More often than any other time of year, the holidays find us gathering around the table to celebrate community with friends and family. If you’re the type to spend all day slaving over a hot stove, it’s best to start with a clean one. Prep your kitchen for the holidays with a deep cleaning; this step-by-step guide makes it easy.

Pantry

A well-stocked, well-organized pantry is your culinary arsenal this holiday season.

Take inventory. It’s easy to forget a key ingredient or two when you’re responsible for several dishes, and running to the store on Thanksgiving Day should be a last resort. Before you begin cleaning, take everything off the shelves. Be sure you have enough of the staples—flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda—to last you through the holidays.

Some recipes call for uncommon seasonings, but as a general rule, stock your pantry with the basics: salt, pepper, onion and chili powder, garlic heads, ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla extract. While you’re at it, replenish your supply of plastic baggies, aluminum foil, wax and parchment paper, and plastic wrap.

Clean and organize. Wipe down the shelves with a multipurpose cleaner and sweep the floor for crumbs. When replacing your items, arrange them so that your holiday ingredients are at the fore and easy to find. Store any unnecessary items in the back, and throw out any old chip bags or empty canisters cluttering up the shelves.

Cookware and Flatware

holiday kitchen table settingYour everyday pots and pans see regular cleaning, but the holidays often bring specialty ware, like serving platters or gravy boats, out of retirement. To make things easier on yourself, wash what you can in the dishwasher.

China, gold-accented sterling silver, copper pots, wineglasses, and most ceramic baking dishes should be hand washed. Plug your drain and fill your sink with warm water. Add a bit of mild dishwashing detergent, run a sponge or rag over one item at a time, and set them aside to dry.

If you set your table with cloth napkins for the holidays, running them with a load of laundry isn’t a bad idea. Any other table decor, like candle holders and napkin rings, could probably use a dusting or a polish after sitting in storage for a year.

Cabinets and Countertops

Begin by running a dusting cloth over the tops of your cabinets, as this out-of-sight, out-of-mind area receives little regular attention. To clean the doors, add a dab of dish detergent to a bucket of lukewarm water, and dip a kitchen cloth into the solution. Ring out the excess liquid, and wipe from top to bottom along the grain to remove grease and fingerprints. You can use this method to clean the refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher doors as well.

Create more space for plates and decorations by clearing the clutter from your counters, and give them a good scrubbing while you’re at it. For most countertops, you can use the same mild detergent solution you used for the cabinets. After wiping down granite counters, buff with a dry microfiber cloth or terrycloth towel to avoid streaks.

Appliances

family preparing holiday mealThe holidays are a busy time of year for everyone. Focus just on the areas you use most to give yourself more time by the fireplace.

Clean the stovetop. Remove grates and burners, and place them in the sink. Use a little dish soap on a dampened sponge to scrub away spills. Afterwards, grab a clean, wet sponge to wipe away the soap residue, and buff out any watermarks with a kitchen towel.

Clean the oven. Begin by removing the oven racks and setting them aside. Mix a few tablespoons of water with half a cup of baking soda to make a paste. Tug on a pair of rubber gloves and spread the paste over the interior surfaces of the oven; try to coat the whole interior while avoiding the heating elements. Let it sit overnight.

In the meantime, clean your oven racks. After the paste has dried, wipe out as much as you can with a damp kitchen towel, and spritz the interior with vinegar. Finally, wipe down your oven with a damp cloth, applying more water or vinegar to the cloth as needed, and replace the oven racks.

Clean the microwave. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with two cups of water and half a cup of vinegar, and heat the solution on high for three to four minutes. The steam will soften any stuck-on grime. Afterwards, wipe down the interior with a damp sponge, and remove the plate to wash by hand or in the dishwasher.

If you can spare the time, give your kitchen a more comprehensive cleaning; if you’re in a rush, you can quickly clean up before your guests arrive. This holiday season, relieve some of the stress of hosting in-laws and feeding the family by tidying up ahead of time, and be sure to reward yourself with a mug of hot chocolate when you’re through.