No matter how much you love to throw a dinner party, they’re nothing short of nerve-wracking when they spring up spontaneously and you don’t have enough time to prepare properly. You don’t have to be restricted to take-out from a nearby restaurant when you have an unexpectedly large party to feed on short notice, though; you just have to keep these 10 life hacks and others of their ilk in mind. By making the most of your time and the resources at your disposal, you can pull off a last minute party with the same aplomb as one you’ve planned for weeks.
- Chill Wine in a Hurry – White wine is best served cold, but chilling a bottle on short notice is a tall order. Stow the bottle on ice while you throw together the meal and maintain the chill by tossing in a handful of frozen white grapes. To make this hack work, get the grapes washed and in the freezer before you do anything else. While they freeze and the wine chills a bit, prepare your meal.
- Ice Down Warm Beer – A cold beer is refreshing, but a warm one can be downright disgusting. If you have a warm six pack and a thirsty crowd, just wrap individual bottles in wet paper towels and stow them in the freezer for about 15 minutes. They’ll be as cold as the Rockies!
- Boost Speaker Power – It’s just not a dinner party without background music, but it’s hard to play DJ when all you have is a smartphone. Drop your phone and its killer playlist into a glass vase; it will amplify the music and eliminate the need for more powerful external speakers.
- Quick-Peel Garlic – Few food prep tasks are as time consuming and frustrating as peeling garlic. Fortunately, there’s a life hack for that. Just smash the bulb with the heel of your hand to separate the cloves and then toss them in a bowl. Cover with another bowl and shake brusquely for about 10 seconds. When you’re finished shaking, the peeled cloves will be nestled amongst the papery skins, ready to chop.
- Avoid Boil-Overs – When you’re working under time constraints, it’s easy to make a mess by allowing a pot to boil over. To prevent this scenario, just place a wooden spoon across the top of the pot. Boil-overs are averted, even when the eye is turned all the way up.
- Make Quick Work of Dessert – Cupcakes can be baked in a short time, but they require plenty of time to cool before they can be iced. Rather than wasting time fooling with icing and cool-down periods, just pop a marshmallow on top of each cup before you throw the pan in the oven. As the cupcakes bake, the marshmallows melt over the top and create a tasty, gooey covering that eliminates the need for icing altogether.
- Slice Soft Foods With Ease – Putting out a cheese platter is a great way to keep guests’ hunger pangs at bay while you throw together a feast, but simply slicing soft cheeses can be a time-consuming task. Rather than taking forever to hack out chunks of soft cheese with a knife, make uniform slices with dental floss. It’s quick, easy and will result in an elegant cheese platter.
- Last-Minute Condiment Platter – For an impromptu backyard barbecue, save time and effort by eschewing multiple ramekins in favor of filling the cups of a muffin pan with ketchup, mustard, diced onions, relish, shredded lettuce and other toppings. You’ll only have to carry out one platter, rather than a series of smaller ones, and you can cut the clutter that comes with hauling all of the bottles themselves outside.
- Test Egg Freshness – An egg that’s gone bad isn’t pleasant, but it’s difficult to determine the freshness of the contents without cracking the shell and risking a stench. By filling a deep, transparent bowl with water, you can test your eggs in a flash. Just gently drop the eggs into the water, and watch where they go. Very fresh eggs sink to the bottom and lie flat on their sides, but even those that stand upright on the bottom of the bowl are edible. An egg that floats, however, is bad news and shouldn’t be cracked.
- Photographic Memory – A quick run to the market in preparation of your last-minute dinner party can be a hectic one indeed if you don’t have time to make a list. Rather than relying on your memory, take a picture of the inside of your refrigerator and the inside of your pantry before you leave the house with the camera on your phone. While you’re shopping, you’ll have a visual reference that’s almost as good as standing in your kitchen.
Each and every one of these life hacks is the result of someone thinking outside of the box. Don’t be afraid to branch out with your own thinking while you plan an impromptu dinner party; you may be pleasantly surprised at the things you come up with!