Thanksgiving is one of the most food-centric holidays of the entire year, and it's this same Thursday each November when nearly everyone--from average home cook, to professional chef, to those who consider cooking the worst form of pain--takes part in the food preparation process in one way or another.
Whether you're experienced in the kitchen or not, a cook is only as good as his or her tools, so ensuring that you come into the game fully prepared is a necessary step to achieving Thanksgiving Day success.
And while tools like a fat separator, ricer, baster, pastry brush, rolling pin, and more are extremely helpful in the Thanksgiving cooking and baking process, purchasing numerous hyper-specific items that you won't use very often (if you're not one to cook on much of a regular basis) for one meal doesn't make a ton of sense. And even if you are enthusiastic about cooking, it's important to know what you can do without if necessary. Here are the 3 tools, as selected by our editors, that are absolutlte necessary for tackling Thanksgiving--and every holiday dinner that comes after it, for that matter.
1. Chef's knife
Photo courtesy of Shun Cutlery
Let's face it, a good chef's knife is the most versatile tool in the entire kitchen, every day of the year. And you'll use it this Thanksgiving in more ways than one. You'll use it to . . .
- Dice potatoes for sweet potato casserole and creamy mashed potatoes
- Cube bread and chop veggies and aromatics for stuffing
- Trim green beans for green bean casserole
- Cut up veggies like Brussels sprouts, squash, etc. to prepare for roasting
- Carve the turkey
- Slice the pies
2. Rimmed baking sheet with rack
Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas
I know what you're thinking, "No roasting pan?!" And while I know this may sound like heresy, the honest truth is--you don't really need it. Though it's the 'perfect' size for a turkey and the deep sides allow for lots of liquid to gather in the bottom of the pan, most home cooks dig their roasting pans out of the back corners of their cupboards only once a year--and that is to cook the Thanksgiving turkey. Cooking your bird on a metal rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet is not only a more practical method for those that don't already own a roasting pan, but it's actually a chef-recommended technique to producing evenly-cooked, golden-brown, and perfectly-crispy skin. Because it's rimmed, the baking sheet will still catch the juices from the bird, and you can use the same pan (with some of those good turkey juices still on it, preferably) to roast veggies. And obviously, you're about to get a ton of use out of that baking sheet and the rack with cookie baking season coming right up--it's a worthwile investment if you don't already have these items or feel like you could use a new set.
Though you're likely only going to use it for one dish this Thanksgiving--and that is the main event: the Thanksgiving turkey--a calibrated meat thermometer is absolutely crucial to ensure a perfectly-cooked, safe-to-eat turkey. Some turkeys these days come with a pop-up thermometer, but I'd highly warn you against trusting the outcome of your most-anticipated Thanksgiving dish to a cheap and highly-inaccurate plastic plug. You can purchase a good meat thermometer for $5 to $8 at most local kitchen retailers, not to mention you'll be checking the temperature of your turkey several times throughout the cooking process, so it's well worth the few extra dollars. Even if you only really need it for one dish on the big day, you are going to get so much use out of this essential kitchen tool for meals to come. Perfection only comes through exact heat for certain dishes (meat, deep fried foods, candy), and a thermometer is the only way to get there. And here's a little secret: as long as you keep it clean, you can totally use your meat thermometer for candy cooking too.