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Tips to Keep Your Kitchen Humming for the Holidays

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Remember to regularly flush out your coffee maker to keep it humming through the holidays. (Keurig Coffee Maker)

So, you got through Thanksgiving – but you’re not done yet. 

From here until the New Year, there’s a whole lot of potential entertaining coming your way. Be it the cookie baking you do for friends, family, and the poor, beleaguered UPS guy, the annual holiday cocktail party for which you’ve become oh-so famous, or those unexpected, “Surprise!” holiday overnights guests who show up to ring it in with you and yours, now is a great time to get your kitchen appliances in tip-top shape.  It can save you time some cash to boot – and who doesn’t need that this time of year?

Below, are a few easy tips for keeping things humming—and toasting, and whirring, and chilling—along, so the heart of your home ready for anything, come what may. 

Keep Your Percolator Perky No mere mortal can make it through Toys R Us in December without a good caffeine fix, so keep your machine clean with some easy maintenance. Oils from coffee beans can gunk up the inside of coffee makers and pricey espresso machines, rendering them no good to the last drop. 

“It’s just like a car. Just because you have a $100,000 Mercedes doesn’t mean you don’t have to change the oil and check the brakes and tires,” says Scott Kopin, president of the National Appliance Service Association. For espresso machines, Kopin recommends for daily use, clean out all removable parts every day and run a plain-water rinse cycle (e.g., without coffee) to push hot water through all the valves to flush out residue. Also, he says, make sure your purge and wipe off the steam wand after every use so milk doesn’t harden and block the tip. And if you have hard water, invest in a $10 box of descaling liquid and run it through your machine monthly for high-use; quarterly if you just sip weekend cappuccinos. For drip coffee makers, run a once-a-month solution of 1 cup vinegar mixed with 2 cups water through a brew cycle (without coffee, of course). Allow to sit for about 20 minutes after the cycle is done, and then run at least two more plain-water cycles to make sure any residual vinegar aroma is flushed. Vinegar also works double duty to get rid of any scaling (e.g., chalky residue left by lime scale in hard water). 

Show the Little Guys Some Love Small appliances like toasters and blenders can work better and last a whole lot longer with some simple, easy care. To keep your toast from becoming a charcoal briquette, unplug the unit every week and, using a damp paper towel, gently wipe down the heating coils to remove any stuck-on crumbs. Remove the crumb tray, discard any residual bits of toast, and wipe that down, too. Also, says Kopin, avoid stuffing too-big items like super-thick bread slices or bagels into a too-small slot, and whatever you do, don’t jam a knife in the toaster to remove stuck substances. Not only is it dangerous, but you can irreversibly damage the heating coils. Instead, pick up an inexpensive, safe pair of bamboo toaster tongs for about 3 bucks. 

For smoothie fanatics, Kopin’s says you can extend the life of your blender by filling it up halfway with water after you’re done using it, and then hitting the blend button. “The fast-moving water gets the out-of-reach junk out of the blades and base, and then you won’t have any gunky leftover residue hindering the machine’s function.” 

Read It and Keep Is your ‘fridge sounding fritzy? Your oven temp seem a little off? The best source of information for how to keep your appliances humming along—the manufacturer’s manual—is often one of the hardest things to find when you need it. If you can’t find your appliance’s manufacturer instructions, check out Home Appliances Manuals Online.com for a free download of over 600,000 appliance manuals. 

Give a Disorganized ‘Fridge the Cold Shoulder Professional home organizer Crystal “Cluttershrink” Sabalasky swears by putting the most-used items toward the front within easy reach, as well as grouping food and condiments into like categories. “I tend to put all salad dressings together, all marinades together, all jellies and small-jar stuff together, etc., because I find that if you just randomly put things in there, it becomes a jumbled mess. If you keep things separated like this, it’s a lot easier to find what you’re looking for, and it’s especially good if you have little kids—then they know where things are.” She also buys clear plastic bins (Sabalasky favors stackable Fridge Binz; $8-$15, available at The Container Store) for grouping thing like yogurt, cheese, etc.. They easy for family members to find, and you never wind up with that stray month-ago expired Yoplait pushed to the way back. 

Look First, Shop Later Sabalasky is a big proponent of cleaning out the ‘fridge before grocery shopping so you can spot any foods on the verge, and make sure you don’t accidentally double up on things you already have (which happens oh-so often at holiday time when you’re trying to juggle way too many jingle balls). That way, you’re not just skipping the wild goose-liver-paté chase when you open the door later on, but avoiding unwitting science experiments, spills, mold, and your general, run of the mill ‘fridge mayhem. Finally, she urges her clients to “keep all leftovers on one shelf and in glass containers. That way, you can see through it so you know what’s in there and you don’t have to dirty another dish because it’s safe to re-heat in the microwave [or stove]. Some even go right from the refrigerator to the stove to the dishwasher.” 

Grease Is the Verb Unless you’re buttering a pan, kick grease to the curb with some simple, monthly maintenance. Range hoods keep strong cooking smells at bay, and for gas stoves they also pull the residual carbon monoxide produced by your burners out of the air. Keep a clean, healthy environment by removing the metal filters from your hood and soaking them in a mix of 1 quart hot water and 1 cup vinegar (for tougher grease, add 1 cup baking soda to the mix). For the stove top, sprinkle baking soda directly on grease stains and use a damp non-scratch sponge or cloth to scrub away stuck on residue. Also, says Sabalasky, avoid muck on small appliances by storing them out of splatter distance from your stovetop to steer clear of unnecessary grease and oil build up (and extra clean-up hassles).