6 Ways to Save Time and Cut Stress in the Kitchen This Holiday Season

From using boxed stuffing to cooking in a toaster oven, CR staffers share their tricks

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Extended family cooking together in the kitchen Photo: Getty Images

Not everything on your holiday table needs to be 100 percent homemade. Nor do you need a kitchen worthy of Martha Stewart to get the job done. We asked some of the staffers who work on food, cooking, and nutrition at CR—and are savvy home cooks—to fess up about products they use to help get dinner ready with less stress. After all, it’s not just about the food—you want to have time left over to enjoy the company, too.

Chop to It
“I cover chef’s knives for CR and have taken knife skill classes, but even so, prepping holiday meals involves an unusual amount of chopping and dicing. My go-to tool is the Pampered Chef Food Chopper. It’s manually operated—just place the veggie in the container and press the plunger. It makes quick work of the task with no fingers or knuckles harmed. (An electric food chopper or processor is a good option, too.)” —Antonella Pomilla, senior market analyst, cooking appliances and food

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Frozen Is Fine
“I love to make a rice salad over the holidays filled with nuts and dried fruits. The dish looks great when you use three types—white, brown, and wild rice. Making wild rice is easy because it’s forgiving and never seems to get too starchy or pasty. I have more trouble getting good results with white or brown, so I turn to Trader Joe’s frozen precooked microwavable brown and jasmine rice. The texture is always perfect, and it saves on time and cleanup!” —Amy Keating, RD, project leader, food testing

Easy As Pie
“Piecrust is my nemesis. My attempts at making my own have sometimes been successful and sometimes a disaster. A few years ago, a friend served apple pie for dessert at a dinner party. The crust was tasty and flaky—I immediately asked for the recipe. She pulled me into the kitchen and showed me the package of Pillsbury Pie Crust in the trash. I haven’t given up on mastering my own, but I use Pillsbury at the holidays and save my experimenting for more leisurely times of the year.” —Trisha Calvo, deputy editor, health and food

Room for Everything
“For side dishes, like asparagus or shrimp, I like to use my Breville Smart Oven Air Convection toaster oven. Separating the items that take less time to cook from the larger dishes that go in the regular oven prevents me from overcooking them. I just pop the dish in the toaster oven and set it to turn off at my desired time. That’s helpful when I’m multitasking in the kitchen and trying to keep track of too many dishes.” —Tanya Christian, multimedia content creator, home and appliances

Stuffing Smarts
“I’ve been the primary Thanksgiving cook in my family for many years, preparing the turkey and all but one or two sides. I’ve made stuffing with toasted Italian bread or cornbread, plus sausage, apples, cranberries. No store-bought croutons for me. But it can be a pretty laborious and messy process, so a few years ago, I caved and reached for some Stove Top. It’s been a mainstay now—done in 5 minutes, and great when slathered with gravy that I make from scratch.” —Althea Chang-Cook, associate director of content

Switch the Bird
“I’m a Thanksgiving whole roast chicken kind of guy. Chicken cooks faster and is often juicer than turkey. Plus you don’t end up with more leftovers than you can eat.” —Kevin Loria, senior multimedia content creator, health and food

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