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Is your kitchen the same size as a child’s playground? This is not a common feeling.

Holidays are prime times to entertain and create delicious meals for your family and friends. Hosting a party in your tiny apartment can be a daunting task if the kitchen counters are not square meters but square centimeters.

You don’t have to be anxious: A little organization, strategic menu planning and a positive attitude can transform your small apartment into an ideal setting for entertaining. We have some great tips for holiday entertaining in small spaces from experienced event planners who are also chefs.

Remember to keep things simple.

When you have limited space in your kitchen and your home in general, an uncomplicated approach to party hosting is in your best interest as well as your guests’. When putting together your menu, “don’t overcomplicate it,” advises chef Dan Churchill of Charley St.New York City

“Using fewer ingredients can actually mean a better (and less stressful to prepare) dish,” Churchill says. “I would concentrate on roasting and creating dishes that require one pan; that way, you can build flavors together and load up your oven and leave the rest of your kitchen for putting together sauces, sides, and so forth.” And speaking of which…

A one-pan or one-pot dish is a great way to save space while still providing a delicious meal.

Jason Goldstein is a food blogger and recipe developer. Chop Happy insists that the best move for a holiday dinner in a small space is “an all-in-one dish. A slow-cooker dish such as brisket and potatoes, or rib roast with seasonal veggies would be an example. This allows you to save room and have both a main dish and a side handled.” Check out some of our favorite one-pot recipes.

You can spread your preparations over the course of a few days.

It is almost impossible to stress if you don’t do any cooking before the event. Instead, “Top Chef” alum and chef/restaurateur Spike Mendelsohn urges you to “make sure you’ve prepped everything the day before so you’re not doing everything at the last minute.”

“Try to spread out the preparation of your meals,” says chef and recipe developer Laura Ritterman of Recipe Fairy. “Baking your desserts and freezing them, and then making your sides a couple days before, can help you avoid having to cook everything on the same day. Then you simply need to reheat the food on the day of!”

When cooking, only take one challenge at a given time.

Although you can prepare a few dishes in advance, it is not enough to be prepared for the big day. To accomplish those tasks as cleanly and quickly as possible, follow the advice of Portland, Oregon, chef (and “Top Chef” vet) Sara Hauman and “pull ingredients out of the cabinet or fridge and group them together depending on the recipe, then do one or two recipes at a time.”

Hauman says that “trying to tackle it all at once generally leaves me feeling overwhelmed and way more likely to forget an important step” ― but breaking up the workload makes the to-do list feel far more manageable.

No space? No problem.
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You don’t have enough space? There is no need to be constrained.

You might consider adding additional surfaces to your kitchen or entertaining area.

The biggest problem in cooking at a party is a lack of counter space. Luckily, it’s a problem that’s easy to fix with a bit of imagination (and a few temporary structures).

When you don’t have a ton of countertop space, it’s time to start thinking about other flat surfaces for things like chopping and ingredient storage,” says New York-based chef and nutrition consultant Julia Chebotar. “If you have the space and extra money, invest in a rolling foldable kitchen island or cart. If you’re running short on either, take a look around your apartment for a quick fix. Is there a coffee table that you can get rid of? Or maybe a slim television console or desk that’s light enough to drag closer to the kitchen? These make great temporary solutions.”

You might find it daunting to reorganize furniture and household objects. Start your journey with something simple like the suggestion of Robbie Held, a personal chef. Health Held in Hand: “[Try] sliding a cutting board across the sink for instant counter space.”

You should be selective when choosing your appliances.

Cooking a big meal in a small space might seem like an all-appliances-on-deck endeavor, where you’ll need pots on the stove, pans in the oven, containers in the microwave, sauces in the blender, veggies and proteins in the slow cooker… and a chaotic mess all over your counters (and in your head).

Chef and author of cookbooks Priyanka Naik assures us the cooking process doesn’t have to go down like that. “I recommend that you create a menu with most of your dishes being prepared on the stovetop, or in the oven. [which lets you] avoid opening and closing the oven door while cooking on the stovetop and to avoid excess heat from the oven,” she says. “I know this from experience ― trust me!”

“If I have to make a dish that requires ‘roasted stuffed peppers’ but every other dish is made on the stovetop, I’ll just half and sear the peppers in a non-stick skillet on the stovetop and cover it with a lid to help the peppers cook through and get charred,” Naik notes. “This works [just as well as] turning on the oven, preheating it, greasing a baking sheet and opening and closing oven doors.”

Find creative ways to make holiday meals more memorable.

Traditional holiday foods, such as roast turkey, require large ovens and plenty of counter space. When hosting in a less-than-spacious home, it’s smart to consider alternatives to the typical festive fare that don’t take up quite as much kitchen real estate. Amber Mayfield is an entertainer and event producer. To Be Hosted in New York likes to swap out a big roast for a hearty and flavorful pasta dish, like “a short rib lasagna (or eggplant lasagna if you want to go meatless) or a bountiful seafood pasta. Some easy side dishes: roasted vegetables, garlic mashed potatoes, a beautiful salad, dinner rolls, or cornbread.”

If you’re dead-set on making a turkey in an apartment kitchen, avoid the full bird in favor of smaller pieces. Detroit chef/restaurateur Max Hardy suggests “options like turkey breast or turkey chops as an alternative.”

Establish a self-serve beverage station.

In theory, the purpose of hosting holiday parties is to enjoy time with family and friends. However, when said loved ones are milling in your small kitchen to chat and grab drinks and tie up the traffic flow through your workspace, you might find yourself wishing they’d spend time somewhere else. Luckily, recipe developer Ashley Schuering of The Grocery Addict knows an easy way to relieve this kitchen congestion: “Offer an apps-and-drink station to keep people out of the kitchen. I don’t know what it is, but people Always seem to want to congregate in there, even if it’s tiny and hectic. Giving them something to eat and drink and ― most importantly ― the agency to serve themselves is the primary goal here.”

Heather Ramsdell Senior Editor of The Spruce Eats, also views redirection as essential, encouraging us to “dGet rid of the rest. All beverages should be taken to another place. A big batch cocktail is super festive.” She notes that you can “lUre [people]You can make your home more organized by putting essentials out of reach. Places for bags and coats are important. You will need plenty of water, ice and snacks outside the kitchen. Borrow a cooler if you can.”

Keep your surroundings clean wherever you are.

In spite of the challenges of entertaining in a small space, one advantage is that there’s “less space to clean up when it’s all said and done,” Hardy suggests. Even though it may seem overwhelming in small apartments, you can wait until the party is over to clean up, wash all surfaces, and empty bottles and glasses.

Nick Ritchie is the executive chef Signature Kitchen Suite in Napa Valley, California, advises: “If you stick to keeping your process organized and cleaning as you go, your holiday cooking will be a lot less stressful, and you’ll be able to relax at the end knowing you don’t have a mountain of dishes waiting for you to complete. I use the same rule of thumb when preparing food in commercial kitchens as well.”


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