Thanksgiving is so close you can almost smell the stuffing. If you're cooking the feast this year, it's high time to get organized. By now you've considered what kind of turkey to order, the guest list, and, perhaps, what to do with Uncle Phil if he gets out of line...again. Here's your next step: Make sure you have the five essential tools for a successful feast. No, an electric carving knife doesn't make the list, but here's what does:
Digital Kitchen Timer
Timing is everything, especially at Thanksgiving. You've got turkey, dressing, and potato gratin all in the oven, and they'll all be done at different times. This is no time to depend on that cute little wind-up timer or, even worse, your memory. You need a timer that can track the progress of all three and tell you what time it is. You need something like this Presto four-in-one Electronic Clock/Timer.
6 Steps to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving
A Sharp Knife
I've said it before and I'll say it again, there are two things you should always do before you cook: wash your hands and sharpen your knives. At Thanksgiving, the latter is especially important since your carving skills will be on display. Carving a turkey is simple (here's a step-by-step guide) and you don't need an expensive carving set, but if you attempt to slice anything with a dull knife, the results won't be pretty.
Let's get one thing clear: never, ever cook your bird (or any meal you care about) in those flimsy aluminum foil roasting pans available at the supermarket. They break easily and all the good bits left over from roasting a bird--the stuff that makes gravy gravy--gets stuck to the bottom. Instead, invest in a quality roasting pan. Yes, they're a bit expensive, but you'll have it forever and it's extremely versatile. I like All-Clad's 16" Stainless Steel Roasting Pan (not nonstick).
How to Roast the Perfect Turkey
There are some people who argue that great gravy is the key to Thanksgiving dinner. Those people are correct. For delicious, picture-perfect gravy, you should separate the fat from the pan juices. To make this task super easy, use a fat separator. The four-cup Oxo Good Grips Fat Separator model (pictured above) works well. Remember, even a mediocre gravy can save dry turkey.
Most supermarket birds come equipped with a pop up thermometer. That will work--if you're into overcooked meat (they're made to pop at 180°F; I pull my bird from the oven at 161°F). To guarantee a perfectly cooked bird with minimal stress, buy a probe thermometer with digital base, insulated wire, and an alarm. When it's time to start cooking the turkey, insert the thermometer's probe into the deepest part of the breast, set the alarm, and forget it. Your bird will cook faster since you won't open the door every 10 minutes causing the oven's temperature to drop.
Is there another tool that's essential to your Thanksgiving feast? Tell us.
Related: Top 7 Most Common Turkey Emergencies (and How to Fix Them)
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