Nobody wants unnecessary kitchen clutter. Marie Kondo and Alton Brown have drilled it into our heads that our artfully arranged kitchen storage spaces should be stocked (never stuffed) only with multipurpose, untrendy, chef-style kitchen gear; leave the Spiralyzer for somebody else’s yard sale! And yet, if you’re planning to host a classic turkey-and-fixin’s Thanksgiving dinner every year, there are a few specialty items that you’re better off investing in. And yes, some of them are even (gasp) uni-taskers.
We talked to Kristen Miglore, creative director at Food52.com, to reveal some kitchen gear you actually need for Thanksgiving dinner.
1. A roasting pan with nonstick rack
The most essential piece: a place to cook that bird. Sure, you could wrestle a disposable foil roasting pan on top of a cookie sheet, but it takes only one wrong move with those flimsy things and your precious bird is all over the floor.
“A sturdy roasting pan with a nonstick rack will make your life so much easier on Turkey Day,” says Miglore. It’s a pan you can actually use year-round for roasting chickens, big cuts of beef, fish, or even veggies. “I just used mine to braise a couple of bunches of collard greens last week—the pan was stuffed!”
2. A fat separator
“A fat separator is a one-off, but they’re inexpensive, and by that point in the day, you’ll be very glad you have it,” says Miglore. Fat separators make it easy to extract the meat drippings from the fat by allowing the fat to rise to the top. The spout pulls from the bottom of the cup, so that you get only the lean juices.
This Oxo version ($14.99, Oxo.com) has a 4-cup capacity, stopper, and strainer cap on the top to catch little pieces of vegetables or spices that fall in with your drippings as you pour off the pan. If your family is like mine, good gravy is perhaps the most essential part of the holiday meal, but getting it right can be tricky, especially if you make it only once a year. Treat yourself to a fat separator, and make that last-minute task stress-free.
3. A long, sharp carving knife
A sharp chef’s knife can work in a pinch, but if you’re going to do it right, a carving set is the way to go.
According to Miglore, a proper carving set should include the stabilizing fork that makes carving much easier. And when the pressure is on, you should probably take every advantage you can get. Nobody wants to see the looks of horror on their guests’ faces as they destroy an innocent roast turkey in front of them.
If you want to splurge, this teak-handled set above ($79, Food52.com) is perfect for special occasion roasts. The reviewers at Wirecutter suggest a more affordable set from Messermeister ($48.95, Amazon.com) for its “good looks, wallet-friendly price, and high performance.”
4. A meat thermometer
Gone are the days of waiting for a button timer to pop up on the turkey and calling it done. Inaccurate cooking results in dry, overcooked turkey breasts and/or dangerously undercooked thighs. There are a host of techniques for producing the perfect, juicy, delicious bird, but all involve a meat thermometer.
“I pull out my meat thermometer not just on Thanksgiving, but to be more confident every time I roast a chicken or sear a steak,” explains Miglore.
If you want a basic model, the Lavatools PT12 above ($24.99, Amazon.com) is recommended by Wired for its fast readings and Thermapen-style folding probe. If you prefer to read the temperature from afar without having to open the oven, the ThermoPro TP07 is a best-seller ($35.99, Amazon.com) and has a 300-foot range, pre-set meat temperatures, and programmable temperature alert options.
5. A big carving board with a moat
“A big carving board with a moat will save you from having juices escape onto your counter,” explains Miglore.
Great for cutting anything with juice, from turkey to watermelon, a cutting board with a moat is the rare kitchen tool that is incredibly practical but also beautiful and special for the holiday.
6. A large, rimmed serving platter
“A large serving platter with a good rim is handy for passing at the table,” says Miglore.
If you’re not planning to carve the turkey at the table, it’s also the perfect vessel for getting your turkey from the kitchen to the table. Without a rim on your platter, it’s easy to spill turkey juice over the side—especially if the person bearing the platter has been indulging in predinner cocktails. It’s best to play it safe. This 20-inch platter from Fishs Eddy is what I use ($42.95, Fishseddy.com). It doubles in the summer as a gigantic salad platter.
7. Quality pie pans
Pie can be a fiddly thing to make. The crust can be fussy: It has to be browned but not burned, and baked just right so the filling is set but not dry. My first few years hosting Thanksgiving, I used disposable pie pans, but they broke the crust if you let them bend at all while moving them. The next year, I cheaped out and got glass pie pans at the dollar store. I paid the price because one of them split in half in the heat of the oven, ruining that pie and flooding the oven floor with uncooked filling.
The lesson I learned, twice, was to pony up for decent pie pans, even if you use them only once a year. They’re easy to store and just might motivate you to bake a peach pie this summer. This Pyrex three-pack from Amazon has nice handles and is extremely affordable ($13.17, Amazon.com).
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