81 Kitchen Instruments, Devices & Utensils to Simplify Your Vacation Dinners
It’s your turn to host dinner for a holiday or special occasion, such as Christmas, Easter, or a milestone birthday. Whether this is the first time you’ve held a holiday meal at your house or you’re an old hand, having the right gear and equipment helps a lot.
Even if you don’t anticipate holding any holiday gatherings at your home this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the ideal time to take stock of your kitchen and dining gear and make a purchasing plan for future parties and meals. Having something to look forward to, like a meal with your family and friends once the vaccine is widely available, can make it easier to get through a challenging, socially distant time.
You don’t have to bankrupt yourself to get your kitchen and dining room ready for the holiday season. While fancy French ovens and high-end mixers would look nice sitting on your stove or countertop, there are definitely affordable options available, regardless of your budget.
Kitchen Tools to Make Holiday Dinners Easier
As you get ready to cook and bake your special meal, stock up on everything you need to keep the process running smoothly and your credit card debt to a minimum.
Prep & Cooking Gear
Whether you’re chopping veggies, measuring spices and dry ingredients, or stirring a pot of soup on the stovetop, you’re going to need the right gear to do it. Having the right tool for the job saves you heaps of frustration and makes the process of putting together a multicourse holiday party meal a breeze. Plus, you can break out the prep and cooking gear when you’re making a run-of-the-mill weeknight dinner at home.
1. Dry Measuring Cups
The difference between a successful meal and a catastrophe often lies in the quality of the measuring cups you use. For these, choose function over form, and pick an accurate set. The Simply Gourmet seven-piece set includes cups measuring from one-eighth to a full cup.
Wirecutter calls them “impressively accurate,” so you don’t have to worry about crumbly cookies or too-thick gravy.
2. Liquid Measuring Cups
You measure dry ingredients differently than you measure liquid ones, so you need a different type of measuring cup for liquids like oil, water, and milk. Pyrex measuring cups are easy to read and accurate. You can buy individual cups, but the pack of three costs just a few dollars more than each cup sold separately.
3. Measuring Spoons
You want accurate measuring spoons for those smaller measurements, like spices, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Wirecutter recommends Prepworks measuring spoons for their accuracy. As a bonus, the spoons are magnetic, so it’s hard to misplace one in a drawer.
4. A Scale
Measuring cups are vital, but for the best accuracy, especially when baking, a scale is the way to go. I’ve been using the modestly priced Escali Primo digital scale for well over 10 years with great success. Don’t just take my word for it, though. The scale has over 5,000 reviews and a rating of 4.5 stars. It provides measurements in grams or ounces and pounds, and its max weight is 11 pounds.
5. Prep Bowls
Prep bowls seem like an extravagance, but they make your life in the kitchen so much easier. You can put the chopped green beans in one bowl, pecans in another, and butternut squash in yet another, keeping your work area neat and tidy and ingredients handy to go into the pot right when you need them. The set of eight prep bowls from Libby is ideal, as the bowls include lids, allowing you to prep ingredients in advance and keep them in the fridge.
6. A Spoon Rest
A spoon rest saves you from having to scrub dried sauce from the stove or countertop at the end of the night. It’s also a bit more sanitary than putting a spoon right on the counter or side of the sink. A stainless steel spoon rest is long-wearing and cleans up easily in the dishwasher.
7. A Chef’s Knife
You don’t have to spend a fortune on a fancy knife or 10-piece set that has more knives than you know what to do with. Instead, you need three. The first is a chef’s knife. For years, Cook’s Illustrated has recommended the surprisingly affordable Victorinox Fibrox Pro knife, and I definitely agree with them. It’s comfortable to hold and makes quick work of most chopping tasks.
8. A Serrated Knife
You want a serrated knife for slicing bread and soft-skinned produce, like tomatoes. But there’s no need to spend a fortune here. The Mercer Culinary Millennia bread knife is a budget-friendly pick that also comes with the Cook’s Illustrated stamp of approval.
9. A Paring Knife
You can use a paring knife to slice small vegetables or peel veggies when you don’t have a peeler. There’s no need to spend more than $10 or so on this one. The Wirecutter-recommended 3.25-inch Victorinox straight paring knife is an affordable pick.
Your kitchen should have its own pair of scissors, which you can use to snip fresh herbs, open food packets, or cut string away from roasts. A pair that comes apart for easy cleaning is ideal. Oxo’s kitchen and herb scissors separate at the blades and feature cushioned grips for comfort.
11. A Mandoline
When you want paper-thin slices for fried onions or a fancy tart, you need a mandoline. Oxo Good Grips’ mandoline is no-frills and budget-friendly. It has a sharp blade and a handguard, which is really all you need.
12. A Grater
A grater lets you shred cheese, zest citrus, and grate vegetables. The Cuisipro Surface Glide four-sided box grater features grooves along each side that help keep food from sticking to the front. It’s also got a sturdy base and comfortable handle.
13. A Food Chopper
A food chopper turns whole onions and other types of produce into tiny pieces with just a few pushes. The Oxo Good Grips chopper makes short work of chopping projects and neatly collects all the tiny fruit and vegetable pieces in a little container.
14. Cutting Boards
You need cutting boards to protect your kitchen counters and knives. Plastic boards are the most affordable and tend to be easier to care for, as you can usually toss them into the dishwasher. If you’re limited on space and can only get one, opt for the Oxo Good Grips utility cutting board, which is made of plastic, has a secure grip (no sliding around the counter), and is a decent size. If you have the room, get two, one for vegetables and cooked foods and one for raw meats.
15. A Vegetable Peeler
Those sweet potatoes aren’t going to peel themselves. The Kuhn Rikon Swiss peeler has a nearly 5-star rating after more than 9,000 reviews. Its sharp carbon-steel blade makes short work of even the biggest pile of root vegetables.
16. A Flexible Spatula
A rubber or silicone spatula lets you mix batter, fold ingredients, and ensure no drop of sauce remains in the pan. For easy cleaning, go for silicone. Wood-handled spatulas tend to rot or break easily. Cook’s Illustrated recommends the di Oro silicone spatula because of its unified construction, thin blade, and grippy handle. The brand also has a four-piece set, which includes a long-handled narrow spatula for when you need to scrape the bottom of a tall jar, a mini spatula for tight spots, and a spoonula for those times you need to both scrape and scoop.
17. A Flexible Turner
A flexible turner or spatula lets you flip pancakes with ease on a nonstick pan and helps you slide fried eggs from a skillet. The thin blade of the Oxo Good Grips flexible turner allows it to easily get underneath whatever you’re cooking and free it from the pan.
18. Metal Turner
Although they’re sometimes called fish turners, you can use metal turners to flip or move any foods you’re cooking in pans that can handle metal utensils (pretty much any pans that aren’t nonstick). These spatulas are versatile too. The metal design enables it to do heavier lifting than a silicone turner, and the slots ensure grease stays in the pan. But most notably, the razor-thin edge allows it to slide under virtually anything without breaking it up, including flaky fish. The MIU France turner is made from durable stainless steel with a riveted handle and is dishwasher-safe.
19. Wooden Spoons
You can go way cheap with wooden spoons, but it can also be worthwhile to spend a bit more and get a spoon made from wood that’s known to be heat and moisture-resistant. Cook’s Illustrated recommends FAAY teak spoons for their light weight, ease of cleaning, and sturdiness. Yeah, they cost more than a $1 pine spoon, but they provide you with a more enjoyable cooking experience, and they’ll have a much longer lifespan.
20. A Juicer
If you need some fresh lime or lemon juice for a recipe, the Chef’n FreshForce citrus juicer is the tool to use. The handheld juicer pretty much turns halves of lemon or lime inside out, getting as much juice from them as possible. It also catches any seeds and pips, so you don’t have to strain the juice.
21. A Tablet or Cookbook Stand
Whether you cook from traditional cookbooks or look at recipes on your tablet, make them easy to see as you work by propping them up on a stand. A bamboo book stand can hold paper books or gadgets and has two adjustable arms to keep your recipe secure.
22. Potholders or Oven Mitts
You don’t want to get burned while you’re cooking a holiday dinner. Although you can find fabric potholders and oven mitts in cute patterns and colors, your best bet is to pick silicone options, as they’re heat- and water-resistant. Homwe professional silicone oven mitts cover your entire hand and a lot of the forearm, offering ample protection from the heat. Plus, it’s available in a pack of two in a rainbow of colors.
If you dislike mitt-style potholders, the washable GeekHom grilling and oven gloves are heat-resistant up to 932 degrees F and offer forearm protection. The five-finger Kevlar design makes it easier to grip handles and dishes. They’re ideal when you need a lighter touch with hot foods, such as removing a pie plate without crushing the delicate crust.
An apron keeps your holiday clothes clean and gives you a place to tuck a towel or spoon. A good apron is made of thick, easy-to-wash material and adjusts so people of various heights can comfortably wear it. The classic solid apron from Williams Sonoma is adjustable and made of sturdy cotton. It also has pockets and comes in multiple colors.
You’ve chopped, diced, and seasoned. Now, it’s time to get that food on the stovetop or into the oven. Although you can spend a fortune on fancy French cookware or triple-ply clad skillets and saucepans, you can also get quality pots, pans, and skillets for a fraction of the price.
24. A Dutch Oven
Colorful, heavy, and functional, a Dutch oven is a must if you plan to make stews or soups or braise meats. Dutch ovens can also go into your actual oven, doubling as baking vessels for breads and cobblers. Although French brands are Instagram-worthy and covetable, the Lodge six-quart Dutch oven works just as well, costs a fraction of the price, and comes in a wide range of colors.
25. Cast-Iron Frying Pans
A cast-iron frying pan lets you sear a steak or roast a chicken with ease. The pan builds up a seasoning over time, becoming naturally nonstick. And the 10.25-inch Lodge cast-iron skillet is preseasoned, so it’s ready to use right away.
26. Nonstick Skillet
While you can pass your cast-iron skillet to your grandkids, nonstick skillets don’t have nearly as long a lifespan. Still, they’re useful tools to have if you want to fry eggs or cook delicate fish. Just don’t spend a lot of money on one. Recommended by both Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, the 12-inch Oxo Good Grips nonstick frying pan helps you serve holiday pancakes to a crowd without breaking a sweat.
27. Saucepans & Pots
If you’re starting from scratch, buying a set of saucepans together rather than individually makes sense. The Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 11-piece set equips you with a big, 8-quart stockpot, three saucepans, a saute pan, two skillets, and a steamer insert.
The pans are made with an even-heating aluminum base and have a stainless steel cooking surface, which won’t react with, discolor, or change the flavor of food. The pans also include helper handles that don’t get hot, making it easy to move them on and off the stovetop. Glass lids make it easy to monitor the cooking process.
Buying the set helps you save hundreds compared to buying each pot and pan separately.
28. Baking Sheets
Baking sheets let you roast vegetables, bake cookies, and heat foods from frozen. Ideally, baking sheets are made from sturdy, warpless metal that doesn’t discolor too quickly. Nordic Ware baking sheets don’t warp and do a great job of heating foods evenly. Get a pack of two half-sheet pans to accomplish almost any kitchen task. Though if you have the budget, the quarter pans are also handy.
29. A Roasting Pan
You’re likely only going to use your roasting pan a few times a year — during a holiday gathering or other special occasion — so there’s no reason to spend a lot on it. But you don’t want to go too cheap, as you need a pan that can withstand the weight of a turkey or other large portion of meat. The Cuisinart Ovenware roaster is sturdy but also nonstick for easy cleaning.
If you prefer a stainless steel pan, the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic pan has sturdy riveted handles and is large enough to hold a turkey or large roast.
30. Casserole & Gratin Dishes
If you’re building your kitchen from scratch, it also makes sense to go with a set when buying baking dishes for casseroles and gratins. CorningWare is a classic for a reason. Its dishes are durable and just as at home on your holiday table as the oven or refrigerator. Use them to serve a side dish, bake a casserole, or transport a dish to a potluck. The 20-piece set includes 10 dishes with matching lids.
No holiday party is complete without dessert. Whether you’re making more Christmas and Hanukkah cookies than you can count, putting together a gingerbread house, or have been asked to bring something sweet to the holiday dinner table, you need the equipment to bake up a storm.
31. Mixing Bowls
Glass or metal is your big decision when it comes to choosing mixing bowls — along with making sure you have a bowl big enough to hold a recipe’s ingredients without spilling. Glass bowls are microwave-safe, but they can be heavy, though some users prefer the stability that weight provides. Metal bowls are lightweight and can chill quickly (and hold the chill), making them ideal for whipping cream or beating egg whites into stiff peaks. But they aren’t microwave-safe, and that lighter weight can mean they aren’t always as stable if you have to stir or whisk hands-free (such as when you’re tempering eggs), though you can slip a kitchen towel underneath to counteract that.
If you’re going with glass bowls, Pyrex has a reputation for being sturdy and long-lasting. A mixing bowl set gives you three sizes, from 1-quart to 4-quart. And Finedine currently offers a set of six stainless steel bowls featuring flat bases, wide rolled rims for a good grip and dripless pouring, and capacity markers.
32. A Rolling Pin
Rolling pins come in a range of sizes, shapes, and materials. Ideally, the pin you use will be comfortable, easy to maneuver, and sturdy. Tapered pins tend to be easy to move around a piece of dough and are good for beginners and professionals alike. Fletchers’ Mill French Rolling Pin is smooth to the touch and easy to use.
33. A Pastry Mat
Do you really need a pastry mat? Not technically. A well-floured countertop works just fine. But if you want to get your dough into a perfect circle or need an easy reference guide for measuring the size of a shaped loaf of bread dough or pie crust, a silicone pastry mat does come in handy.
34. A Pastry Bag & Tips
A piping or pastry bag lets you decorate cakes and cookies like you’re a contestant on the “Great British Bake-Off.” But nobody wants to clean gobs of frosting out of a reusable pastry bag, so your best bet is to pick a set of reusable tips, like these highly rated pastry tips from Wilton and a pack of disposable pastry bags.
Or just invest in the tips. You can swap out gallon-size zip-close bags for pastry bags by snipping the corner of the bag to make an opening, slipping in the decorating tip, and then filling the bag as you would a pastry bag.
35. A Pastry Blender
If you’re going to make pie dough or buttery biscuits from scratch, you need a pastry blender, also known as a pastry or dough cutter, to cut that butter into the flour. The Oxo Good Grips pastry cutter has a soft, comfortable grip and sturdy, sharp blades, which are the two most important features to look for in a pastry cutter.
36. A Flexible Bench Scraper
Get a flexible bench scraper and change your life, at least in the kitchen. The scraper bends slightly, allowing you to get every last bit of dough or batter off the bowl, clean crumbs and flour from the countertop, or cut individual pieces from dough. You can also use it to scoop up chopped vegetables to transfer them to a pot or bowl or run the edge of the scraper across the countertop to sweep away crumbs. You don’t have to be picky when buying a flexible bench scraper. Often, the cheaper, the better.
37. A Whisk
If you want to whip up some egg whites for a meringue, thoroughly mix dry ingredients, or try your hand at handmade whipped cream, you need a quality whisk. A whisk with a comfortable handle is pretty essential, making the Oxo Good Grips 11-inch balloon whisk a smart and affordable choice.
38. Mesh Strainers
Fine-mesh strainers let you sift dry ingredients, decorate cakes with a dusting of powdered sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder, and drain liquids away. You can find pricey options, but you can also easily get a reliable set of three strainers for less than $20.
39. A Pie Plate
Whether you’re making pumpkin, pecan pie, or cherry pie, you need something to assemble and bake it in. Pie plates come in multiple materials, from metal to ceramic to glass. Your best (and most affordable) bet is a glass pie plate. You’re able to see the browning of the crust through the clear glass. Plus, glass pie dishes tend to cost less than half of what their pretty stoneware cousins cost. And while you can probably find cheaper metal options, you lose the ability to see through them and have to worry about getting the right color to avoid overbrowning. The Pyrex Easy Grab pie plate has a fluted edge and comes in a pack of two, so you can get creative with your pie-making.
40. Pie Weights
If you need to blind-bake your pie crusts (bake them without any filling), such as for a coconut cream pie, you need pie weights to keep the dough from shrinking as it bakes. You can use dried beans, but if you bake a lot of pies, invest in reusable weights. The Chicago Metallic pie weight rests on top of the crust as it cooks, helping to hold everything in place. While it’s pricey, since it’s all one piece, it’s easier to put into and take out of the pie plate, making it ideal for prolific pie bakers, though you’ll need more than one to blind-bake multiple crusts simultaneously.
That said, traditional ceramic pie weights are less expensive and offer flexibility when it comes to pie size. This set also comes with enough weights to blind-bake two crusts for the same price as the Chicago Metallic device — though you have to remove the pie weights the old-fashioned (more labor-intensive) way.
41. Cake Pans
Cake pans can do more than just hold batter when you’re baking a cake. They can also double as brownie pans, biscuit or roll pans, and (in the case of 9-inch-by-13-inch pans) lasagna pans. Ideally, you want pans made from sturdy, durable metal that have a quick-release coating. USA Pan makes a 9-inch-by-13-inch rectangular pan and 9-inch round cake pans from thick steel with a nonstick coating. They also have textured bottoms, which help cakes release more easily.
42. Loaf Pans
Whether you’re making banana bread, a pound cake, or a sandwich loaf, you need a narrow, rectangular loaf pan to do it. Pick a metal pan that has some heft to it and feels sturdy. The USA Pan 1-pound loaf pan is made from heavy-gauge steel and has a nonstick coating, so loaves slide out easily.
43. A Springform Pan
According to job-hunting website Zippia, Google Trends data shows cheesecake is a surprisingly popular Christmas dessert in much of the United States. In fact, 2020 Google Trends data shows searches for the versatile dessert spike during multiple holidays, including Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, and Fourth of July.
To make one, you need a springform pan, which has removable sides. The tricky thing about most springform pans is that they can leak, turning your cake into a waterlogged mess (if you cook it in a water bath). So the best pan is leakproof. It should also be nonstick and sturdy enough not to warp in the heat of your oven. The 9-inch Nordic Ware springform pan keeps water out and releases cleanly from the sides of your cake.
44. A Bundt Pan
You can get wild when it comes to the shape of the Bundt pan you use, choosing anything from a castle shape to a pine forest. But sometimes, simple is best. If that’s the case, go for the classic ring-shaped Bundt pan from Nordic Ware. A nonstick coating is a must to make sure your cake releases from the pan in one piece.
45. Muffin Tins
Muffins (and cupcakes) should slide out of their tin with ease. The pan should also be sturdy enough to bake the muffins or cupcakes evenly. Both Bon Appetit and Cook’s Illustrated agree that the Oxo Good Grips muffin pan is the best of the bunch. The pan’s golden color also helps keep your muffins or cupcakes from getting too dark too quickly.
46. Parchment Paper
Parchment paper helps your cookies slide off of the baking sheet easily. Although you can pick up a roll of it from your grocery store, precut sheets are much easier to manipulate and use. Precut 9-inch parchment rounds are also handy to use when you’re baking cakes.
47. A Cooling Rack
A metal cooling rack lets air circulate around cookies, breads, and cakes as they come to room temperature. You can also use the rack to elevate breaded and battered food after frying to keep it crispy and keep pork chops and other meats off the baking sheet when roasting. The P&P Chef cooling rack fits inside a standard half-sheet baking sheet and comes in a pack of two so you don’t have to worry about running out of room for your cookies.
Small appliances make it so much easier to prepare a holiday meal for a crowd. They also make it easy to whip up a weeknight meal or a fun appetizer or dessert just because. Some people consider extra gadgets a waste of space. But many of these gadgets are indispensable, even taking the place of multiple analog kitchen tools, such as a whisk or cookware. Whether you’re expecting dozens at your holiday gathering or you’re preparing a meal for your brood, these appliances give you a few extra hands.
48. Cook-&-Serve Slow Cooker
A typical slow cooker lets you make one dish at a time. But a cook-and-serve model lets you prep and serve multiple dishes so you can feed a crowd. The Elite Platinum triple slow cooker makes it easy to prepare, warm, and serve three dishes simultaneously, whether they’re soups, sides, or sauces. Each crock has its own controls, so you can adjust the temperature and start the cooking or reheating for each dish as needed.
49. An Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is a multicooker that lets you pressure-cook vegetables in record time, brown meats, and cook rice. Some people even make cheesecake in theirs. If you’re regularly running out of room in your oven when prepping a holiday meal or need more space on the stovetop, the Instant Pot is a lifesaver.
50. A Food Processor
A food processor does a quick job of kneading bread, pureeing vegetables, and pulverizing nuts. It can also replace your pastry cutter for pie crusts and biscuits, cheese grater, mandoline, and food chopper. Food processors aren’t cheap, but they can be worth the cost. In fact, this is one purchase when it’s better to spend than to go cheap. A quality food processor will last. My mom gave me hers, which she got in 1980. And because it was a quality model, it still works very well. Although my specific processor is no longer available, the Cuisinart 13-cup food processor is highly rated and worth the price.
51. A Stand Mixer
The stunningly sleek KitchenAid stand mixer will set you back around $300 or more, depending on the size and model. But it also gives you the option of adding attachments that turn it into a completely new device, such as an ice cream maker, pasta roller, or grinder, making it a real workhorse in your kitchen that will last for years to come. The company’s Artisan 5-quart tilt-head mixer is available in nearly 50 colors. But if they have one available, you can save some money by getting a refurbished model. Refurbished means they gave the mixer some TLC to make it operate like new again. If KitchenAid is out of refurbished, check Amazon’s renewed store to see if they have a refurbished KitchenAid mixer in stock.
That said, if you’re just looking for something to knead bread dough, make cake batter, and whip egg whites or heavy cream, you don’t have to spend a lot. While it’s limited to mixing-related activities and doesn’t have fancy gadget attachments available, the 4-quart Hamilton Beach stand mixer is otherwise comparable to the gold-standard brand — but only costs around $100.
52. A Hand Mixer
If space is limited and you aren’t much of a baker, you can get by with just a hand mixer, though some avid bakers also find they need both mixer types. A hand mixer can do many of the same tasks as a stand mixer (it won’t knead bread, though). I like to use mine for smaller jobs, such as whipping up a small amount of heavy cream or beating a couple of egg whites. You can also use it for a lighter task while your stand mixer is working on something else.
Hand mixers also cost a lot less and take up less room in a drawer or on the counter. The Cuisinart five-speed hand mixer is comfortable to hold for both lefties and righties, makes short work of whipping cream or egg whites, and has easy-clean beaters.
53. A Blender
You can use a blender to puree soup, make smoothies for a holiday breakfast, or emulsify a vinaigrette. Some blenders cost almost as much as a month’s rent, but you can easily find a decent model for much less. The Oster Versa blender comes highly rated by Wirecutter and costs a fraction of the price of a Vitamix.
If space is limited, an immersion blender can do many of the same jobs a jar model can do (though it can’t crush ice or frozen fruit if you were looking forward to smoothies). The Braun MultiQuick hand blender has rave reviews and includes both a blender and whisk attachment.
54. An Air Fryer
Air fryers promise a lot (the crispy texture of fried food, minus the fat), but do they live up to that promise? An air fryer is a type of convection oven. Even if you’re not super-interested in fried food, it can be useful to have on hand when oven space is limited. The Ninja 4-quart air fryer lets you bake, roast, and dehydrate foods as well as air-fry them. You can also use it to reheat foods, such as last night’s pizza.
55. A Hot Plate
Sometimes, four burners on the stovetop aren’t enough. If you need another burner or two, a hot plate can do the job in a pinch. The Cuisinart cast-iron double burner has two burners with a total power of 1,800 watts, so your dishes will heat up and cook quickly and evenly.
56. Electric Roaster
If you don’t want to sacrifice all that oven space to roasting a large bird, don’t. The Oster roaster oven is large enough to cook a 22-pound bird, freeing up your oven for other dishes. The roaster also doubles as a serving tray that can keep your side dishes warm on the buffet.
If you’re looking for a more versatile device, the Char-Broil Big Easy infrared device that acts as both a roaster and oilless fryer. It’s bulkier and more expensive than the roaster oven, and you have to operate it outdoors since it’s a propane device. But you can use it for holidays, get-togethers, and even regular family meals all year long. So for many people, the added expense for a two-in-one device you can use year-round is worth the upfront expenditure.
57. An Egg Cooker
You can boil eggs in a standard saucepan, but sometimes, that causes their shells to break. It also requires you to give up burner space on the stove. The Dash egg cooker gives you half a dozen hard-, medium-, or soft-boiled eggs in minutes. It also looks cute doing it.
Table & Serving Ware
Making dinner is just part of hosting a holiday meal at your home. You also need to set the table, providing dishes and utensils for people to eat with. Although you could shell out for fancy porcelain dinner sets and fine silverware you only use for special occasions, it makes more sense from a financial standpoint to get dishware and utensils you can use throughout the year.
58. A Dinnerware Set
There’s nothing wrong with using your regular table setting for holiday meals. But having something a little different makes it feel more special for many people. Think basic but not boring when choosing a holiday dinnerware set. The Corelle dinnerware set includes enough dinner plates, bread plates, and bowls to serve six people. The dinnerware is made from a chip-resistant glass, so it will last many years.
59. Flatware & Serving Utensils
Like your dinnerware, your flatware set should be fancy enough to bring out during a holiday meal, but not so fancy you don’t want to use it. The Henckels 65-piece flatware set looks shiny and sophisticated enough to use at your fanciest dinners. But it isn’t so refined you’d worry about pulling it out to eat a bowl of cereal when you just don’t feel like washing the dishes. The set includes flatware for 12 people, plus serving utensils.
Or you can buy your flatware separately and inexpensively purchase convenient packs of slotted and regular serving spoons, serving forks, ladles, and tongs.
60. Wine Glasses
While the makers of wine glasses would like you to get a different style for every type of wine out there, the truth is that simpler is better. Whether you prefer white or red, get a few sets of the Libbey Signature all-purpose wine glasses, and that’s all you need.
61. Drinking Glasses
You’ll need glasses without superhero logos on them to serve beverages to guests. The 12-ounce Duralex tumblers are the right size for most beverages and are made from a durable tempered glass that resists breaking. As a bonus, the glasses stack easily for storage.
62. A Serving Platter
Think of the serving platter as the canvas upon which you build the main course. A minimal design is ideal, such as a basic white platter. The Corelle Livingware serving platter comes in a pack of two and has a raised edge so food is less likely to spill off it.
63. Serving Bowls
Whether it’s pasta, a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, or a salad, you’ll need a bowl to serve your sides. Corelle Livingware 2-quart serving bowls are big enough for most accompaniments.
64. A Butter Dish or Crock
A butter bell or crock lets you keep butter at room temperature without it going bad. The crock keeps the butter perfectly spreadable, so guests can easily butter their dinner rolls or bread.
65. A Gravy Boat
A gravy boat is less of a unitasker than you think. You can use it to serve maple syrup during a holiday brunch or half-and-half during coffee or dessert. Go for a basic design in classic white that comes with a saucer to catch any drips. The 12-ounce Kovot gravy boat is a perfectly budget-friendly pick.
66. A Bread Basket
Serving bread in a basket makes it lightweight enough to pass around the table. And you don’t have to spend a lot to keep it elegant. This large round metal basket is available in either black or gold.
67. A Carving Set
That turkey, ham, or roast beef isn’t going to carve itself. To do the job, you need a set consisting of a carving knife and fork. An electric knife is an option, but only if you don’t mind a lot of noise at the dinner table. For a quieter slicing experience, opt for the Messermeister carving knife and fork set.
68. Chafing Dishes & Sterno
Do you tend to serve your crowds buffet-style? A chafing dish and chafing fuel are a must to keep food warm. If you plan to make a big gathering an annual event, pick sturdy, reusable chafing dishes rather than the flimsy disposable ones.
To keep everyone seated during the meal, a beverage pitcher is a must. The pitcher should be sturdy but not so heavy it’s difficult to pour from. The Kook water carafe comes in a set of three, so you can place them at different points on the table. The carafes also have lids, so you can store any leftover beverages in them.
70. An Ice Bucket & Scoop
A pitcher does no good if your guests have no ice to top off their glasses. An ice bucket should keep ice properly cold. The bucket should also include tongs to prevent guests from having to dip their glasses into it or scooping the ice with their hands. The 68-ounce S’well ice bucket has three layers of insulation to keep ice from melting. It also comes in a sleek black marble pattern that looks sophisticated on any table.
71. Tea light holders
Instead of taper candles, which can block people’s views or fall over, decorate your holiday table with tea lights. You can get a pack of 24 tea light holders for less than the cost of a moderately priced bottle of wine. Plus, they’re handy outside holidays too. You can pull them out during power outages, as they’re safer than tippable tapers.
72. Table Linens
Add some color to your table with a set of reusable linen napkins. Get a few sets so you can switch up the colors for each holiday. Cover the table with a linen tablecloth in a neutral color, such as white or gray.
Now for the fun part: cleaning up after the meal. Cleaning as you go and having the right supplies make getting your kitchen back in order a breeze.
Swedish dishcloths replace paper towels and sponges for all your cleaning and wiping needs. The cloths are made from plant-based cellulose that’s super-absorbent. You can also wash and reuse them — just toss them in the dishwasher or washing machine.
74. Dish or Tea Towels
A dish towel should be absorbent enough to help you dry a stack of dishes without becoming saturated. Flour sack towels are big and absorbent, so you can clean and dry dishes with ease. You can also use the thin towels to strain soups and to absorb water when pressing tofu. And when clean, they make lovely bread basket liners.
75. A Trash Can & Trash Bags
You want a trash can that’s easy to access when you’re in the middle of food prep and cleanup. You also want one that won’t get too fragrant. You probably already have one you use every day. But having a separate one for holidays and get-togethers ensures your guests don’t have to work out which can is for garbage and which is for recyclables.
While you might be surprised by the price tag on some kitchen garbage cans, the 13-gallon Rubbermaid step-on trash can costs a fraction of the price of most other models. Since you step on a lever to open the lid, you don’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty when cooking. If you’re concerned about smells, Hefty 13-gallon trash bags have odor-block and Febreze.
76. Garbage Bowl
A garbage bowl gives you a place to toss food scraps and packaging as you prep a meal. That way, you aren’t constantly going back and forth between the trash can or compost bin and your prep area. Rachael Ray popularized the idea on her cooking show and now has branded garbage bowls. You can also easily use any mixing bowl or serving bowl you have handy. Just line it with a small plastic garbage bag or grocery bag so you don’t have to wash it between empties.
Dealing With Leftovers
The odds are likely you’ll have leftovers to send home with your guests when all is said and done. Anything you can’t send home with others you’ll need to wrap and store in your refrigerator. Several products can help you deal with leftovers effectively.
77. (Nearly) Disposable Food Storage Containers
Regular disposable containers could leak in their car. But you also don’t want to have to hope you get your good storage containers back. Send people home with TV tray-style leftovers using the EZ Prepa meal prep containers, which are about $1 each. Each container has three sections, so you can load them up with a main and two sides, and a lid for easy transport.
78. Aluminum Foil & Plastic Wrap Dispensers
If you’ve ever struggled with plastic wrap and lost, you need Chicwrap, a refillable plastic wrap dispenser with a slide cutter to make it easy to wrap leftover foods or cover serving bowls. A foil dispenser is also available.
79. Beeswax Food Wraps
If you want to reduce your use of throwaway plastic wrap, beeswax food wraps offer an eco-friendly, reusable alternative. The wraps come in various sizes and form a tight seal on bowls or around food.
80. Reusable Food Storage Bags
Stasher bags can replace throwaway sandwich or freezer bags. They’re made from washable, food- and planet-friendly silicone.
81. Wine Bottle Stopper
If you have wine left over that doesn’t have a twist-off lid, use the Rabbit wine and Champagne sealer to close the bottle and keep air out. Put the sealer on top of the bottle, twist it to the right a few times, and your wine should stay fresh for a few more days.
Making a holiday meal, whether it’s for a party of five or a party of 25, can involve a lot of work. But the more prepared you are and the more tools you have to help you through the prep, serving, and cleanup process, the easier the task will be.
If you’re making your first-ever holiday meal, focus on getting the products to help you get that particular meal on the table. You can always add to your kitchen as you become a more experienced host.