Social Distance-Inspired Hacks for Hosting a Simple, Safe, and Festive Thanksgiving-2020

November 2020

By WEforum Editors


Here along the Jersey Shore, many people tend to retreat to the great indoors after Labor Day (or at least once flip-flop season ends). Yet, 2020 knocked everything topsy-turvy and the streets were buzzing with runners, walkers, and cyclists last winter and spring. There won’t be many memories from 2020 that we’ll want to cling to, but at least New Jersey is finally embracing the outdoor, fresh air lifestyle (Friluftsliv) that Scandinavians have always found invigorating.

Here are some tips for hosting an outdoor (or modified outdoor) Thanksgiving this year, even if you were not able to snag a patio heater before they sold out (last summer).


Offer a Modified Thanksgiving Menu:

  • Forego the whole bird and opt for trays of white meat and dark meat that dad can smoke or grill outdoors:
    • Ask the butcher to fabricate half-breasts, legs and thighs for easy smoking or grilling.
    • To facilitate carving of the thighs before serving (but make sure to buy bone-in breasts), ask the butcher to debone the raw thigh by removing the center bone (take home the reserved bones for making stock, soup or gravy).
  • Serve warm sides in individual serving dishes instead of large trays to reduce human contact:
    • Candied twice-baked sweet potatoes served in their potato jackets.
    • Individual-size potato gratin served in individual gratin dishes.
    • Roasted Brussels sprouts skewers.
  • Room temp-safe sides (beyond cranberry relish) that can that even be served cold:
    • Apple+pear+dried cranberry Waldorf salad with arugula or watercress.
    • Roasted root vegetable salad with dried fruit and nuts in a maple-ginger vinaigrette.
    • A retro Christmas Jell-O salad mold.
    • Rolls or biscuits.

Hospitality Begins with Hot Spiced Cocktails to Keep Your Guests Toasty:

  • Pair spiced tequila, vodka or a butter-washed bourbon with Laird’s Applejack and add to hot cider, hard ciders, or wine.
  • Make a boozy hot chocolate with Kahlua, peppermint, or a spicy Ancho Reyes.
  • Add a flavored vodka (or rum) and flavored simple syrup to your latte or Chai.
  • Amp up your holiday eggnog by heating it and adding brandy or flavored spirits.


Hold Hot Foods Outdoors for Hours:

  • Use the outdoor grill to keep foods warm. Keep one burner on low (If using coals, build an indirect fire) and situate trays of food to the side.
  • Coolers can be transformed into a hot box. Just wrap bricks (or large stones) in foil and bake in a 350-degree oven until hot. Insulate in a regular cooler wrapped with thick towels. Set baking dishes on the towels for serving.
  • Slow-cookers and rice cookers will keep mashed potatoes and stuffing warm for hours. Mini slow cookers are great for relishes and condiments. Just use the ‘warm’ setting. Add a bit more liquid, stock, cream, or milk to make the mashed potatoes and stuffing a bit looser if holding for a longer period.
  • Large thermoses will keep your gravy and hot liquids hot. Some thermoses, like Zojirushi and the Stanley Classic, maintain temperatures for more than eight hours.


Tips for Keeping Safe this Holiday Season, No Matter Where You Are: