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The first time I hosted Thanksgiving dinner, I was a wreck. You would think that years of working in restaurant kitchens would have prepared me for the big day, but it really hadn’t. I didn’t have anything I needed and I resorted to barking out orders to my family members as if they were line cooks in my restaurant. Not exactly the way I wanted to spend my day off! After the chaos had dissipated, I reflected on the day to see what went wrong. It all came down to my cooking tools, and I didn't have what I needed to get the job done.
In addition to the intangible things (like making a to-do list, doing prep work in advance, and clearing out room in the refrigerator for all the turkey-day food), there are a few equipment necessities that will make your Thanksgiving Day go that much smoother. And, since we try not to recommend any unitasker tools that are only useful once a year, we tested 121 products (and researched countless more), to make sure you can put this stuff to good use all year long.
For the turkey
Everyone knows the turkey is the star of the show, and these tools will help you prepare the perfect bird! From cooking it to carving it, we tested all the essential equipment you'll need to make this iconic Thanksgiving main dish.
1. The Viking 3-ply roasting pan w/non-stick rack
Most people think of a roasting pan as a Thanksgiving essential, and it definitely is: Talk about a fuss-free way to cook up a turkey! But, you can also use a well-built one year-round for sheet pan meals or cooking a roast for a crowd, making it worth it to invest in a good one. The tri-ply stainless steel construction definitely gives it some heft, but the handles are super wide and comfortable, distributing the pan's weight nicely. It had excellent heat distribution as well. It's big and sturdy enough to handle a 20-pound turkey and it's capable of cooking anything you throw at it, making it our top roasting pan and one of our Editors' Choice products.
2. The ThermoWorks ChefAlarm probe thermometer
Don't undercook your turkey! Confidently toss it into the oven and forget about it until it beeps by probing it with our top-performing probe thermometer. In addition to being the most accurate probe we tested, it also has a nice backlight display. You can use it as a timer, adjust the alarm's volume, or use it to keep track of the minimum and maximum readings. We especially love its hinged tilting screen for easy viewing on the countertop, but it also has a magnet and a clip if that works better for your kitchen. Spending $60 on a thermometer might not be for everyone, but, this model is well worth the price tag, not only for your Thanksgiving Day meal but also if you're serious about barbecue, making cheese, or boiling sugar for candy.
3. The ThermoWorks ThermoPop digital thermometer
If monitoring your turkey's temperature from inside the oven isn't important to you, pick up our top-ranked digital thermometer, the ThermoPop instead. It immediately impressed us with its super quick, accurate readings and its beautiful appearance. The probe is long enough to keep your hands safely away from any hot steam. It also features a super thin tip that didn’t allow for many poultry juices to escape after probing. With a click of a super soft button, the display rotates 360 degrees for ease of viewing. Another click and the backlight illuminates the large numbers.
4. The OXO Good Grips Good Gravy Fat Separator
Fat separators might not be the sexiest gadget in the kitchen, but you'll need one if you're hoping to make a killer gravy this year. By design, bottom-draining separators make it almost impossible to pass a lot of fatty-liquid through their valves because the fat floats on the top. Some of them have temperamental levers, but the trigger on our top fat separator and Editors' Choice winner in the OXO fat separator is super easy to control and by design will minimize splashing, creating less mess than some of the other models we tested. There's also a pour spout on the top, which makes it much easier to remove the fat left behind. And, since the lever mechanism is located on the outside of the separator, we had no problems when it came time to clean everything up.
5. The J.A. Henckels International Poultry Shears
If you prefer preparing a spatchcocked turkeys, you’ll need a good pair of poultry shears. It's easy enough, but you do need to cut out the backbone (which, as the name implies, is lined with a bunch of bones that'll destroy your expensive knives). I love my J.A. Henckels set because they’re easy to handle and their super-sharp blade cuts through tough turkey bones like they’re butter. They're easy enough to sharpen when they get dull and they lock for safe, easy storage. It’s always nice when you don’t cut your hand digging through your gadget drawer!
6. The Mercer Culinary Renaissance 11" Granton Edge Slicing Knife
This carving knife came in my culinary school knife kit, and it’s so sharp I’ve never had reason to replace it! After you’ve spent all that time and money to prepare your turkey, you definitely want to present it just right. You could use your Chef’s knife, but there’s something ceremonious about pulling out a good carving knife. Plus, since you don’t use it as frequently, chances are good it’s razor-sharp when you need it. You’ll quickly and easily be able to carve up your turkey and present perfect slices.
It doesn’t come as a set, but you can also pick up the matching carving fork (available at Amazon). I usually use a set of kitchen tongs, but the fork certainly looks nicer and gives you better control.
7. The Black & Decker EK500B electric knife
There are two stand-out factors that make the Black and Decker EK500B 9-Inch Electric Carving Knife our favorite electric knife and an Editors' Choice winner. First, it aced all of our performance tests, but that's not what impressed us the most. The Black and Decker also has the most comfortable handle and was the quietest knife we tested. The round handle fit perfectly in our hands and stayed put, even when our hands were covered in chicken grease. The knife created little to no vibrations, making it easy to keep our finger locked onto the trigger without slipping. Since the Black and Decker is regularly priced at under $20, it also happens to be the best value, too. I would happily use this knife regularly to slice homemade bread or quickly break down a roast, but that price makes it attractive even if you only pull it out on the holidays.
8. The Teakhaus Rectangle Carving Board With Hand Grips
When we tested cutting boards, we split the winners into three categories. Our favorite bamboo cutting board was great for any task in the kitchen, but the Teakhaus' size and heft made it more of a specialty board than a catch-all winner. It happens to be perfect for resting and carving a Thanksgiving turkey, though, because it can easily hold a 25-pound bird! It also happens to be a gorgeous piece that makes a stylish addition to your kitchen counter. The use of teak (a high-oil wood) fought off moisture better than the other wooden boards and it held the largest amount of liquid (2/3 cup) in its groves before spilling over.
To Make Great Side Dishes
Sometimes, I swear I like the side dishes more than the turkey itself. I know, I know, blasphemy! But these gadgets will help your mashed potatoes, vegetables, and casseroles turn out as delicious as the turkey!
1. The Chef'n FreshForce Potato Ricer
I don't know about you, but I'm serious about my mashed potatoes. It's my favorite side on the Thanksgiving table! And a potato rice is the gadget you need to make fluffy, airy mashed potatoes. We loved the way our top potato ricer and Editors' Choice winner effortlessly pushed the potatoes through the hopper, thanks to a gear-powered mechanism that requires less arm strength to use. It was the only ricer we tested that we could use one-handed with a whole potato (with the others we tested, we had to chop the potatoes up into small pieces to achieve one-handed pressing). The comfortable handle is made from a heavy-duty plastic, but the hopper itself is stainless steel, which is easier to clean and should last a long time. The simple two-construction design allows you to take the stainless steel basket out, making it both easy to fill and a breeze to clean.
2. The Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids
If you ask me which I prefer (glass or stainless steel bowls), I'll say stainless every time. There’s nothing to shatter or chip, making them both durable and long-lasting, and their lightweight profile makes them easy to use. While they shouldn’t go into the microwave, they can be used on the stovetop as a double boiler–and the small- and medium-sized bowls in the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids worked perfectly for melting butter and chocolate over a 2-quart saucepan. As a bonus, the bowls come with air-tight plastic lids, so each bowl doubles as storage and transportation container (always helpful when you're planning a large meal). They were our top choice for mixing bowls and an Editors' Choice winner.
3. The Pyrex Easy Grab Bake 'N Store glass baking dishes
The best part about making casseroles for Thanksgiving? You can make them ahead of time and reheat them when it’s time to serve the big meal! That means less scrambling on Thanksgiving Day (which, hopefully, gives you more time to mingle with your guests). These Pyrex casserole dishes certainly aren’t fancy to look at, but I’ve been using my set for years. They heat evenly, they're easy to clean, and those snap-on lids to make food storage a breeze.
If you’re looking for a more presentation-worthy dish, pick up a Le Creuset Stoneware Rectangular Dish (Available at Amazon for $74.95). It looks great when you want to go from oven to table, and it can also be put under the broiler (the one thing the Pyrex can't do).
4. The Cuisinart DFP-14BCNY food processor
If you don't feel like cutting anything this year, hook up our top-ranked food processor which is also an Editors' Choice winner instead. You can chop onions, celery, and garlic for stuffing and use the included attachment to slice potatoes or shred cheese. In fact, you can even make your pie crust in it! In our testing, the Cuisinart "Custom 14" food processor (model DFP‑14BCNY) is the best on the market. It excels at almost every task, from chopping onions and slicing tomatoes as well as a razor-sharp chefs' knife, to kneading pizza dough into a smooth elastic ball. As an added bonus, the Cuisinart is so quiet while it's running that it won’t shut down conversation in the kitchen! Cleanup is a cinch, as Cuisinart is the only manufacturer that actually encourages you to wash the parts in the dishwasher.
5. The Lodge 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet
I don't know about you, but I love my cast iron skillet! Some years, I skip the casserole dishes entirely and make my mac and cheese, stuffing, or cornbread straight in the cast iron. Lodge has been making its cast iron cookware since 1896, but its durability is one reason why Lodge has become a household name—and why they make our top-ranked cast iron pan and one of our Editors' Choice winners. The Lodge Logic 12-inch skillet sells for just under $20 on sale, but it's likely to last for generations. Our only complaint? It comes with no written warranty, though Lodge claims it will always stand behind its products.
General Cooking Must-Haves
Whether you're setting up your first kitchen or you're looking to make some upgrades, these cookware essentials will definitely come in handy on Thanksgiving Day. These staples can be used with multiple courses and make a great addition to your kitchen.
1. The Cuisinart MCP-12N Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set
You'll need pots and pans to prepare all your favorite sauces and side dishes, so consider it a great excuse to upgrade your cookware set. The Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set is regularly on sale for just above $200, and you should definitely snatch one up if you see it hovering around that price. We love how easy thee pans are to use and they earned an Editors' Choice award and the top spot in our reviews of cookware sets. The tri-ply construction gives the pans the benefit of heat conductivity, but the aluminum core ensures they’re not too heavy to handle. The set includes everything you need to cook a meal: two saucepans (1 1/2- and 3-quart), an 8-quart stockpot, a medium-sized 3.5-quart sauté pan, two skillets (8- and 10-inch), and a steamer insert—all with comfortable handles and a design that creates a nice balance when holding the pan.
2. The Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Gourmet Classic 18-pc Knife Block Set
You don't need every knife in the block to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, but this set gives you everything you'll need at a great value—especially considering that it comes with eight really nice steak knives and a killer set of kitchen shears. The chef’s knife (the one you'll probably use most often) is lightweight and easy to wield while also being one of the sharper knives in our test group of the best knife sets. The paring knife fits perfectly in our hands for off-the-cutting-board activities like peeling apples, and the serrated bread knife made quick work at slicing crusty baguettes as the whole set earned an Editors' Choice award.
3. The Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet
Planning on making cookies for Thanksgiving? Roasted vegetables? Tossing out your roasting pan in lieu of a spatchcocked turkey? You'll need a good baking sheet, and there’s a reason this American-made baking sheet tops charts around the internet, including an Editors' Choice award and our list of the best baking sheets. It’s lightweight, large enough to fit more than a dozen cookies, and distributes heat like a dream. Measuring 12 by 17 inches, we feel confident you could cook enough vegetables for a small crowd. Like all baking sheets, the biggest concern is always cleaning. We'd recommend using parchment paper or a Silpat mat under my cookies to ensure that nothing sticks. For meats and vegetables, you could also line the sheet with aluminum foil.
4. The Checkered Chef Half-Sheet Stainless Steel Cooling Rack
Wire racks aren’t just for cooling your cookies and cakes: Use one to line a baking sheet and you'll create the perfect convection cooking space. You see, the air will be able to circulate underneath your food, creating the crispiest bacon or Brussels sprouts on the block. You can also use it to cook a spatchcocked turkey. How could you say no to a method that creates perfectly crispy skin on 100 percent of your turkey? I can't!
For Delicious Desserts
I'm not sure you can call it Thanksgiving if you don't finish the meal with pie! Whip up your favorite apple, pumpkin, or pecan pie with these essential dessert-making tools.
1. The Emile Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish
It's almost a Thanksgiving requirement to serve pie, so why not do it in style? You can't beat the Emile Henry Pie Dish for looks or turning out a pie with a crispy, flaky crust. It’s made in France of ceramic and comes in lots of pretty colors. While this 9-by-2 inch dish is deep enough to hold almost two quarts of filling, we didn’t find our pies came out skimpy looking. Its large capacity and attractive appearance make it a good choice for baking and serving other items like scalloped potatoes or candied sweets. As it can withstand high temperatures, you can run the Emile under the broiler if you want to brown off a lemon meringue pie or a mac and cheese casserole. Plus, it’s microwave and dishwasher safe, making it an Editors' Choice winner and our best pie dish.
2. The J.K. Adams Plain Maple Rolling Dowel
When they say there’s beauty in simplicity, they’re talking about this rolling pin. It’s really just a sturdy wooden cylinder of a medium-heavy weight, nothing more, nothing less. But during testing, it rolled out perfect dough every time to win an Editors' Choice award and be named our top-ranked rolling pin. The simple design of this rolling pin, combined with its weight, makes it easy to control the amount of pressure you use based on what you need for your dough. Its long body and lack of handles also mean that you'll never cut an edge through your dough the way you sometimes might with smaller, handled rolling pins. This translates to an even, non-lumpy dough that's easy to shape however you want. Flour sticks to the pin just fine, which keeps dough from sticking while in use. The pin also cleans up easily. The only downside is that, depending on the size of your kitchen, it might be tough to put this beauty away. Its 19-inch length simply makes it harder to tuck into a drawer.
Don't Forget the Leftovers (and Cleanup)!
Every year, I forget about storing the leftovers! You can totally make it work with aluminum foil and plastic wrap, but this is a better option. And once you've tucked those away, we have a few suggestions for a better cleanup.
1. The Glasslock 18-Piece Assorted Oven Safe Container Set
A really nice set of reusable containers should be ready during dinner cleanup. We love that these containers nest within each other for easy storage, they don't impart off-flavors into our food, and they're marked as dishwasher-, microwave-, and oven-safe (just the glass, not the lids). It also doesn't hurt that they aced every test we could think of. They didn't leak water when we sloshed them around and didn't burst open or shatter when we dropped them from a countertop. When we froze them, expanding food didn't break through the seal and they resisted stains. They were our top-ranked containers and won an Editors' Choice award for it.
2. The Williams Sonoma All-Purpose Pantry Towels
Washing the Thanksgiving dishes can be a daunting task, but the classic pantry towels from Williams Sonoma can help you get the job done without any fuss. That's why they earned an Editors' Choice award and were named our best dish towels too. Not only do these towels look good in any kitchen (choose from six colors), but they're a pro at drying irregular objects like wine glasses and vases while still feeling soft to the touch. Made from ribbon cotton terry, the towels retain more water than its competitors, which means it should be able to wipe water from plenty of dishes before you need to grab another one.
3. The PremiumRacks Professional Dish Rack
If you don’t want to run your good china, crystal, and silver through the dishwasher (or you don’t have a dishwasher), a good dish rack is essential for an organized post-Thanksgiving dinner cleanup. Our top-ranked rack and Editors' Choice winner is this PremiumRacks Professional, a smartly designed double-decker that holds more dishes than others we tested, without leaving a very large countertop footprint. The bottom portion is your standard featureless rack, but the top holds plates more securely than most of the racks we tested. A cutlery basket hooks onto the side, as does a second basket that can be topped with a lid specifically designed for sharp knives. There’s even a special attachment to dry your cutting boards. The rack also comes with two drain board options—one meant to let water pool, and the other designed to tip any water into the sink—plus a microfiber cloth to set underneath.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.
For more kitchen cleanup favorites, including paper towels, sponges and trash cans, check out our guide, The Best Kitchen Essentials.