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Essential Thanksgiving gear to cook like a pro

The winning kitchen picks for a great holiday meal

by Kurt Knutsson

Half the battle is having the right tools on hand to pull off a perfect holiday meal.  Here are some of my tried and true Thanksgiving kitchen essentials to help make all your amazing dishes come out just right.   If you’re already a turkey roasting pro, you know that the secret to a moist flavorful bird starts with brining way ahead of roasting.

 

COOKING THE TURKEY

Turkey Thanksgiving Center piece

 

Brining

No matter how you decide cook your turkey, any cook worth their salt knows that brining the turkey the night before is crucial for a moist, tender, and flavorful bird. Depending on the size of your place and/or fridge, brining can be a real chore because it requires you to submerge the turkey completely while still keeping it cold enough.

A great solution are brining bags because it allows you to line buckets should you live in a climate cold enough where a turkey is safe to keep outside (read: colder than your fridge temperature!). If you don’t, these bags can be used to securely contain the turkey and brine solution in a leakproof bag.

  • Fire & Flavor not only includes a BPA-free brine bag that will hold a turkey up to 25 lbs, but it includes spice packets that have different flavor profiles from herb to cajun.
  • If you already have your own brine and spices for the turkey and just need a place to let it store, the Liquid Solution Turkey Brining Bags are extra strong, BPA free double zipper and gusseted seamed bags that holds up to 40 lbs! Additionally, the Liquid Solution Turkey Brining Bags comes with with a removable zipper assist and 18 inch long string for trussing your turkey (fancy cooking term for tying up the turkey legs both for the appearance and more even cooking).
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Roasting Pan

When you are ready to toss the disposable foil roasting pans that are clumsy and make for kitchen nightmares, these are the keepers to make for a perfect roasting pan.  I don’t mess around with the smaller ones since it’s better to ready for any size gathering.   I’ve got a standard size 30 inch range in my kitchen and any of these fit just right inside while giving you the most room to make as big a bird as a 24 pound turkey.

 

 

BEST PICK

Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless 16 inch Roasting Pan

This Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless 16 inch Roasting Pan comes with a roasting rack and will hold up to a 24 pound turkey according to experience.  The riveted handles make it easy to pull from the oven and handle.  Clean up is easy and it’s dishwasher safe.  I’ve used the same roasting pan for a bone-in turkey breast and at another time a huge turkey — this will make you prepared for any size gathering.  You cannot find a better roasting pan for the value – period.

 

 

UPGRADE PICK

All-Clad Stainless Steel 13 x 16 inch Roaster

This is one I added two years ago to our existing All-Clad collection of pots and pans.  It is by far the most beautiful, high gauge heavy roasting pan that I know will last for life.  Avoid the non-stick version for healthier cooking.   I use barkeepers friend stainless cleaner on it to give it a great spotless polish after an easy clean-up.   It comes with a V-shaped non-stick roasting rack which together All-Clad says will roast up to a 20 pound bird – I fit a 22 pounder with ease in it.

 

 

BUDGET PICK

Circulon 13 x 17 inch Nonstick Roasting Pan

Aside from buying the big overpriced foil disposable roasting pans at the store, this Circulon Non-stick Roaster with rack won’t set you back much more for one you’ll keep and comes in at a big 17 x 13 inches.   It’s sturdy and does the trick with it’s U-shaped rack.  The alloy steel construction can tolerate up to 450 degree oven.  I like that its extra large for any size gathering you’ve got coming.

 


 

Meat Thermometer

The only way to truly tell if meat, especially poultry such as turkey, is fully cooked and ready to eat safely is by using a meat thermometer. While you can poke a cake to check for doneness, continually opening the oven to check will keep the turkey from cooking properly and poking it constantly will ruin the appearance of the turkey and potentially dry it out. There have been many improvements on the traditional meat thermometers from the days of yore.

If you want an option that allows you to tend to the many tasks involved with cooking or hosting thanksgiving, or maybe you want to be able to focus on friends and family instead of running to the oven constantly, then the bluetooth enabled meat thermometer is your best bet.

  • The Govee Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer is a great option that allows you to place probes into the meat, set the internal temperature, with an extra long cable attached to a reader that can be placed on the oven with magnets or propped on the table top so you can stay away from the heat. The app that accompanies the thermometer can be downloaded to your smartphone so you can receive notifications to your phone, plus alerts on the meat thermometer, when temp rises to close to your preset temp.
  • The ThermoPro TP25 is another great wireless option that, in addition to coming with an accompanying app to monitor and receive alerts regarding the progress of you meat, it is rechargeable via USB, comes with 4 probes to monitor different meats being cooked, and has an extended bluetooth range.
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Carving Knife

Let’s not fumble the ‘final play’ of the evening by cooking a perfect turkey only to butcher the cuts of meat. Often the most captured moment of Thanksgiving Dinner, carve the turkey with ease and grace by having a knife and fork that is strong and sharp enough to glide around the contours of bones. Developed by one of the leading culinary schools in North America, The Messermeister Avanta Series is constructed with the highest quality German steel.

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Air Fryer

With a turkey or ham often monopolizing the oven for a majority of Thanksgiving, utilizing an air fryer is a great way to work on side dishes or even dessert, simultaneously. The air fryer is amazing at cooking evenly and creating a wonderfully crispy texture without the use of tons of additional oil, which means less fat! The air fryer is also great at reheating items swiftly without overcooking.

Rated 4.7 out of 5 stars out of over 81K reviews, COSORI Air Fryer Max XL is a dynamo in the kitchen. Not only does it boast a large 5.8 QT bin but it also has a clear and convenient digital display for easy cooking.

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Butter Spreaders

Nothing ruins a good piece of biscuit or bread, when the cold butter comes out in chunks or pieces and is not spreadable.

The Simple spreading Stainless Steel Butter Spreader has 3 sides on the same knife. One side has smaller slotted holes that curls hard butter, a large hole to curl a larger amount of butter, and a serrated edge for cutting and spreading the butter. All need to do is glide the desired edge for the perfect curl of butter that is spreadable.

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Fat Separators

Definitely a product you never knew you needed is a fat separator. For anyone who has ever made gravy from scratch, the struggle lies in knowing that meat drippings from the turkey makes for the richest gravy, but the messiness of getting the juice without the solids and the tediousness of spooning off the fat is a hindrance for most.

The OXO Fat Separator makes it so much easier. It has a strainer lid on top of the BPA-free, heat resistant pour cup so meat pieces and other solids never make it the gravy with the meat juices. Then it has a stopper for the pour spout that prevents the fat from being poured with the meat juices.

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Food Mills

Certainly, there are instant box spud options galore, but a Food Mill can give you silky smooth mashed potatoes with just potatoes. Though a little bulkier than a ricer, it sure beats hand-mashing hot potatoes and is more versatile by removing skin and seed from dozens of fruits and veggies for smoother purees (think pumpkin puree for pumpkin pies). The OXO Good Grip is a nice compact food mill with a better handle for milling.

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NO FUSS BAKING

Silicone Baking Mat

Nothing is worse than having to struggle to scrap dessert or other baked goods off a cookie pan or sheet at the end of long cooking day. That’s why something as simple as a silicone baking mat can ease any potential woes. Even the hot, sticky baked items lift off the mat with ease. Not only do they create great results and lessen clean up, but they are reusable.

The Silpat is made of fiberglass mesh and the highest quality food grade silicone, which provides consistent heat distribution and promotes even baking. It’s truly nonstick abilities make it possible to cut the step of greasing the pan.

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