If you plan to host a big holiday event, or even if you want to make something special for the family, holiday cooking can take a lot out of you, which is why having the right small appliances can help. With so many different dishes that require different cooking methods, times, prep, and ingredients, there’s a lot of organization that’s involved. Forget to defrost a frozen turkey long enough in advance, for example, and you’ll be left frantically trying to defrost it last minute in the most efficient and safest way possible. (I’ve been there!) Thankfully, there are plenty of small (as well as large) appliances that can help simplify the holiday cooking process. Leverage these and you’ll have everything ready with time to spare.
1. Food processor
A food processor is a simple and quick way to prep fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other ingredients for recipes so you aren’t painstakingly doing everything with a knife or grater. Use one to shred, dice, and grind, or even beat batter or egg whites and knead bread dough. They’re more versatile than people realize and can tackle certain jobs more precisely than a blender. You can julienne vegetables for a lovely, presentable salad or stir fry, slice potatoes for a scalloped potatoes au gratin dish (grate the cheese to broil on top, too!), juice oranges or limes for fancy homemade cocktails, or grate carrots for a deliciously indulgent carrot cake. The possibilities are endless and you’ll find a quick rinse between jobs is much easier than doing the precision work yourself. I recently invested in a food processor and love being able to use it to simplify certain jobs. For example, my son and I recently made a gluten-free cheesecake and I was able to quickly crumble gluten-free graham crackers for the crust in the food processor in literal seconds. I also use mine for homemade dips, shredding cheese, and chopping nuts.
I often sing the praises of the Instant Pot for everyday cooking but it’s also great for holiday cooking. Indeed, I usually use mine for side dishes like homemade mac and cheese, corn on the cob, potatoes, or even steamed vegetables. You can easily set and forget, cooking what you need and leaving it inside on the Keep Warm function until you’re ready to serve. This leaves your oven and stovetop burners free to tackle the other dishes, sides, sauces, and desserts. Plus, the features works wonders when you have guests that are running late, delaying the time to table.
Interestingly, there’s another way a multicooker can simplify things: many people like to use one to make things like homemade pasta sauce, lemon curd, or even vanilla extract. With a set of empty bottles and creative labeling, it makes a wonderfully personalized and thoughtful gift for the neighbours, co-workers, friends, and family.
3. Air fryer
While we’d all love to make everything fresh, sometimes a package of frozen appetizers to keep guests satisfied while they wait for the main course is worth investing in. An air fryer is the perfect small appliance for reheating or cooking these, including pre-made hors d’oeuvres if you do feel ambitious. (Make them the night, even the week before, freeze, and reheat). Pop them inside in batches to cook and/or reheat right from frozen (or fresh). From mozzarella sticks to pigs in a blanket or French fries for the kids, an air fryer can tackle them all and still give you that beautiful, crispy, flaky texture. With quick heating times, you can easily put another set to heat so it’s ready to replenish what guests have devoured as needed.
4. Stand mixer
My stand mixer is one of my favourite small kitchen appliances. For pre-Christmas baking, it gets used daily in the weeks leading up to the holiday. I make a wide selection of Christmas cookies to box and give as gifts, and the mixer goes into overdrive for all of them. From mixing the batter for sugar and gingerbread cookies to whipping butter for shortbread and icing for iced cookies, it’s such a versatile appliance. It’s also useful for mixing ingredients for cakes and pies, from traditional pumpkin to a delectable lemon meringue. You’d be surprised at all the things you can do with a stand mixer. This includes, by the way, playing a role in preparing savoury dishes, too, especially with a brand like KitchenAid and the optional mixer attachments. With these, you can do everything from grind meat (for homemade sausage rolls) to spiralize vegetables for a stunning salad and even cut pasta noodles for the most delicious casserole or pasta dish.
5. Slow cooker
Much like an Instant Pot or other multicooker, a slow cooker is a great set and forget small appliance that can be used for a side dish, or even a main. If you plan to serve a stew, for example, or perhaps even chili or slow-cooked pulled pork, you can dump everything inside a slow cooker when you get up in the morning, leave it in all day, and have it ready when it’s time to serve dinner. It’s a super easy way to knock out at least one side dish without having to worry about tending to it, keeping it warm, or reheating.
6. Double oven
The concept of a double oven is perfect for holidays. It comes in handy when you need to either cook two things at different temperatures at the same time (think a roast and a pie). Or maybe you want to cook something in the oven while it’s also being used to keep all those delicious dishes your family members and friends brought over for the potluck warm. Maybe you’re roasting potatoes at 425°F at the bottom, for example, but want to bake dessert at 350°F up top. A double oven makes this possible, allowing you to complete two dishes at once so you don’t have to worry about timing everything accordingly. Note that typically, the top oven is limited in how hot it can get since it’s so close to the heating element. You might also only be able to fit low dishes, like a pie or lasagna platter. Make sure ahead of time that you can arrange them properly, and the double oven can be a lifesaver. With a smart, Wi-Fi connected oven, meanwhile, you can also set or extend (or stop) a cook or warm cycle from your phone, perfect if you’re stuck in traffic on the way home from grabbing some ingredients and don’t want the roast beef to dry out.
7. Mini fridge
A mini fridge is a great way to keep your main refrigerator space free for main dishes, especially ones you have prepped ahead of time, like a gorgeous veggie platter, charcuterie arrangement, and cake. People want cold beverages, and instead of relying on a cooler with ice, or even leaving the drinks out back during the cold winter (nature is, of course, a limitless refrigerator in Canadian winters!) you can invest in a mini fridge. Place it upstairs for easy access and fill with juice, cola, water, beer, and whatever other libations guests will need. It’s a nice, self-serve way for guests to choose what they want without opening and closing the fridge repeatedly. And you don’t have to worry about arranging your fridge like a game of Tetris to find unique spots to fit cans and bottles in every free nook and cranny. There are even mini fridges like the Insignia 1-Tap Kegerator that can double as a keg.
You can also use a spacious mini fridge for things like dip refill, condiments, and pre-cut fruits and vegetables to refill a prepared tray. Some mini fridges include small freezers as well, ideal for storing things like ice cream (for the kids, of course), popsicles, and frozen appetizers (for reheating in the air fryer).
Mashed sweet potatoes are a must for my holiday meals, and after I cut, boil, and remove the skin, I pop them into my blender with some butter, milk, salt, and a secret array of spices and other ingredients (sorry, I’ll never tell!) Then, I blend away to get a delicious, smooth consistency. If you’re like me, you might also have leftover pumpkins from Halloween that you simply can’t bring yourself to toss when they’re still perfectly fresh and edible. Cut one open, boil the pieces, remove the skin, then blend for your own puree. I use the puree in homemade pumpkin muffins (a wonderful snack or moderately healthy breakfast option, depending on the other ingredients you add) as well as pumpkin soup. Mashing by hand is do-able, but with a blender, you can get dishes like this done in a snap, with a literal push of a button.
Want to pre-make and reheat this? There are new blenders with heating modes as well, so you can pop in your pre-cooked squash, potatoes, or pumpkin and other vegetables with some liquid (coconut milk, perhaps?) and blend and heat right in the same machine! This way, you don’t have to worry if you left those potatoes in the bowl too long and now they’re cold. You can blend the soup and don’t need to worry about dirtying up another pot and turning on the stovetop to heat it before serving.
9. Espresso machine
There’s no better way to cap off a perfect holiday meal than with a delicious cup of coffee. Why not go all out with a cappuccino, latte, or other fancy drink? You can make this possible with a fancy espresso machine. There are models with both manual and automatic operation, some of which come with one-touch buttons to make specific drinks, from a macchiatto to a latte. Opt for one with a built-in coffee bean grinder and milk frother. All you need to do is add the cinnamon, flavouring, or other additions (think shaved chocolate or even a peppermint stick) along with a dollop of whipped cream and your family and guests will be thoroughly impressed. You can also use these machines to make espresso not only for drinking but also for using in cooking, from a coffee cake to coffee-infused beef marinade. Some can also dispense hot water, a convenient way to get a measured amount when you need it for a recipe so you don’t need to boil on the stove or heat water in the microwave.
10. Smart fridge
A smart refrigerator is a big investment. But for those who cook a lot, buy a lot of groceries, and are looking for a way to keep their lives organized, they could be a worthwhile purchase. With a smart refrigerator, you can keep track of all the items you need for your menu, adding them on the fly. With a smart fridge that has internal cameras, you can call up a view while you’re at the grocery store to check if you need more milk or eggs, and if you still have that can of whipped cream. With some, you can even keep track of expiration dates so you don’t get deep into a recipe only to realize the molasses you have expired a year ago. These types of refrigerators can often also play music from built-in speakers, video on a touchscreen (like an instructional cooking video), and you can leave notes for family members, like to ask your spouse to grab some flour and icing sugar on his way home. Check out our detailed smart refrigerator buying guide for all the ways you can use one.
Holiday cooking doesn’t have to be stressful
It’s easy to feel stressed when thinking about all the ambitious dishes you want to make and present for the holidays. Along with your grocery list, write out the menu and how you plan to cook each item. You’ll find with the addition of these small appliances and large ones, you can not only get some things done ahead of time so you have less to worry about, you can also get multiple things done at once. This will, in turn, shave time off the process.
For example, using an air fryer for appetizers means not having to make sure the oven is free when guests arrive so you can heat them up. Using an Instant Pot for potatoes or corn means not getting frantic when you realize you forgot to cook them: it won’t take 45 minutes to an hour, they can be ready in literally minutes. With a double oven, you can tell all the aunts and grandmas that you’ll happily keep their famous casserole warm in the oven for as long as they need because it doesn’t hinder your ability to continue to cook.
Ready to get cooking? Check out plenty of great small appliances to simplify holiday cooking at Best Buy Online.