Our Thanksgiving Essentials for Cooking, Baking and Cleaning
It's beginning to look a lot like the holidays! Our shopping experts and Test Kitchen pros rounded up their favorite Thanksgiving essentials to help you master this year's holiday prep.
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As holiday hosting pros, we understand just how stressful this time of year can feel. What’s billed as holiday magic includes a lot of behind-the-scenes prep work that often takes away from the main event.
This Thanksgiving, we’re switching it up. We tapped our culinary pros and home experts to uncover their hardworking essentials. These tools and gadgets will help you host the holidays without a hitch—so you can focus on soaking up time with friends and family. Whether you’re tackling this year’s turkey, leading the sides prep team, baking a treasure trove of treats or bringing the kitchen back to life after the big day, here are the Thanksgiving essentials we rely on for stress-free holiday gatherings. We’ll cheers to that!
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Josh’s Turkey Essentials
Taste of Home
I was blessed to have the Thanksgiving meal prepared for me for many wonderful years. My only responsibility was helping my Memaw lift the heavy turkey into and out of the oven. When it was time to start cooking on my own, the thought of roasting the turkey was very intimidating. And indeed, I spent quite a few years trying different methods and strategies.
Now, as a culinary producer, I have a foolproof plan of action. I’ve also collected the Thanksgiving essentials needed to cook an outstanding turkey every. single. time. Not only do I approach the holiday cook-a-thon with confidence, I’m able to spend less time worrying about the turkey and more time enjoying the celebration with my family and friends. I mean, what more could a person want?
- D’Artagnan Organic Turkey: Skip the mad dash to the grocery store and score a delicious, quality bird delivered right to your door. We trust this D’Artagnan organic turkey for the job. It serves 8-10 hungry bellies, and every bird was raised on small-scale Midwestern farms so you can trust you’re feeding your family the absolute best.
- Dual-Probe Meat Thermometer: As a culinary expert, Thermoworks is my preferred brand of thermometers. Their dual-probe thermometer takes all the guess work out of knowing when the turkey is done. Having two meat probes allows the home cook to monitor both the white meat of the breast and the dark meat of the leg and thighs. These special thermometers stay in the meat while the turkey roasts in the oven, giving temperature reads in real time. There’s not a meat thermometer I trust more for precise holiday cooking!
- OXO Flavor Injector Tool: Add oil, herbs and more directly to your turkey for the juiciest bird ever. A flavor injector works similarly to the wet brining method, allowing the turkey to absorb salt and herbs directly into the meat. My mouth is practically watering thinking about how flavorful the turkey will be thanks to this problem-solving tool.
- Kana Half-Sheet Roasting Set: Why this pan? Traditional roasting pans are deeper and often come with a shaped rack to hold the turkey or roast. While very sturdy, these deeper pans prevent air circulation around the meat. This Test Kitchen-preferred roasting pan is shallow, allowing for better air circulation to create a browner turkey. Talk about a win-win!
- J.K. Adams Wood Carving Board: An obvious Thanksgiving essential, upgraded. This carving board has beneficial grooves that collect juices from the turkey while spikes keep the bird from slipping around while carving. This special design is ideal for keeping the mess from flowing onto countertops, down cabinets and onto the floor.
- Poultry and Meat Shears: Because I don’t live in a Norman Rockwell painting, I’ve never set a whole turkey on the table and carved it while my guests wait. Therefore, my favorite method of roasting a turkey is to segment the bird into pieces: breast, thighs/legs and wings (leaving skin on and bones in). When spatchcocking or segmenting a turkey, a good pair of meat shears really helps remove the spine and cut through joints. This pair from Steven Raichlen opens on its own when the clasp is removed, making it feel spring-loaded for easy cutting.
Katie’s Sides Essentials
Taste of Home
In my kitchen, holiday sides are as important as the main event. It’s just not the holiday season without buttery mashed potatoes, brandy glazed carrots and my family’s secret stuffing recipe gracing the table. But all that prep work? Oof—my wrists hurt just thinking about chopping a mountain of potatoes and onions.
That’s why I’ve found a host of items to prep your favorite sides faster. These Thanksgiving essentials make it quick and easy to put dinner on the table. Come Thanksgiving day, you can spend less time sweating in an apron and more time watching the Macy’s parade.
- Vegetable Chopper: Whether it’s diced celery for stuffing, picture-perfect squash rounds for gratin or grated orange peel for cranberry sauce, this multipurpose vegetable chopper does it all. The chopper-meets-mandoline comes with eight interchangeable blades that help you slice, dice, chop, grate and shred to your heart’s content. Bye-bye, bulky cutting board!
- Essential Spices: I use Thanksgiving as a yearly excuse to overhaul my spice rack. The Essentials Collection from Spice House has everything I need (and then some) to prep holiday sides. Seasonal classics like rosemary, thyme, sage and granulated garlic are my holiday go-tos, but this set has 24 jars to fit any taste.
- Vegetable Keepers: This set of potato, onion and garlic keepers ensures my most-used holiday veggies stay fresh right up until the big day. The dark storage, plus air ventilation holes, keep everything nice and dry. These canisters save me money, too, since I can stock up on spuds when they’re on sale.
- Breville Smart Oven: Oven space is at a premium during the holidays. Cook your favorite sides on the, well, side, with this smart toaster oven. A whopping 13 settings—including roast, proof, air-fry and broil—let me prep everything from cheesy potato casserole to crispy Brussels sprouts. Plus, this appliance’s ample size (it measures 21.5-inches wide by 17.1 inches deep and 12.7 inches tall) ensures there’s plenty to go around—even if cousin Eddie makes a rogue appearance.
- Warming Gravy Boat: Cold, coagulated gravy? Not on my holiday table! This genius gravy boat has space for a tea candle to keep gravy warm all the way through second helpings.
- Boarderie Baked Brie Board: After prepping all my sides, the last thing I want to do is cobble together an appetizer. Luckily, Boarderie has me covered with an out-of-this-world baked brie board that ships straight to my door. All I need to do is pop the pastry-wrapped brie in the oven right before guests arrive, then serve with crackers. Plus, flavors like truffle, fig and orange or rosemary, sun-dried tomato and olive are guaranteed crowd-pleasers.
Annamarie’s Baking Essentials
Taste of Home
Call me crazy, but I’ve never been one for Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and taters take a backseat to the pies and sweets that succeed it. Growing up, I celebrated the best Thursday of the year with just my immediate family, so a single pie surely would’ve been enough to satisfy us.
Even so, I couldn’t resist making my famous French apple pie with its buttery crumble topping and cinnamon-y insides to accompany our Costco pumpkin pie each year. I’ve tried many a baking tool and gadget during my endeavors, and I can assure you, these novel, practical and sleek Thanksgiving essentials are among the best.
- Cordless Hand Mixer: The air fryer is crisping the Brussels sprouts, the slow cooker is warming the mac and cheese, and now, you’re all out of outlets. Ain’t no big thing when you have this cordless seven-speed KitchenAid mixer on—and in—hand. The rechargeable battery lasts for about 45 minutes so you can whip up doughs, batters and frostings in any corner of the home.
- 9-Piece Airtight Storage Set: A weevil infestation taught me very quickly the value of airtight storage for flour, sugar and the like. This 9-piece set does way more than just house dry ingredients, though. In addition to clear containers printed with measurement markers and silicone-rimmed lids, you’ll find a leveler, brown sugar keeper, dusting spoon and dusting screen in the set. Don’t forget to snag the matching cookie saver!
- The Original PieCaken: Plain ol’ pumpkin pie has officially been ousted as the Thanksgiving dessert to rule them all. This delightful mashup, named the PieCaken as a nod to the iconic Turducken, is a pecan pie, pumpkin pie and spice cake rolled into one. It ships straight to your door from the iconic New York bakery and feeds up to a dozen guests.
- 3-Tier Collapsible Cooling Rack: So many sweets, so little counter space. At least that’s my issue! This Wilton cooling rack does wonders to help with that. I’ll slip a pumpkin bread onto the bottom rack, some spice cupcakes onto the middle and a dozen pecan tassies onto the top, and I’ll still have enough work surface to whip up more. The fact that it’s collapsible is such a bonus when storing, too.
- OXO Dough-Rolling Bag: I’m something of a perfectionist, so an oblong pie crust simply won’t do. This circular, zippered pouch ensures a perfectly shaped and sized pie crust—oh, and a clean countertop. When you’re done rolling out the dough with a rolling pin, toss the silicone bag in the dishwasher for easy, peasy cleanup.
- Raisenne Dough Riser: I like to keep my home warm and cozy during chilly months, but it’s still nowhere near the ideal temperature for proofing dough. That’s where this handy contraption comes in. The heated plate stays at 85°F to quicken the leavening process and override other environmental factors, such as room temperature and humidity levels.
Madi’s Cleanup Essentials
Taste of Home
Confession time: I usually leave the holiday cooking and baking to my family. Sure, I like to try my hand at my mom’s creamy mashed potatoes recipe, but that’s as involved as I get for holiday cooking. My time in the spotlight comes after everyone’s bellies are full, leaving me with a messy kitchen screaming for TLC. As silly as it sounds, holiday cleanup is basically my Super Bowl.
Because cleaning and organizing are like therapy for me, I’ve had several years of holiday cleanup experience to recommend the following hard-working products for this year’s big event. Here are my essentials for keeping post-dinner cleanup to a minimum, so you can spend more time soaking up precious moments with the entire family.
- Caraway Food Storage Set: Here’s an organization tip you’ll wish you knew sooner. Investing in a uniform food storage container set, like this Caraway set, not only makes it easy to store holiday leftovers for weeks, it helps organize the fridge or freezer, too. Complete with versatile container sizes for storing the main dish and plenty of sides (hello, cranberry sauce!), everything stacks easily in the fridge for when leftovers call your name. Bonus: The pretty containers double as serving dishes—no need to dirty more cookware. The beautiful color options and non-toxic components are the cherry on top.
- Roll-Up Dish Drying Rack: The ultimate gift this holiday? The gift of more kitchen counter space for drying dishes, rinsing produce or cooling side dishes hot out of the oven. It’s all possible thanks to this genius roll-up dish drying rack. Simply set it over the sink to add valuable counter space when it’s at a premium during holiday turkey prep.
- EyeVac Stationary Vacuum Cleaner: What if I told you there’s a touchless vacuum that practically cleans the floors for you? The EyeVac stationary vacuum sits in the kitchen just waiting to suck up crumbs, dirt, pet hair—anything that gets in the way of your kitchen feeling pristine. It’s as easy as turning it on and sweeping messes toward the vacuum to clean the floors. Genius!
- Swedish Dishcloths: If there’s one cleaning product I can’t stop recommending, it’s Swedish dishcloths. Eco-friendly and endlessly reusable (just throw ’em in the washing machine), this three-pack of Swedish dishcloths replaces several paper towel rolls. Plus, the fun seasonal designs brighten up the kitchen. The material is nice and thick for wiping everything down from the counters to the stove, sink and beyond.
- Sensor Trash Can: Your trash can? It gets really dirty—and Thanksgiving is basically its worst nightmare. For when both hands are filled with turkey guts and messy fingers are all around, this voice- and motion-activated 58-liter trash can is a total lifesaver. Not only is the stainless steel finish display worthy, it prevents fingerprints and germs thanks to an invisible silver-ion coating. Oh, and this touchless trash can comes with odorsorb pods so your kitchen never starts smelling like, well, raw turkey guts.
- Stove Gap Covers: I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t have awkward gaps in between their oven and countertop, and I always recommend these stove gap covers to solve the annoying problem. They slide right into the cracks, creating a seamless surface from the counter to the stovetop. Just trim the covers to fit your setup. You’ll thank yourself later when you don’t have to pull out the oven to sweep behind it after the big day is over!