Ina Garten's Post-It Note Tip For Better Dinner Parties

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No stress might be as universal as hosting a dinner party. From decorating your dining space to scrambling to cook the leading entrees in the kitchen, many home cooks find the amount of setup for these events overwhelming, especially during the holidays or for special occasions. If you're constantly running into problems setting up your dinner parties, world-renowned chef Ina Garten has you covered. Her latest cookbook, "Make It Ahead," extensively gives readers tools for hosting a stress-free dinner party, and the Barefoot Contessa's secret to avoiding last-minute headaches in the kitchen lies in a simple Post-It note.

As part of your dinner party setup routine, Garten recommends jotting down any final tasks you have to do in order to finish setting up your dinner party. These should be simple, minuscule finishing touches, such as setting the table or warming up a dish you've made earlier. This tip will also ensure you don't forget any crucial final steps during the (sometimes hectic) final stretch of the prepping process, so keep the Post-It note in a dry, visible place such as the door on your fridge.

Cook ahead of time to keep your guests from waiting

While not many people will fault you for not having everything ready at the table, you generally don't want to make folks wait hours for dinnertime — especially when it gets late in the evening and people have to leave. Ina Garten herself has said that spending too much time in the kitchen remains the biggest dinner party mistake she avoids at all times, and you'll want to swerve this issue by cooking simple dishes in advance.

Large, oven-baked dishes — such as roast whole chicken or baked ham — are likely to take hours, so get started on those early in the day, so they'll be ready in advance of your guests arriving. Garten recommends putting together a mixture of lengthy recipes with quick, easy dishes like a simple charcuterie board or a leafy salad. You can always reheat the main dish just minutes before serving time, but you can't always leave off cooking until the last second.

Create an hourly strategy to spot any menu mistakes

A strategy remains crucial for the success of any party. In an interview with The Yellow Table, Ina Garten said she often writes down all her tasks by the hour to visualize her day of preparation in advance for a few reasons. An hour-by-hour plan not only provides a rigid schedule that lays out all the big steps you need to complete before your guests arrive — but will make you notice any problem spots in your dishes.

If an hour or section of your strategy plan seems particularly busy or hard to pull off, it might be a sign that you're not spacing out your time properly or that you're working on too many complicated dishes. The Barefoot Contessa actually has a four-dish rule for her dinner parties as well: one oven dish, one food item made way ahead of schedule, one stovetop recipe, and a room-temperature side. This will keep you from crowding too many of your dishes into one busy cooking method, giving you a much better chance at success.