How are your Thanksgiving dinner plans coming along? We've started to compile our recipes and even make some things ahead. Along the way we've also pinpointed a few cooking tools that make this big traditional meal a whole lot easier — in particular tools that you might not keep on hand. Here are 7 things we think are worth having if you're making a Thanksgiving dinner this year. Do you have them all?
1. Pie Dish: No pie dish? It's not as crazy as it sounds. If you're not an avid baker, chances are you might not have a pie pan—a fact you may not remember until you're ready to lay out the crust and spread the filling. For more on choosing the right pie dish and a few brand recommendations, check out this post: Choosing the Right Pie Dish. Plus, don't underestimate the power of a really pretty pie plate!
2. Casserole Dishes of Different Sizes: The variety of dishes in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner calls for casserole dishes of different sizes. We recommend having a 9x13-inch (or 3-4 quart) dish, an 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch square dish (or both!), and a loaf pan. If you find yourself with a smaller casserole dish than the recipe requires, look to this post for how to halve the recipe: Halving Casseroles: Tips for Reducing the Size of a Recipe.
3. Food Mill: A food mill is an old-fashioned kitchen multitasker. It's a combo purée/strain/masher tool that is particularly useful for making mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and squash purées. While a food processor, blender, or standing mixer might be able to handle the mashing part, a food mill does that PLUS strains away skins and seeds. And because a food mill is hand-powered, it also helps keep certain starchy or delicate foods from becoming too overworked. For more on how a food mill works, especially with Thanksgiving recipes, check out this video from Williams-Sonoma demonstrating the All-Clad food mill.
4. Gravy Strainer: Some people say gravy can make or break the turkey meal. If you want to ensure that you have perfectly flavorful, not-too-greasy gravy, then a fat separator (aka gravy strainer) is the way to go. We're fans of the OXO Fat Separator ($14.99 on Amazon), which quickly and effectively separates out the grease and food bits from the leaner, richer, more flavorful part.
5. Thermometer: We've talked before about the importance of using cooking thermometers, and it's even more crucial around this time of year! To ensure you don't overcook (or undercook!) your turkey, you'll want to check it with a thermometer, as we point out in our How To Cook a Turkey post. As we note there, the meat should always be at least 165°F. If any place is under that temperature, you'll need to put the turkey back in the oven for another 20 minutes. The Thermapen ($93 on Amazon) isn't cheap, but it's truly instant-read, which makes it worth the splurge when you've got a cooking bird, a hot oven, and expectant, hungry mouths to feed!
6. Pastry Brush: Another surprisingly versatile cooking tool, we find a pastry brush comes in quite handy around Thanksgiving. From basting the turkey, to swiping a bit of butter over the dinner rolls before you put them in the oven, or brushing a glaze on your pie, it's just the tool when spooning is a little too heavy-handed. Look for a brush made with real bristles. They hold liquid well and coat food much more evenly than their silicone counterparts.
7. Roasting Pan: So, we have a caveat on this one: if you're roasting a big 16-pound turkey, then yes, you're probably going to want a big roasting pan. (See a few of our recommendations here and also these five roasting pans suitable for any budget.) But if you're roasting a smaller bird for a smaller crowd, you can probably get away with using a pan you already have in your kitchen. A big cast iron pan or a 9x13 casserole dish could also work, as we note here.
And of course, the point as always to enjoy cooking and enjoy your meal. These tools are certainly not essential (with the possible exception of that thermometer!) and maybe you make Thanksgiving dinner just fine without these trappings. Readers, what are your essential Thanksgiving prep tools? Do you have all of these, or do you rely on other tools?