The holiday season is here, and with it comes hours of slicing and dicing to prepare meals for gatherings. To help you speed through your food prep, Consumer Reports compiled a list of some great gadgets and countertop appliances that performed well in our tests.

The strategy is to knock out some chopping chores ahead of time. Depending on how far in advance you work, you can freeze or refrigerate certain ingredients until you’re ready to assemble your dishes. (Check the recipe first.) Here's some low-cost kitchen gear that will speed up your food prep so you can enjoy your guests.

Onion Chopper
The Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus DLC-2A, $40, is a 3-cup chopper that combines great value with solid performance. In our food processor tests, it was particularly adept at chopping almonds and onions, and grating Parmesan cheese. Other appliances were better at puréeing. The Cuisinart Mini Prep is perfect for food prep in kitchens with limited counter space.

Potato Peeler
The Kyocera Perfect Peeler, $18, has a comfortable handle and sharp ceramic blade that adjusts to left, right, and center positions. "It can be used by righties or lefties," says a CR test engineer, Cindy Fisher, who has overseen tests of dozens of kitchen gadgets. "Plus it can go in the dishwasher."

The Oxo Good Grips Serrated Peeler, $8, has a more familiar vertical blade. Testers described a smooth cutting action with the swivel peeler, and said it was able to remove potato skin without a lot of pressure.

Prep Knives
Our top-rated kitchen knife sets can cost up to $600. But for $75 you can buy the Ginsu Chikara, an eight-piece set that offers incredible value. For some, the name Ginsu is synonymous with hammy 1970s-era infomercials, but this is a serious cutlery company. This set has the cutting performance and handle comfort of knives costing three and four times as much. It has a chef’s knife and a santoku knife but not a slicer.

More on Food Prep

Zester
Shaped like a lemon, the Better Blade ZestNest, $15, was a winner in our tests. It has a sharp blade and an easy-grip case that holds one-third cup of zest. Conventional zesters, with a handle and curved metal end, are easy to use, and a grater-style zester can work fast. The ZestNest combines both virtues and stores extra zest. The downside: You can’t see how much zest is in the nest.

Garlic Press
The Oxo Good Grips garlic press, $16, has a large garlic chamber, an ergonomic grip, and a built-in rubber pad that cleans the small holes. The lever-style garlic press lets you mince cloves with minimal pressure.

Mandolin
You can pay $100 or more for a mandolin, but the slicers in our tests ranged from $18 to $25. In slicing tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and zucchini, we preferred the Zyliss, $20. Our testers found it easy to use and clean, and it produced slices of a consistent size. To protect your fingers from the blade, it has a retractable blade guard and a safety lock. And the Zyliss is dishwasher-safe.

Cheese Grater
Oxo Good Grips makes an $18 box grater that our testers found convenient. It has multiple grating surfaces, a soft grip, a nonslip base, and an optional storage container with measurement markings. Box graters offer the best combination of stability and grating options, but they can be bulky. Consider adding a smaller, handheld rotary grater for tableside grating of hard cheese. Models with a sealed cap let you store the cheese inside.

More choices. For more great kitchen gear, check out our full ratings and recommendations for food processors, blenders, knives, and cookware.



Visit Consumer Reports' 2017 Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more. And be sure to check our Daily Gift Guide.