25 things you need if you're cooking for the holidays
Throw the party of the year with these kitchen essentials
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With the holidays on the horizon, everyone at Reviewed is thinking about one thing: food. Yes, we’re also a little preoccupied with recommending the best gifts of the year, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that lavish family dinners and cheese boards are also top of mind.
If you’ll be attending any holiday parties this season, you probably have the benefit of showing up with a bottle of wine or a dessert and calling it a day. But if you’ll be hosting a party, there’s a mountain of planning and cooking that awaits you.
To make your holiday meals more merry, we’ve rounded up our favorite kitchen products that can help take some of the stress out of cooking for a crowd. From carving knives and casserole dishes to coupe glasses and fancy napkins, here’s everything you need to make a perfect holiday meal.
1. A roasting pan for turkey and more
A hefty roasting pan is a no-brainer around the holidays for turkey, ham, and more, but you can also use one year-round for sheet pan meals and cooking for a crowd. That makes investing in a good one worth it.
The tri-ply stainless steel construction on the best roasting pan we tested from Viking definitely gives it some heft, but the handles are super wide and comfortable, distributing the pan's weight nicely. It had excellent heat distribution as well. It's big and sturdy enough to handle a 20-pound turkey and it's capable of cooking anything you throw at it.
2. Some special occasion dinnerware that isn’t stuffy
The holidays are associated with breaking out the fancy plates, but not everyone has good china or other special occasion dinnerware that was gifted to them or passed down through their family—it’s becoming increasingly uncommon.
Luckily, contemporary retailers like Food52 sell many gorgeous sets of dinnerware with interesting, intricate designs that cost less than what you’d find on a registry. We love the Art Deco inspiration of these gold-accented plates and think they add some holiday flair to any meal.
3. A full set of stainless steel cookware
You'll need pots and pans to prepare all your favorite sauces and side dishes, so consider the holidays a great excuse to upgrade your cookware set. The Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set is regularly on sale for just above $200, and you should definitely snatch one up if you see it hovering around that price.
We love how easy thee pans are to use. The tri-ply construction gives the pans the benefit of heat conductivity, but the aluminum core ensures they’re not too heavy to handle. The set includes everything you need to cook a meal: two saucepans (1 1/2- and 3-quart), an 8-quart stockpot, a medium-sized 3.5-quart sauté pan, two skillets (8- and 10-inch), and a steamer insert—all with comfortable handles and a design that creates a nice balance when holding the pan.
4. A ton of glass storage containers
A really nice set of reusable storage containers should be ready during dinner cleanup.
We love that these containers nest within each other for easy storage, they don't impart off-flavors into our food, and they're marked as dishwasher-, microwave-, and oven-safe. It also doesn't hurt that they aced every test we could think of. They didn't leak water when we sloshed them around and didn't burst open or shatter when we dropped them from a countertop. When we froze them, expanding food didn't break through the seal and they resisted stains.
5. A gorgeous pie pan
It's almost a holiday requirement to serve pie, so why not do it in style? You can't beat our favorite pie dish from Emile Henry for looks or turning out a pie with a crispy, flaky crust. It’s made in France of ceramic and comes in lots of pretty colors.
This 9-by-2-inch dish is deep enough to hold almost two quarts of filling, so pies will never come out skimpy looking. Its large capacity and attractive appearance also make it a good choice for baking and serving other items like scalloped potatoes or candied sweets.
As it can withstand high temperatures, you can run the Emile under the broiler if you want to brown off a lemon meringue pie or a mac and cheese casserole. Plus, it’s microwave- and dishwasher-safe.
6. Some fancy cocktail glasses for bubbles and punch
What’s a holiday party without wine and cocktails? Elegance abounds with this gorgeous set of gold-rimmed glass coupes from Williams Sonoma. Trendy coupes are perfect for serving all sorts of cocktails, as well as champagne and punch. They’ll impress your guests and add a bit of old-world glamour to regular cocktail nights, too.
7. Digital thermometers for accurate cook times
Don't undercook your bird (or overcook it, for that matter)! Confidently toss it into the oven and forget about it until it beeps by probing it with this top-performing probe thermometer. In addition to being the most accurate probe we tested, it also has a nice backlight display. You can use it as a timer, adjust the alarm's volume, or use it to keep track of the minimum and maximum readings. We especially love its hinged tilting screen for easy viewing on the countertop, but it also has a magnet and a clip if that works better for your kitchen.
If monitoring your meat’s temperature from inside the oven isn't important to you, pick up a ThermoPop instead. It immediately impressed us with its super quick, accurate readings and its beautiful appearance when testing the best digital meat thermometers. The probe is long enough to keep your hands safely away from any hot steam. It also features a super thin tip that didn’t allow for many juices to escape after probing.
8. A crowd-pleasing cheese board
You know a party is for real when you walk in and see a charcuterie board. This gorgeous acacia serving board from Crate & Barrel is perfect for cheese, charcuterie, dried fruit, dips, and even dessert. It has a 4-star average from almost 300 reviews, and it’s crosscut wood effect is great for the holidays. The best part? It’s under $30, so you don’t have to spend like an elite to impress your guests.
9. The right carving knives
After you’ve spent all that time and money to prepare your turkey, you definitely want to present it just right. You could use your chef’s knife, but there’s something ceremonious about pulling out a good carving knife. It doesn’t come as a set, but you can also pick up the matching carving fork.
If you’re dealing with a really tough bird, there’s no shame in breaking out a good electric knife, like our favorite from Black & Decker. First, it aced all of our performance tests, but that's not what impressed us the most. The Black & Decker also has the most comfortable handle and was the quietest knife we tested. The round handle fit perfectly in our hands and stayed put, even when our hands were covered in chicken grease.
10. A good cast iron skillet (or three)
We don't know about you, but we love our cast iron skillets. Some years, we skip the casserole dishes and bake our mac and cheese, stuffing, and cornbread straight in these pans.
Lodge has been making its cast iron cookware since 1896; its durability is one reason why Lodge has become a household name—and why they make our favorite cast iron pan. The Lodge 12-inch skillet sells for just under $30 on sale, but it's likely to last for generations.
Master the kitchen.
11. A large, durable carving board
When we tested cutting boards, we split the winners into three categories. Our favorite bamboo cutting board was great for any task in the kitchen, but the size and heft of this Teakhaus made it more of a specialty board than a catch-all winner.
It happens to be perfect for resting and carving a turkey, though, because it can easily hold a 25-pound bird! It also happens to be a gorgeous piece that makes a stylish addition to your kitchen counter. The use of teak (a high-oil wood) fought off moisture better than the other wooden boards and it held the largest amount of liquid (2/3 cup) in its groves before spilling over.
12. A fat separator for great gravy
Fat separators might not be the sexiest gadget in the kitchen, but you'll need one if you're hoping to make a killer gravy this year. By design, bottom-draining separators make it almost impossible to pass a lot of fatty-liquid through their valves because the fat floats on the top.
Some of them have temperamental levers, but the trigger on this model is super easy to control and by design will minimize splashing, creating less mess than some of the other models we tested. There's also a pour spout on the top, which makes it much easier to remove the fat left behind. And, since the lever mechanism is located on the outside of the separator, we had no problems when it came time to clean everything up.
13. Poultry shears for tough birds
If you prefer preparing spatchcocked turkeys and chickens, you’ll need a good pair of poultry shears. It's easy enough, but you do need to cut out the backbone (which, as the name implies, is lined with a bunch of bones that'll destroy your expensive knives).
We love this OXO set because they’re easy to handle and their super-sharp blade cuts through tough turkey bones like they’re butter. They're easy enough to sharpen when they get dull and they lock for safe, easy storage. It’s always nice when you don’t cut your hand digging through your gadget drawer!
14. An easy-to-use food processor
If you don't feel like cutting anything this year, hook up your food processor instead. You can chop onions, celery, and garlic for stuffing and use the included attachment to slice potatoes or shred cheese. In fact, you can even make your pie crust in it! According to our testing, the Cuisinart "Custom 14" food processor (model DFP‑14BCNY) is the best on the market.
It excels at almost every task, from chopping onions and slicing tomatoes as well as a razor-sharp chefs' knife, to kneading pizza dough into a smooth elastic ball. As an added bonus, the Cuisinart is so quiet while it's running that it won’t shut down conversation in the kitchen! Cleanup is a cinch, as Cuisinart is the only manufacturer that actually encourages you to wash the parts in the dishwasher.
15. A potato ricer for perfect mashed potatoes
If you’re serious about your mashed potatoes, you need a potato ricer to make them as fluffy and airy as possible. We loved the way this Chef'n potato ricer effortlessly pushes the potatoes through the hopper, thanks to a gear-powered mechanism that requires less arm strength to use. It's the only ricer we tested that we could use one-handed with a whole potato (with the others we tested, we had to chop the potatoes up into small pieces to achieve one-handed pressing).
The comfortable handle is made from a heavy-duty plastic, but the hopper itself is stainless steel, which is easier to clean and should last a long time. The simple two-construction design allows you to take the stainless steel basket out, making it both easy to fill and a breeze to clean.
16. A set of mixing bowls
We prefer stainless steel mixing bowls to glass ones—there’s nothing to shatter or chip, making them both durable and long-lasting, and their lightweight profile makes them easy to use.
While they shouldn’t go into the microwave, they can be used on the stovetop as a double boiler. And the small- and medium-sized bowls in the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl set worked perfectly for melting butter and chocolate over a 2-quart saucepan. As a bonus, the bowls come with air-tight plastic lids, so each bowl doubles as storage and transportation container (always helpful when you're planning a large meal).
17. Glass baking dishes for casseroles and more
The best part about making casseroles for holidays? You can make them ahead of time and reheat them when it’s time to serve the big meal! That means less scrambling, which hopefully gives you more time to mingle with your guests. These Pyrex glass baking dishes certainly aren’t fancy to look at, but I’ve been using my set for years. They heat evenly, they're easy to clean, and those snap-on lids make food storage a breeze.
If you’re looking for a more presentation-worthy dish, pick up a Le Creuset Stoneware Rectangular Dish. It looks great when you want to go from oven to table, and it can also be put under the broiler (the one thing the Pyrex can't do).
18. A full set of kitchen knives
You don't need every knife in the block to prepare your holiday dinner, but our favorite set of kitchen knives from Misen gives you everything you'll need at a great value.
In addition to the basics—the chef’s knife, paring knife and bread knife (which are all extremely comfortable to use)—this 7-piece set includes a santoku knife that’s perfect for chopping vegetables and a utility knife that’s perfect for cheese, apples, and smaller vegetables. Plus, the set includes kitchen shears and a beautiful walnut storage block that you'll want to show off.
19. Baking sheets
Planning on making cookies? Roasted vegetables? Tossing out your roasting pan in lieu of a spatchcocked turkey? You'll need a good baking sheet. And there’s a reason this American-made Nordic Ware baking sheet tops charts around the internet. It’s lightweight, large enough to fit more than a dozen cookies, and distributes heat like a dream. Measuring 12 by 17 inches, we feel confident you could cook enough vegetables for a small crowd.
Like all baking sheets, the biggest concern is always cleaning. We'd recommend using parchment paper or a Silpat mat under your cookies to ensure that nothing sticks. For meats and vegetables, you could also line the sheet with aluminum foil.
20. An elegant serving tray
Whether you’re hosting a dinner for four or 40, it seems you can never have enough serving trays for all the sides you’re dishing out. We love this charming piece of earthenware for serving bread, asparagus, hors d'oeuvres, or really anything that fits. You can invest in a complementary set or mix and match your pieces for a fun, modern tablescape.
21. An easy-to-clean loaf pan
If you're more into pumpkin bread than pumpkin pie, a good loaf pan will be essential this season. This pan has a silly name and it doesn’t look like a professional tool, but when it came to results and ease of use, we liked everything about it. The Rachael Ray Yum-o! Oven Lovin' Loaf Pan has large handles and silicone inserts in Rachael’s signature orange color that make it super easy to get a firm grip on the pan.
The nonstick finish never faltered, even when we didn’t grease the pan. And the Rachael Ray is roomier than some of the others we tested, so meatloaf juices never bubbled over onto the oven floor. As it’s safe up to 500°F, you can quickly brown off a crumb topping on an apple loaf, if need be.
22. A rolling pin for desserts and more
When they say there’s beauty in simplicity, they’re talking about this rolling pin. It’s really just a sturdy wooden cylinder of a medium-heavy weight, nothing more, nothing less. But during testing of the best rolling pins, it rolled out perfect dough every time. The simple design of this rolling pin, combined with its weight, makes it easy to control the amount of pressure you use based on what you need for your dough.
Its long body and lack of handles also mean that you'll never cut an edge through your dough the way you sometimes might with smaller, handled rolling pins. This translates to an even, non-lumpy dough that's easy to shape however you want.
23. Absorbent and attractive dish towels
Washing dishes from a holiday dinner can be a daunting task, but the classic pantry towels from Williams Sonoma can help you get the job done without any fuss. Not only do these dish towels look good in any kitchen (you can choose from six colors), but they're a pro at drying irregular objects like wine glasses and vases while still feeling soft to the touch. Made from ribbon cotton terry, the towels retain more water than its competitors, which means it should be able to wipe water from plenty of dishes before you need to grab another one.
24. A spacious drying rack
If you can't run your good china, crystal, and silver through the dishwasher (or you don’t have a dishwasher), a good dish rack is essential for an organized dinner cleanup. Our favorite is this PremiumRacks Professional, a smartly designed double-decker that holds more dishes than others we tested, without leaving a very large countertop footprint. The bottom portion is your standard featureless rack, but the top holds plates more securely than most of the racks we tested.
25. Seasonal cloth napkins
Match your napkins to the season with these winter forest napkins from Anthropologie. We love the cozy and festive design, and we can speak from experience that the store’s napkins hold up in the wash.
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