Cooking a holiday meal for a big group involves a choreographed dance around the kitchen. Who is using the broiler and when? What temperature does the oven have to be for the turkey, the rolls, the roasted brussels sprouts? Is there even time to make pigs in a blanket?
To keep things from getting totally out of control, I call in backup: my toaster oven. For every party I’ve hosted for the past eight years, I’ve relied on my Breville Smart Oven. It has 13 settings—including roasting, air frying, dehydrating, and cookies—and the one-cubic-foot interior can fit up to a 14-pound turkey.
I use it when I want to free the actual oven for making multiple side dishes and desserts or to make prepping and baking—even multiple batches of biscuits!—seamless throughout the day. If you want a more functional kitchen during the holidays, here’s my guide to a toaster oven Christmas, dish by dish.
Even if you don’t have a high-powered convection toaster oven, you can make easy appetizers in a regular one: crostini to top with goat cheese and cherry jam or a schmear of cream cheese and smoked salmon and chives. You can also whip up pigs in a blanket or a baked Brie! I’ve even caramelized a few sliced onions slowly at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 45 minutes and mixed them into sour cream for a DIY French onion dip, served with chips.
Soup is overlooked during the holidays, but starting everyone off with a little cup of butternut squash soup is a satisfying, warming appetizer. I roast cubed squash at 375 degrees with whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then blitz it all in a blender with heated chicken stock and seasonings. I finish it with a little crème fraîche or sour cream and chives for presentation.
Salad doesn’t need to bake, you’re probably thinking, but sometimes it does. Toast nuts or homemade croutons while you make a dressing; roast garlic to emulsify into said dressing; or toast up Parmesan fricos for gluten-free salad toppers. Making a roasted vegetable salad—like a mix of squash, brussels sprouts, carrots, and onions—is also easy to do in small batches in the toaster oven. Just cube and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook at 400 degrees until tender and browned in spots. For root vegetables like carrots or potatoes, you’ll need about 30 minutes, while broccoli or brussels sprouts may only take 15 to 20.
My Breville oven can handle any roasted meat—and cook it faster and more evenly than a traditional alternative because of the convection setting, which blows and circulates hot air. This year, I’m using it to cook a beautiful prime rib from my favorite sustainable butcher, Belcampo Meat Co., as a surprise for my family—hope they aren’t reading this!—with a slower roast at 350 degrees to medium-rare before turning it up to 425 at the end to sear the outside and render all the fat.
I have three words for you: twice baked potatoes. This multistep side dish takes a little extra time, but the toaster oven can do all the work for you. Bake potatoes at 400 degrees for an hour; scoop them out; mash with butter, cream, cheese, bacon, scallions, or whatever your heart tells you; and then add it all back into the scooped-out potato shells (and top with more cheese). The potatoes can bake for the final 15 to 20 minutes or even just brown on the broil setting to get the cheese all bubbly.
Whether you’re of the frozen pumpkin pie camp like my mom or prefer a homemade sweet potato pie, the toaster oven can handle it for you. No need to have a dessert that accidentally tastes like beef or a turkey with an essence of warming cinnamon by baking them at the same time. Since the Breville can also hold up to 13-by-9-inch pans and has two racks, it’s easy to bake off a few dozen cookies for holiday decorating. And because you won’t be fighting for oven space on Christmas, it makes them taste all that much sweeter.
More Simple Recipes:
7 Sheet-Pan Chicken Recipes for When You’re Too Tired to Do Dishes
11 Breakfast Burritos That Make Getting Out of Bed Easy
9 Crock-Pot Soups to Make This Winter, Because It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint