6 Reasons To Order Thanksgiving Catering, Beyond Convenience

Life is short and time is precious, so screw it—let someone else cook the turkey.

There's a lot of nostalgia around home cooking for the holidays, and even more pressure and pride surrounding from-scratch meals. You want to build a legacy, master of "Grandma's" apple pie, Uncle Whoever's "famous" stuffing, Auntie Whatsherface's sweet potato casserole, and so on. A lot of Americans consider it a badge of honor to take the uphill path on Thanksgiving; they want to be both the opening act and the headliner of the feast.

But here's the reality: Domestic bliss is often a myth. When there are several cooks in the kitchen or too many guests underfoot, it's all too easy for shit to hit the (exhaust) fan. And with so many dishes to prep, cook, coordinate, plate, and present, there's a lot that can go wrong—Murphy's Law is a common uninvited guest to any big gathering.

It might be time to check your ego at the door with good ol' Murph and take the path of least resistance. Maybe this is the year you let the caterers handle Thnksgiving, whether that means getting a Cajun-style turkey from Popeyes, homestyle side dishes from your favorite chain (hello, Boston Market and HoneyBaked!), or dessert from a supermarket bakery. No matter what you choose to eat, here are some reasons it's a good idea to order out, beyond the added convenience.

No cooking skills are required

Not everyone's a chef. In fact, not everyone's even a passable home cook. If that's you, cool! Knowing your weaknesses is half the battle.

But you shouldn't let subpar cooking skills exclude you from hosting a party, because you just might be awesome at that. Cooking and entertaining don't necessarily have to go hand in hand, and if you count yourself out as host on account of kitchen ineptitude, you could be depriving your friends and family of an epic gathering. You don't want to do that to your loved ones.


It controls the financial burden

Here's a fun fact: while it's often cheaper to make meals at home on a daily basis, that's not necessarily true for seasonal feasts—a holiday comes with a lot of hidden costs that can creep up on you, making it hard to stick to a budget. When people prepare Thanksgiving dinner from scratch, there are seasonal or even staple ingredients that might be at premium pricing due to demand. Or the sale item runs out and you're forced to spend twice as much on the unnecessarily organic, artisan hand-mashed, full-moon harvested pumpkin for the pie everyone expects.


Another common scenario: you come across a cool-sounding recipe that requires a small amount of an ingredient you can only buy in large quantities, or something unexpectedly pricey, like when cost of eggs suddenly went astronomical last year.

Then there's the wasted gas money (not to mention time, which is money) when you inevitably forget ingredients, leading to last-minute runs to one or more stores amid crowds of shoppers experiencing equal panic.

If you cater your Thanksgiving meal that's one trip, one time, one pickup. (You could even order from a few favorite spots that are close together and still only make one big trip.) And since the prices of what you order are set in advance, you know exactly how much you're spending and how to stay within a predefined budget. Another bonus? Incremental savings from not having to run your gas or electric for hours and hours while cooking. Yeah, it might only be cents on the dollar, but hey, every penny counts, right?


Leftovers have their own storage

There are always leftovers at Thanksgiving—that's kind of the point. A lot of traditional Thanksgiving dishes even improve when they're kept or repurposed a few days later. (We of a certain age all remember Ross Geller's famous meltdown over the crucial "moist maker" sandwich.) But the storage of all those leftovers can be a challenge that requires shelling out for plastic to-go containers or awkwardly trying to fit five pounds of mashed potatoes into your existing assemblage of Tupperware.


Ordering food that already arrives in such packaging easily solves that problem. Once you plate everything (or have guests line up buffet-style), just hold onto the original containers instead of tossing them in the trash. Together, this can alleviate the guilt of using single-use servingware and reduce this holiday's traditional food waste. Good job.

Dietary restrictions are easy to accommodate

Sometimes, cooking for groups means getting educated real fast on the intricacies and gray area of different types of diets, allergens, food sensitivities, and other eating restrictions. And while it's good to know all this about your loved ones, it's a lot for a host to keep track of, especially if your second cousin is on his third "girlfriend" of the month.


When you order in your Thanksgiving meal, though, guess what? It's not your problem anymore. Your concern, yes, because you don't want anyone getting sick at your house, but you can mostly toss it over the fence to the professionals.

Restaurants are well-versed in the importance of adhering to dietary restrictions, especially allergies, and privately owned or chef-helmed establishments are intimately acquainted with what they put into their food. Larger corporate brands, by law, have nutrition information and allergen warnings on their menus or websites, which make it easy to identify potentially problematic ingredients. Supermarket delis, the department that usually handles prepared foods, will also be able to accommodate most requests, or at least have the manager advise you on the best choices.


It’s not your fault if it’s bad

Plausible deniability can apply to the quality of a Thanksgiving dinner as much as it does to acts of espionage.

When you delegate the cooking responsibilities to a stranger, you're also surrendering any knowledge of, or responsibility for, the food's preparation. In other words, you're absolved of blame or judgment. So if the kitchen staff at your supermarket deli undersalts the gravy, or the restaurant mushes up your green beans, or the caterers just didn't choose the best style for its mashed potatoes, it's easier to shrug it off. The only thing your guests can blame you for is not choosing Publix for the cranberry relish (seriously, it's so good). Otherwise, anything that's less than perfect isn't your fault, and you can serve any Negative Nelly in your group with a smile.


You’ll be present

This is the most compelling reason to cater your meal: to be fully present in the moment with your loved ones.

As someone who's hosted many a Thanksgiving, I recognize that after the meal is done and before the cleanup begins, there's this one magic moment where you feel a deep sense of gratification in providing for your family. In that narrow and precious window of time, it's immensely satisfying to sit down, kick back, and bask in praise and appreciation.


But here's the thing: If you get dinner catered, you could be doing that the entire time.

You have time to to sit the hell down with your glass of wine as the food is gently warmed in the oven. To join in the football game in the yard or watch one on TV. To watch the parade on broadcast with the little ones instead of wondering from the kitchen what's making them laugh so hard. To tell stories and catch up with the friends and family that traveled so far to see you and be a main character in the memories being made this holiday.

So go ahead and let someone else do the heavy lifting, from bundling the groceries to pre-cooking the meal. Then tip them well for it. Because as much as I look forward to the food on Thanksgiving, as much as it's the marquee of why we gather, let's not lose sight of why we're really together. Yes, we give thanks for the bounty. But above all, we give thanks for each other, even beyond the ones sitting at our table.