6 essential tips for cooking Thanksgiving feasts

Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | November 15, 2016

thanksgiving gadgets

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner can be an intimidating prospect. But it doesn't have to be. If you're armed with the right gear, and know how to use your kitchen appliances properly, hosting the holiday can be an enjoyable time to connect with friends and family. So, before the big day, read through our list of tips and kitchen essentials to acquire. It can make cooking and cleaning up after your Thanksgiving meal much easier.

1. Roasting pan and rack

You can cook a turkey in a disposable aluminum pan from the grocery but takes a lot longer, and you run a greater risk of splatters and spills, which can cause your oven to smoke. A sturdy, deep roasting pan conducts heat much more effectively, and makes it easy to use a roasting rack. Resting your bird on a rack allows for more even cooking and keeps your turkey from wallowing in the fat that drains from it while it roasts.

TIP: If your oven already has residual grease and spills in it, you might want to run the self cleaning cycle well before hosting the holiday, as high oven temps can cause those stuck-on remnants to smoke and smell up your house.

2. Meat thermometer

A Thanksgiving turkey should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't guess at it. The best way to gauge the temperature and ensure your turkey is safe to eat is with a good meat thermometer.

TIP: If you have a convection setting on your oven, you can use it to roast your turkey in less time than it takes to cook in a conventional oven. Convection cooking continuously circulates the hot air in the oven, sealing the juices inside the meat, while browning and crisping the skin.

3. Fat separator

What's a Thanksgiving turkey without gravy? To make the very best gravy from your turkey drippings, use a fat separator. Pour the drippings straight into the separator from the pan, and let the fat rise to the top. Your drippings can be poured from the bottom of the fat separator, leaving the grease behind. Deliciousness is close at hand!

TIP: Gravy forms a skin on its top if the heat gets too low. So, bring the gravy up to a boil on your cook top, and then set it to a simmer that makes it bubble gently until you're ready to serve. Lots of pots on the stove plus a turkey in the oven makes for a hot kitchen. If you have a range hood, be sure to put it to work to vent all that steam and heat.

4. Carving board with a trench

Protect your kitchen countertops by using a generous cutting board equipped with a trench for meat juices. Some boards even have indentations or spikes to help hold the turkey in place.

TIP: Always hand wash your wood carving boards. Heat and hot water from a dishwasher causes them to warp and split.

5. Electric knife

While a carving set with a fork and knife are traditional, an electric knife makes quick work of carving a turkey, producing uniform, even slices of meat. The serrated double blades cut cleanly through the skin without tearing it the way a traditional knife blade can.

TIP: The blades on an electric knife can be removed and put in the dishwasher for cleaning along with the rest of the dinner dishes.

6. Microwave safe bowls and dishes

Timing is everything, but coordinating a feast where the bird and all the sides are hot and ready simultaneously is a challenge. Cut yourself some slack. Equip yourself with a set of attractive microwave safe serving bowls and dishes, and don't be afraid to use that quick-cooking appliance to reheat some things at the last minute. That way, you can bring it all straight from the kitchen to the table.

TIP: Cover your dishes when reheating in the microwave to retain moisture and avoid splatters.

Kitchen remodeling

With some knowledge, preparation and the right tools, you can feel confident cooking the Thanksgiving meal and give thanks for the time you save to relax with family and friends.

Note ways in which your kitchen doesn't flow well, or appliances that don't perform as they should. If aspects of your kitchen are out-dated, consider hiring a kitchen remodeling contractor to improve your kitchen before next year's holiday season.

About the Author

A confessed DIY junkie, Jennifer writes about home improvement, gardening, upcycling, and all things do-it-yourself. She lives in Delaware with her husband and daughters, where she is ardently teaching the next generation how to use power tools.