How to Prepare Your Kitchen for Maximum Efficiency During the Holidays
When you host a holiday get-together, you volunteer to do more than just wake up extra-early to put the turkey into the oven. You need to shop for groceries, clean the house, prep the guest room, and ask your cousin's new boyfriend if he's allergic to anything—and you'll need to do all of that before you've even turned on the oven. The holiday itself is an entirely different story. In addition to cooking the meal, you'll also be entertaining guests and making sure everyone feels at home. A solid game plan and checklist to see you through the entire holiday week is essential.
The editors of Martha Stewart Living are here to help. For starters, we're offering plenty of inspiration for your menu, from delicious entrée and side dish options to creative pie recipes, plus treats and games to keep kids entertained during the feast. You can even take a cue from our founder, with an exclusive sneak peek into how Martha herself gets ready for the season. Then, turn your attention to your tabletop. Nail a formal table—and impress your guests—by setting it correctly, and be sure to finish it off with a chic, modern floral centerpiece. We're loving dried arrangements this fall, but any seasonal mix will do the trick.
Finally, set yourself up to tackle the big meal like a pro. Any kitchen can be a well-run kitchen, no matter how big or small, old or new it is. With the right tools (you already have most of them!) and smart strategies, you can pull off Thanksgiving at home with less fuss and more fun.
In the hardworking kitchen at Martha's Maple Avenue house in Bedford, for example, vintage yellowware bowls hold produce for holiday menus at the ready. Above the stove, stoneware crocks corral cooking tools by type and material—a Martha secret for an efficient kitchen. A ceiling-mounted rack keeps copper pans within reach.
Ahead, we're sharing more streamlined tips that will help you prep, cook, and serve your Thanksgiving meal. Make this year your easiest and most enjoyable holiday yet.
Maximize Cabinet Space
To double your storage in deep cabinets, add pull-out drawers. "We installed four, and they changed our lives," says Living home editor Lorna Aragon. "You can reach things in back without having to take everything out." At the holidays, that means grabbing the stockpot or turkey platter won't feel like a spelunking expedition. Available in wood or metal, the sliding drawers come in a range of sizes to fit standard cabinets. Measure and mark the sides, factoring in the height of the items you'll store; use a drill to attach the glides; and pop in your new space savers.
Shop Now: Hampton Bay Unfinished Pull-Out Plywood Drawers, $64 each, homedepot.com.
Make Clean Up Easier
There's a time and a place for plastic wrap, but let's be real: In the heat of the moment, it's more likely to stick to itself (and drive you nuts) than to the rim of that salad bowl. These eco-friendly silicone lids spare you the struggle. They form an instant seal on glass, ceramic, and plastic vessels, and boast soft colors, dishwasher-safe construction, and a compact, nesting design.
Shop Now: Food52 Five Two Airtight Silicone Lids, $40 for 5, food52.com.
Nix the wood block and free up some counter space. Drawer inserts come in a few sizes and have slots for all your essential blades.
Shop Now: Williams-Sonoma in-Drawer Seven-Slot Knife Organizer in Maple, $30, williams-sonoma.com.
Take five minutes (we swear) to install a smooth-rolling recycling bin and you'll never line up empties by the sink again. The black larger bin is built for bottles and cans (crush them to fit more); the blue one holds more paper bags than a Trader Joe's check-out counter.
Shop Now: Simple Human Cabinet Pull-Out Recycler Can, $80, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Sweeping peels, seeds, and other scraps into a compact under-counter compost bin is a breeze: The clever lid hinges outward for easy access, then clamps down tight to sequester the smell. It mounts French cleat–style to the inside of a cabinet door, so it's a cinch to lift off and empty, and you can run it through the dishwasher's hot cycle to get it squeaky-clean.
Shop Now: YukChuk Under-Counter Kitchen Compost Bin, $28, amazon.com.
Your 20-pound bird doesn't need to take up a whole shelf—nor do bottles of seltzer or sparkly. Call on a 30-quart cooler, and put it in the pantry or garage. "My husband, a photographer, uses Pelican cases for his equipment," says Aragon. "But they're an undiscovered source for coolers. They're the sturdiest I've ever seen—you'll have one for life."
Shop Now: Pelican Elite Cooler, $349.95, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Just Add Water
Instead of buying plastic bottles or scrambling to refill pitchers, pour water into pop-top glass carafes, an idea Aragon got from a restaurant that kept an icy tub of them on its patio. She always keeps a few in her fridge, but fills up to a dozen for a dinner party, then tops off the empties as needed and chills them again. They're sturdy and tight-sealing, so you can store them on their sides.
Shop Now: Specialty Bottle Giara Clear Glass Swing-Top Bottles, $3.50 each, specialtybottle.com.