How to Avoid a Lukewarm Dinner

Ever wonder how you can avoid a lukewarm dinner? You’re not alone. The Never Cook Naked guys explain how to get everything to the dinner table while it’s still hot.

A frustrated woman in a white t-shirt sitting at a dinner table with fork and knife in hand.

How to Avoid a Lukewarm Dinner

Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: When I was growing up, my mom served lukewarm dinners. I was always irritated by this, but now I understand. It’s tricky to figure out how to keep several different things hot when you’re trying to serve a dinner with multiple components. What’s the best way to keep different dishes warm between cooking and serving?—Still In Therapy Over Other Things, Too

Dear Still in Therapy: Like your mother, your oven should not be taken for granted. You should give it a close look now and then. It has settings below 300°F (149°C). In fact, it probably goes down to 150°F (65°C) or 175°F (79°C). And for good reason. Mashed potatoes, meatloaf, or braised chicken will still be perfect an hour after they’re done so long as they’ve been kept covered and warm at a low holding temperature, in what used to be called a “slack” oven.

If you’re cooking a multi-course soirée and have only one oven, plan on a chilled component that can be made ahead and stashed in the fridge (say, a salad), a room-temperature course (say, roasted vegetables), a hot course (you pick), and so forth. This makes for less of a juggling act for you. And get this: a range of temperatures will also make the whole meal more interesting and satisfying than a singular palette of über-hot.

Finally, warm the dinner plates. [You could use this spiffy plate warmer.] You can braise some short ribs, set them aside, then bring them back to a quick simmer before spooning them onto plates kept toasty in said slack oven. Do this when you invite your mother over for a nice meal. And warn her that the plates are hot—unless you’re still working out more issues in therapy.

Our very clever, very clothed Never Cook Naked columnists are at your disposal, able to troubleshoot everything from questionable table etiquette to tricky cooking techniques (as well as, natch, proper cooking attire). Curious to learn more solutions to culinary conundrums? Just ask! Drop us a comment below.

Originally published May 14, 2013.


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