Ever tried carving a turkey on a tiny cutting board using a chef's knife and dinner fork? If so, you can appreciate the necessity of a well-equipped kitchen, especially when tackling Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately, if you're pretty well-stocked with the basics and a few entertaining essentials, it won't take too much more to get you prepared for the big day.
Roasting Pan and Rack:
Choose a roasting pan that comes with a rack, which will keep the turkey from sitting in its juices and allow air to flow around it, making for crispy, bronzed skin. Avoid a nonstick coating -- it's not necessary and a stainless-steel surface will more easily brown all those tasty drippings that give flavor to gravy. Consider a set that includes turkey lifters -- these two large forklike utensils will make it easier to turn or move the turkey.
To make sure that your bird is cooked to the right temperature -- and not a drying degree more -- check it with an accurate thermometer. There are two types of meat thermometers: An instant-read gives you a reading as soon as you insert it into the bird. It's relatively inexpensive and handy to have around for many kitchen tasks. An ovenproof thermometer avoids the need to keep opening the oven and checking the bird until it's done; a probe remains in the bird throughout the cooking process, communicating with an external monitor that tells you when the turkey's done.
Unless your bird comes with its legs already trussed, you'll need sturdy cotton twine to tie them together before roasting. Don't forget to remove the string before serving.
To make smooth gravy, a whisk is essential. Look for a stainless-steel version with a flexible wire head and comfortable handle. An all-purpose model will work just fine, but a flat sauce whisk, designed for whisking on an angle, will make it easy to deglaze the pan and stir the roux.
You could carve your turkey on a platter, but a wooden cutting board will anchor the bird in one place to avoid slippage. (Some boards have grids in the center for even more stability.) Look for one that's large enough to comfortably accommodate your bird and has a well around its perimeter to catch juices. Integral handles will make the board easier to carry to the table.
A sturdy carving set, with a sharp knife and pronged fork, will allow you to steady the turkey while slicing it. Both utensils should feel comfortable and balanced in your hand.
Brining Bag (Optional):
These large, heavy-duty plastic bags allow the turkey to be brined in the fridge without squeezing it into a pot, and the bag can be pulled up tight around the bird to ensure that all parts are immersed in liquid. To avoid leaks, look for a bag with a secure closing mechanism. Be sure to discard it after use.
Flavor Injector (Optional):
This syringelike tool allows you to pump your turkey full of tasty marinades or moistening agents before cooking. Look for an easy-to-handle model, preferably made from stainless steel, with a sturdy needle and a window that reveals the amount of liquid contained within.
A good baster will allow you to quickly draw large quantities of liquid from the bottom of the roasting pan and release them on top of the bird before too much heat escapes from the oven. Look for an easy-to-clean model with a heat-tolerant silicone bulb and dripless tube.
Fat Separator (Optional):
When making gravy, you'll need to separate the fat from the pan juices. In the past, cooks ladled off the fat, but this specially designed cup makes the process quick and easy. You simply pour in the juices and wait a minute for the fat to rise to the top. The low spout then allows you to pour off the liquid, leaving the fat behind. Look for a fat separator that's heat-resistant -- we prefer glass models with measurement markings on the side. Some come with removable strainers to keep any chunky drippings out of the gravy.Get Epicurious.com's recommended tools for cooking and baking and for serving your guests!
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