It’s all in the make-ahead—we show you how.
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Credit: Getty / Nico Hermann

Spring always makes me want to entertain, and with the dark mornings of winter behind me, I lean hard into brunches. Brunches at home can be a terrific way to have pals over for a casual gathering, and I love that I can get my friends over in comfy clothes to share a meal and then pile onto couches to lounge and visit.

But brunches also happen in the morning, albeit late morning, and I am not naturally a morning person. So, I have developed some habits that let me host brunches without having to rise with the dawn to prep. And really, the same is true for any meal I host. If something can be done ahead, whether it is making an entire dish, prepping ingredients, or taking certain items off my plate, I will do it ahead to make my hosting life easier.

Here are the 6 steps I take to set myself up for success!

1. Make dressings, sauces, and gravies up to 4 days ahead 

Salad dressings, sauces, and gravies can all be made in advance, often up to 3-4 days. So, I prep them ahead, and then have them ready on the day. If I have made a gravy or sauce that is served hot, I reheat gently over a double boiler and then transfer to a large wide-mouth thermal container where it can stay hot for 3-4 hours. I love YETI Rambler bottles for this and keep a variety of sizes on hand just for this purpose. They even make a 64-ounce version I use for soups!

2. Make batch cocktails or punches up to 3 days ahead 

If I am going to serve a cocktail or punch, I batch it up to three days in advance (minus any ingredient that fizzes). If I prefer to let my guests serve themselves, I set up a small area of the kitchen for a DIY bar and prep any garnishes or put mixers or juices in nice pitchers in the fridge for fast setup. Finally, as soon as I wake up, I make coffee and hot water for tea and put them in thermal containers so that they stay hot, and I am not brewing as guests arrive.

3. Prep ingredients up to the day before

If I am going to make bacon for my brunch? I lay it out on the sheet pan the day before and stash in the fridge ready to just slide into a hot oven. If I want hot homemade biscuits or scones, I make the dough well in advance, form and freeze raw and bake straight from frozen. Baked goods get made ahead and frozen. Anything I intend to cook or assemble on the day gets prepped as much as possible, from washing and chopping vegetables to washing salad leaves to making batter for popovers, lining quiche pans with pastry etc. If it can be done ahead, I do it ahead.

4. Par-cook the day before

Some things taste better if they are cooked fresh, but that doesn't mean they have to be cooked in their entirety on the day. I blanch vegetables for a minute in salted boiling water and then put in an ice bath, and then store in the fridge where they can be finished with a quick sauté or stir fry. I par-boil potatoes so that they are partially cooked, making last minute hash, home fries, or mash take half the time. 

5. Set the table and buffet the night before

Not having to do these two tasks on the day saves you precious sleeping minutes and adds a whole lot of peace of mind. Right before I go to bed, I set the table and set up the buffet with my serving pieces. If there are condiments or other items that are fine to have at room temperature, like jams, jellies, ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce, I put them out as well. 

6. Lean into your sous vide machine (or buy one!) 

If you lean into some great tools, you can make your life easy. Sous vide means you can "poach" your eggs right in their shells and do a ton of them at once; you can even set them up the night before if you want! My favorite sous vide unit is the Joule from Breville. Once you see how amazing it is you will use it to make your life easier for all sorts of gatherings, from perfectly cooking rack of lamb for a dinner party to gently reheating sauces or soups for a luncheon.