Cooking a multi-course meal for the holidays in a tiny kitchen might seem like a feat that requires absurd amounts of precision and finesse. But it is possible with some clever use of your space — and a plan for cooking your dishes in the right order so you’re not rushing at the last minute to serve your guests.
“Holiday cooking can be a bit hectic, but if you have a list of the dishes you are preparing you can organize a well-executed holiday meal,” says Patti Delgado, executive chef at Vibrant, a restaurant in Houston, Texas.
The good news is that you don’t have to leave all the cooking for the day of your occasion and can use some time leading up to your event to get things started. Read as: procrastination has no place here.
“I always leave the main dishes (or protein dish) and also fresh items such as salads or pickled herbs for the day of the event,” Delgado says. “But I give myself a head start with sauces, vinaigrettes, and casseroles because they tend to develop deeper flavor [over time].” For these, she says you can make them three days in advance.
For side dishes like compotes or pickled veggies, Delgado says you can make them five days in advance — just be sure to keep them fresh in an airtight container.
On the day of the event, Delgado advises you cook the proteins first before any other dishes so that they have some time to rest before you carve them up and serve.
Now that you’ve got a kitchen plan, here’s a list of space-saving gadgets that will make your small kitchen seem more spacious.
A cute canister for spoons, spatulas, and whisks might seem tidy but it takes up valuable counter space that you’ll need when preparing a holiday meal. Attach a pair of these rotating hooks to the underside of your cabinets to reclaim space and keep instruments at the ready.
Top Review: “I like it, they keep the utensils up out of the way. Great for keeping clutter down.”
If you're running out of counter space and need to put a hot pan or a platter out to rest, try this silicone mat as a heat-resistant trivet. When you’re not cooking up a storm for the holidays, you can also use it as a regular dish-drying mat.
Top Review: “I bought this to protect the edge of my black granite at the sink. But it has so many uses. It is a drain for dishes, a hot plate, and a workspace. Silicone is a wonderful product.”
Whether you're baking up multiple pies or batches of cookies or simply need another place to store a hot dish until it gets to the table, this three-tier cooling rack does the job. Set it up on a table or countertop and you can stack three dishes or pans without taking up a ton of space — you can also use just one rack if that’s all you need.
Top Review: “I love that they are stackable and if you only need one then you don’t have to have all three out. Ideal for cooling cookies and cakes.”
Your stove is the workhorse of the kitchen. Put it to good use even when the burners are off with this bamboo stovetop cover. Simply place the board over cool burners — it works on gas and electric stoves — to convert your appliance into more prep space.
Top Review: “This adds a nice amount of counter space for our apartment’s smaller kitchen.“
Cutting boards are a key tool for any at-home chef. If you're working on multiple courses, you’ll likely have several boards going at once. This over-the-sink cutting board lengthens your counter space while also giving you easy access to washing vegetables and dumping peels into the sink or disposal for quick cleanup.
Top Review: “Chunky, well made and durable…yes it's [a] chopping board but this is a good one compared to others I have owned.”
Even with various digital devices with timers, an old-school kitchen timer makes it easy to keep you and your food on a schedule. This two-pack digital timer helps to keep track of multiple dishes, plus it’s magnetic — just pop it on your refrigerator and it’s go time.
Top Review: “This is a handy set of digital timers that work well in cooking.”
Annoyed by the gap between your cabinets and appliances? This slimline rollout shelf unit gives you practically a whole other cabinet’s worth of storage. Use it to store dry goods, spices, cooking oils, utensils, and more. Slide it out when you’re cooking and slide it right back in when you’re done to make the most efficient use of your kitchen space.
Top Review: “[T]his is perfect! it turned this awkward space into a usable space.”
Clear up the clutter on your counters with this multi-tiered corner bamboo shelf. You can adjust the shelves in the direction you want to quickly organize oil, bottles, spices, kitchen utensils, and more.
Top Review: “This is perfect for the corner of the counter in my tiny kitchen. I have so much more room now!”
You’ve likely seen the Always Pan pop up in your social media feed — we’ve even spotted it in a cameo in Hulu’s hit show The Bear. This multi-use cookware also deserves a spot in your kitchen. The Always Pan replaces a frying pan, sauté pan, steamer, and skillet, among others. Plus, it comes in beautiful, bright colors that you won't mind leaving out on your stovetop when not in use — even though you will be able to fit it comfortably in your cabinets, too.
Top Review: “Love it! So far it’s my go-to pan for almost everything.”
It's natural to want to have your go-to spices within easy reach when you need a pinch of this and a dash of that. This magnetic spice rack sticks right on your refrigerator so you won’t have to clog up the cabinets or countertop with bottles — plus there's a hook so you can hang a spoon, cooking mitt, or another small utensil.
Top Review: “Very pleased with the strength of the magnets on these shelves. They can hold a lot of weight, no problem.”
Why have five utensils when you can have this one that works as a slotted spoon, solid spoon, spatula, turner, and slicer? You just cleared out your utensil caddy thanks to this handy kitchen gadget.
Top Review: “The best kitchen utensil I never knew I needed.”
If you're dishing up pasta, you know that a traditional colander can take over your sink. This pot strainer does all the work of a regular colander with only a fraction of the size. It's good for pots, pans, and bowls — just snap it on and pour out the liquid. You could even get a couple of these handy gadgets if you use them often and they still wouldn't take up as much space as a regular colander.
Top Review: “Clips easily to all of my pots and works perfectly as it should.”
Your kitchen backsplash isn't just for decoration anymore. Put it to use with this elegant-looking magnetized knife holder that can hold up a butcher block’s worth of knives. Your countertop will thank you for the breathing room.
Top Review: “Not only is the wood a beautiful addition to my kitchen, the magnet is powerful enough to securely hold a 10-inch, three-pound chef’s knife and four other heavy steel knives with zero wobble nor give.”
If your utensil caddy is stuffed to the point that it’s hard to reach that ladle or spatula, try this compact standing tool set. This sleek set of five nylon utensils nestles into the ladle, which is magnetized to an upright stand that takes up minimal space.
Top Review: “This ended up being perfect for my small student apartment with minimal counter space. They are durable, easy to clean, and look great.”
This over-the-sink colander makes it easy to wash vegetables and fruit and even drain cooked pasta. You can even use it to dry kitchen utensils after you've washed them to relieve clutter from your dish drying rack.
Top Review: “This product is great! It’s super easy and versatile.”
This silicone-coated stainless steel gadget doubles as an over-the-sink dish drying rack and a heat-resistant trivet, so you've got yet another place to put that hot pot of food as you're preparing your meal. Roll it up when you're finished and stow it in a drawer until next time.
Top Review: “This roll-up dish drying rack has become a necessity in my kitchen! I don’t have a lot of counter space so turning a portion of my sink as a drying space for large items has been wonderful.”
Patti Delgado, executive chef at Vibrant.