You鈥檝e baked approximately 12 dozen Christmas cookies, served up a fancy聽holiday dinner聽for the in-laws, made toffee for all your coworkers and even DIY鈥檇 your own doggy treats. But even after all that quality time you spent in the kitchen this month, it still feels like chaos every time you turn on the oven. You鈥檙e in need of some kitchen聽101, and ASAP. Lucky for all of you aspiring #topchefs out there, we鈥檝e got you covered with a little聽expert advice from renowned housewares designer and entertaining guru聽Carter McGuyer.

Carter McGuyer hat seit 2006 sein eigenes Designstudio.

Carter is the brains behind more than 350 kitchen tools and gadgets, and has collaborated with fan-favorite brands like聽Crate and Barrel and聽Crisp. He definitely knows what鈥檚 up when it comes to kitchen efficiency. For all of us that get a little cray in the kitchen this time of year, Carter is serving up his top tips for keeping things under control. They鈥檒l come in super handy when you鈥檙e prepping for your holiday feasts聽and聽getting a jump start on meal planning and weeknight eats for 2016. Read on and you鈥檒l be cooking like a boss in no time.

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Tip #1: A Well-Stocked Kitchen Is a Happy Kitchen

A few high-quality essentials make meal prep faster and more efficient. Carter suggests investing in a basic cook鈥檚 knife and a paring knife to handle all of your needs. You鈥檒l never reach for anything else. Carter聽says,聽鈥淕ood paring knives, like the Bird鈥檚 Beak Paring Knife聽($12) I designed for Crisp Cooking Tools, can be used for peeling, coring, slicing or carving creative designs, making attention to detail a breeze. A basic cook鈥檚 knife is great because 鈥 assuming you keep it sharp 鈥 it is extremely versatile and can be used for almost聽90% of cutting tasks.鈥 And, while we鈥檙e on the topic, Carter also insists on keeping those blades sharp. It鈥檚 a step that people often overlook, but keeping your knives in tip-top shape is the first secret to chopping like a pro.

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Tip #2:聽Learn the Basic Cuts

Now that you鈥檝e got those fancy schmancy knives, get familiar with them. Good knife skills make any kitchen task easier and waaaay faster. A quick search on YouTube will land you tons of tutorials. Not sure what you鈥檙e searching for? Carter talks about his most-used methods and why you need them: 鈥淪ome of my聽favorites include mincing, which can be used to cut garlic, shallots or other pungent alliums聽into small pieces; slicing, which is useful for everything from vegetables to cheeses; and聽julienning, which is a specialty method that can spruce up any salad or cocktail garnish.鈥 His Wavy Knife ($13) design is also great to add a little ruffled texture to your veggies.

Tip #3: Prep in Advance

For easy entertaining or weeknight meals,聽make a game plan. Prep as much as you can ahead of time or on the weekend. Carter鈥檚 time-saving secret? Because fruits and veggies can be stored overnight, he cuts up everything he needs several hours or up to one day ahead of time. One of his go-to meals is a warm, rich fondue served with a generous platter of (pre-cut!) fruits and veggies. How genius us that?聽Carter also keeps things easy with elegant twists on common slow cooker meals like chili and soup. His聽suggestion for a relaxed dinner is a total home run: 鈥淪et it up the night before your party,聽and then welcome guests into your delicious-smelling home the next evening. Slice onions or聽scallions ahead of time, and along with cheese and some sour cream, you have a full-fledged聽toppings bar for guests to add to their chili or soup.鈥

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Tip #4: Kick It Up a Notch With Fresh Herbs and Spices

Carter loves serving simple dishes聽and聽amping up the flavor with fresh herbs and spices. It鈥檚 a great way to keep a dinner party understated, yet elegant.聽His go-tos聽are oregano, dill and a generous helping of garlic, and he loves using an herb mincer. 鈥淣ot聽only can you聽use an Herb Mincer聽($16) to finely chop your herbs, but you can also use it to strip the聽leaves from the stem, which saves you a lot of time and frustration!鈥

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Tip #5: Citrus Is Your Friend

To lighten up dishes that might be too rich or indulgent, Carter uses citrus. 鈥淐itrus zest and聽juice can be used in a variety of ways, in dishes both sweet and savory, by incorporating lemon聽juice into a cream sauce for poultry or topping off a chocolate dessert with orange zest.鈥 Check聽out his favorite Dual Juicer聽($20) and Zester聽($13), which both make getting that zippy flavor a snap.

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