase a smoked or aged ham; these methods also fully cook the ham so you don’t have to. A 3-pound “fully cooked” boneless ham feeds a party of eight to ten. Our Apricot-Glazed Ham is a reader favorite.
Move Your Main Course From Oven to Stovetop—or Even Outside
Who says a holiday main dish needs to come from the oven to be impressive? In lieu of roasting a whole leg of lamb, try cooking up a regal platter of our Skillet-Cooked Lamb Chops (Bonus: No carving necessary!), or fire up the grill for a Spatchcocked Turkey, which cooks in half the time as a whole bird. (Spatchcocking is easy to do with a good pair of kitchen shears or you can have your butcher do it for you.)
Simmer a Luxurious Stovetop Stew Instead of Making a Roast
Fancy, French Coq au Vin or Boeuf a la Bourguignonne taste just as “holiday” as any Christmas turkey, and both come together right on the range. What’s more, these braises taste best when made a day or two ahead and then gently reheated just before serving, so you can get them done early then cross them off your list!
Deploy Your Toaster Oven
Pull Out Your Slow Cooker
Declare Your Oven a Potluck-Free Zone
Ask guests who offer to add something to the table to stick to oven-free fare. If they’re stuck for ideas, suggest classics like Shrimp With Cocktail Sauce or this Roasted Butternut Squash side dish, which tastes just as good at room temperature as it does when warm. Substantial salads like Escarole With Parmesan or Roasted Beets With Ricotta are also a welcome addition—just keep the dressing separate until you’re ready to toss and serve.
Keep Your Desserts Out of the Oven
Baking up a fancy holiday cake can tie up your oven for hours. And why bother, when there are so many seductive dessert options that don’t require heating? Set out a DIY Affogato bar after dinner, with a pot of super-strong coffee and plenty of ice cream pints in coffee-friendly flavors like butter-almond, mocha, chocolate, and vanilla. Or make our Classic Icebox Chocolate Cream Pie, dressed up with crushed mini candy canes for some Yuletide cheer. Popcorn Balls are a surefire kid-pleaser. And if you’re going full-on sophisticated, our Caramel-Chocolate Tart can’t be beat.
Or Bake Desserts Ahead of Time
Hankering for cakes and cookies at Christmas? We get it! Luckily, there are plenty of cakes that only become more luscious when made a day ahead, like this fudgy Flourless Chocolate Cake—all it needs is a fresh dusting of cocoa powder just before serving. Also, classic fruitcake isn’t the only holiday dessert that improves with age: rich, fruit-studded cakes, like our Pear and Cornmeal Cake also get better after sitting out for a day on the counter (well wrapped, of course).
And if your Christmas isn’t complete without an impressive platter of holiday cookies, we have you covered there, too. Our Gingerbread Cookies become even more irresistible when made a day in advance. Same for our sturdy Lemon Shortbread and salt-kissed, chocolate-studded Oatmeal Cookies. The only challenge with this strategy? Not raiding the cookie platter before Christmas comes.