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The Basics: 12 Essential Tools and Cookware for a Low-Tech Thanksgiving

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The Basics: 12 Essential Tools and Cookware for a Low-Tech Thanksgiving

November 13, 2017

Every year, without fail, my aunt stands over the stove making gravy and extols the virtues of flat whisks. They cover more surface area of the pan, she says, making a smoother, lump-free gravy, and there’s something comforting and old-school about watching her whisk it from a roux into a burnished, brown sauce on the stove, rather than pulse it in a loud food processor or blender. Not to mention, a whisk takes up far less space (and is more economical) than a clunky appliance. It’s an approach to the holidays we can get behind.

We’ve posted before on our 13 Essential Kitchen Gadgets, Holiday Edition, with one-task favorites such as apple peelers and fat separators. But this year we wanted to compile a pared-down list: what you really need (and what you don’t), holiday multitaskers that can be used for almost anything (like all-purpose baking pans), and bowls that go from the kitchen to the table. You might notice a lack of Thanksgiving-specific tools on this list. While we appreciate a well-functioning baster, for example, we believe a good metal spoon works just as well, without having to store extra tools all year long. And, in the spirit of my aunt’s prized whisk, you won’t find any high-tech, expensive appliances, just economical and trusty tools that will serve you well throughout Thanksgiving prep (and on the other 364 days of the year). For the one-time host, the apartment dweller, or the can’t-stand-having-too-much-cookware minimalist, here are our essentials.

1. Economical Roasting Pan

We don&#8
Above: We don’t think you need to spend a fortune on a roasting pan that you’ll only pull out once a year. Which is why we like the Småbröd Roasting Pan from Ikea: At 17 inches long, it can accommodate a 20 pound bird but can also be used for smaller roasts, vegetables, and other everyday cooking needs. It comes with a rack; at just $34.99, it’s a bargain. If it’s Thanksgiving morning and you don’t have a roasting pan, or if you’re hosting a small get-together, a cast iron pan or large casserole dish will do just fine.

2. Stove-to-Oven Pot

If you have one pot on hand for the holidays, make it a Dutch, or French, oven. We like the Staub Cast-Iron Essential French Oven (shown here in Grenadine, and currently on sale for $loading=
Above: If you have one pot on hand for the holidays, make it a Dutch, or French, oven. We like the Staub Cast-Iron Essential French Oven (shown here in Grenadine, and currently on sale for $119.96 from Williams Sonoma). With an enamel coating and cast-iron interior, it won’t chip or crack, and doesn’t need to be seasoned. Since it can go from stovetop to oven (it’s safe for oven temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit), use it to make your mashed potatoes, squash, or yams, then keep them hot in the oven until dinner is served.

3. Saucepan with a Spout

For an all-purpose saucepan, we like the Sitram Profiserie loading=
Above: For an all-purpose saucepan, we like the Sitram Profiserie 1.5 Quart Professional Saucepan ($69.21 from French restaurant supply company Sitram, available via Amazon). It’s good for gravy and cranberry sauce, and two spouts allow for easy pouring—no need to dirty a ladle.

4. All-Purpose Baking Dishes

We like the Rectangular Baking Dishes by Revol (shown here in black) for a multitude of holiday cooking needs. They come in four sizes, so you can use them for almost every Thanksgiving dish, from oven-baked potatoes to crumbles and crisps. They range from $40 to $0 and are available from March.
Above: We like the Rectangular Baking Dishes by Revol (shown here in black) for a multitude of holiday cooking needs. They come in four sizes, so you can use them for almost every Thanksgiving dish, from oven-baked potatoes to crumbles and crisps. They range from $40 to $100 and are available from March.

5. Kitchen-to-Table-to-Fridge Mixing Bowls

One thing we do advocate investing in: a set of good mixing bowls that you can use year-round. One of our favorites: Ceramic Nesting Bowls by Sarah Kersten. Use them to mix up batters and pie fillings, then wash them and fill them with greens and potatoes and stuffing; they&#8
Above: One thing we do advocate investing in: a set of good mixing bowls that you can use year-round. One of our favorites: Ceramic Nesting Bowls by Sarah Kersten. Use them to mix up batters and pie fillings, then wash them and fill them with greens and potatoes and stuffing; they’re pretty enough to set right on the table. Bonus: The practical lids allow for easy storage of leftovers. Available as a set of three for $260 from Food52.

6. Freezer-Safe Pie Dish

Choose a pie dish that&#8
Above: Choose a pie dish that’s pretty enough to go from oven to table. We like the Emily Henri Ceramic Pie Dish with fluted edges ($40 from Food52). For those who like to bake days in advance: it’s freezer-safe, so you can assemble the whole pie and freeze it until Thanksgiving day.

7. Dependable Chef’s Knife

Some people swear by a carving knife (the long, often-unused knife in the knife block) for carving the turkey, but we prefer a shorter, sharper chef&#8
Above: Some people swear by a carving knife (the long, often-unused knife in the knife block) for carving the turkey, but we prefer a shorter, sharper chef’s knife, which can handle almost every chopping and slicing need throughout the meal, from vegetables to potatoes. We like the Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife, currently $99.94 from Amazon. (Either way, be sure the knife you use for carving has a pointed, not rounded, end, for getting around bones.)

8. Compact Hand Mixer

When you do need something more than a whisk—say, for whipped cream—skip the clunky electric mixer and opt for an Amish Hand Mixer; €94 ($9.58) from Manufactum.
Above: When you do need something more than a whisk—say, for whipped cream—skip the clunky electric mixer and opt for an Amish Hand Mixer; €94 ($109.58) from Manufactum.

9. Easily-Washable Potato Masher

Potato mashing is another Thanksgiving task we relish doing by hand. We like the simple Stainless Steel Potato Masher, $ from Sur La Table, which is sturdy and easily washed thanks to its stainless (rather than plastic) handle. Use it after Thanksgiving for guacamole or mashed berries.
Above: Potato mashing is another Thanksgiving task we relish doing by hand. We like the simple Stainless Steel Potato Masher, $16 from Sur La Table, which is sturdy and easily washed thanks to its stainless (rather than plastic) handle. Use it after Thanksgiving for guacamole or mashed berries.

 10. Easy-to-Read Thermometer

One specialty tool that&#8
Above: One specialty tool that’s good to have around for Thanksgiving: a dependable, easy-to-read thermometer to easily tell when the bird is cooked through (especially important for novice cooks). But it doesn’t need to be expensive, with all the bells and whistles: From thermometer specialists CDN, the Meat and Poultry Thermometer is $8.83 via Amazon. The classic face has a helpful, at-a-glance chart that indicates the correct cooking temperature for poultry (and other meats, for the holiday roast and beyond).

11. Trusty Flat Whisk

The aforementioned flat whisk: We like the Stainless Steel Flat Whisk, $loading=
Above: The aforementioned flat whisk: We like the Stainless Steel Flat Whisk, $12 from Sur La Table, as a low-profile substitute for complex processors and appliances.

12. Prep-to-Dinner Wooden Spoons

We like good old-fashioned wooden spoons for every purpose on Thanksgiving, from mixing to taste-testing to serving. This Baker&#8
Above: We like good old-fashioned wooden spoons for every purpose on Thanksgiving, from mixing to taste-testing to serving. This Baker’s Dozen Wooden Spoon Set in large from Food52 comes with 13 spoons that will serve every purpose in the kitchen and look rustic and refined on the table; $130.
We have a soft spot for wonderfully specific kitchen tools, too. For the gadgets that do one task and do it well, see:

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