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This year’s holiday season might look a little different, but you can still find ways to celebrate. Whether you’re gathering with a small group of loved ones or cooking Thanksgiving dinner solo for the first time, now is the perfect time to start prepping for holiday meals. Our editors are passionate about food, so they’ve tried out too many kitchen tools—from cool gadgets that make cooking easier to quality dinnerware and serveware that dress up a table—to count. Whether you’re in charge of drinks or are sticking to your signature side, these Thanksgiving must-haves will make you regret not buying them sooner.
Having bakeware that can go straight from the oven to the table is convenient. “I used to only use plain metal baking pans or those throw-away aluminum ones to cook up/reheat all my Thanksgiving sides. Last year I decided to up my game a little bit and bought a few of these,” says The Spruce Eats General Manager Eric Handelsman. Available in oval, rectangular, or round shapes with or without handles, this stoneware ensures your food bakes evenly even if it’s a large portion. “Plus, they’re inexpensive enough to buy a few and it will really up your entertaining chops.”
“A fat separator is something that I keep in my top shelf, and it has survived many moves because it is so extremely helpful for making gravy,” says The Spruce Eats Editorial Director Heather Ramsdell. “The spout comes from the bottom and separates the fat from the precious pan juices collected from my turkey pan,” she explains. Just put the stopper in the spout before pouring the pan juices in through the strainer, and the fat will be left on top. When you’re ready to use the drippings, remove the stopper and pour them out.
This clever gadget is even dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. “I don't have a lot of room for single-use tools, but this one is worth it.”
“I use this kitchen tool all year round, but it's especially important come Thanksgiving. Thanks to the Thermapen, there's no more guessing if the turkey is ready—just pop the instant read thermometer into the meatiest part of the thigh and rest assured that you'll know when your bird hits the right temperature,” explains Patty Lee, Senior Food Editor.
Although not the cheapest meat thermometer out there, experts love this because it’s super fast and super accurate. The Thermapen Mk4 gives you a temperature reading in up to three seconds without even pressing a button. Better yet, it has a rotating display screen, is waterproof, and is motion sensing.
Keeping up with all the sides and ingredients on a busy cooking day can be hectic, so it’s necessary to stay organized. “Organization is the key to sanity. I use the large containers to organize my freezer before shopping for Thanksgiving so that there is room for leftovers,” Ramsdell says. “I section off an area for regular food so that I know where all of the Thanksgiving food is. I am going to use the small partitioned containers with removable dividers to store prepped carrots, celery, and onions because three-quarters of the dishes I make need those ingredients.”
The iDesign + The Spruce collection at Lowe’s features two Fridge+Freeze Bins and two plastic utensil holders for you to mix and match your kitchen organization.
“A COVID Thanksgiving means maximizing time outside, whether that's gathering in a park for a turkey day potluck with friends, or posting up in the backyard for a fall feast,” says The Spruce Eats Associate Food Editor Kristin Stangl. “Those of us in slightly cooler climates who are playing host can up the comfort game by setting a large basket of cozy warm throw blankets next to the (outdoor) dinner table. These fleece ones from IKEA are super affordable and will come in handy if the temps begin to dip before the pie gets served.” Your guests will thank you for being so thoughtful, and your wallet will thank you for staying in budget.
If your family Thanksgiving involves eating outside or just needs some extra seating, camp chairs are a must. “My family has several Thanksgivings, and this year, two of them are going to be in parks. I bring these chairs to every single picnic so this Thanksgiving is no different,” Ramsdell says. "They are so small and light and their height makes my lap perfect for holding a plate.” Available in three water-repellent colors, this chair was made to provide comfort for different body types and set up super easily.
If you have yet to try a potato ricer, you’re missing out. “I am routinely made fun of for bringing my ricer to my host’s house. Nothing makes potatoes as fluffy in my honest opinion,” Ramsdell says. She loves it so much that she even made a One Thing Video about it, sharing that using the ricer saves prep time because you don't have to peel the potatoes first. This model from OXO comes with three disks built in to test out different consistencies for your best mashed potatoes yet. Just rotate the disk clockwise to make everything from gnocchi to chunky applesauce.
“To add simple but meaningful flair to our holiday table, we break out an easy-to-use butter mold like this one at Thanksgiving every year,” says Food Editor Jess Kapadia. Not just for butter, this mold can be used for chocolate, candy coating, soap, or cream cheese. “If you're going to bake fluffy dinner rolls or cornbread for guests, taking a few extra minutes to shape butter into a turkey will definitely result in increased enthusiasm for something ordinary like slathering bread. Many supermarkets sell pre-molded butter around the holidays, but doing it yourself opens up the possibilities to herb or other compound butter that can add a special touch to your meal.”
“Over the last few years, I've made many a roast turkey. Whether it was for Friendsgiving or for a photoshoot, the tool that provided the most flavor to my bird was actually what some consider the most insignificant: a baster,” says Editorial Project Manager Victoria Heydt. “There's something about basting a turkey with the juices and spices (and even beer!) from the roasting pan that yields a mouthwateringly juicy and flavorful result. Since they are super affordable, I highly recommend everyone get one and test it out for themselves. I assure you, you won't go back to baste-less birds.”
This budget-friendly, nylon baster is something that you can use year-round for everything from scallops to pork chops.
Ramekins are one of the most versatile items you can stock your kitchen, and they have almost infinite uses at Thanksgiving. “These make the cutest single-serving desserts, but at Thanksgiving, my family also uses them for everything from prep work and appetizers to storing leftovers. They are great for holding leftover stuffing—each one is the perfect serving size—and you can just pop them in the oven the next day to reheat and then into the dishwasher for easy cleaning,” says Mary Kate Hoban, Editor of The Spruce Eats Commerce.
Thanksgiving Day drinks might be the last thing on your mind when planning out the day, better yet what you’re going to serve them in. If you’re looking to elevate your dinner spread or are serving different drinks, a clear drink dispenser is your answer. The Spruce Eats Social Media Manager Brooke Schuldt loves this Pure Drink Dispenser because it’s “good for mixed drinks or water to wash away all the stuffing bloat.” Featuring a solid acacia wood lid and stand, this dispenser will look chic next to even your best dinnerware.
“My husband and I have hosted Canadian Friendsgiving every October since we moved to NYC, and for the first couple of years I didn't have a proper roaster for the turkey,” says Kate McKenna, The Spruce Eats Email Editor. “After one disastrous year when the flimsy disposable roaster I was using collapsed in the oven, spilling turkey juice everywhere and filling the apartment with smoke, I decided it was time to invest!”
That’s why McKenna recommends this two-piece roaster. It features a V rack that helps food cook evenly and handles that make it easy to pick up. “I can't believe I ever lived without one, and I never have to relive that smoky Thanksgiving ever again.”
Dutch ovens are ideal for cooking everything from sides to soup, and they’re beautiful enough to go straight to the table. “This one has looped handles to make it easy to move around, and the enameled cast iron keeps the contents piping hot until it's time to eat, so I have plenty of time to finish the other dishes and whip up the gravy,” says Taysha Murtaugh, Associate Editorial Director of The Spruce Eats Commerce.
“Believe it or not, I love this cutting board so much I once talked about it at a party,” says Jay Egger, Senior Growth & Content Strategy Analyst for The Spruce Eats. “With over a foot of length, it will keep you focused on carving your turkey—not fighting for space on a small cutting board. Increasing the size of your working station is the cheapest improvement that pays dividends.”
As a bonus, this plastic, nonporous board is double-sided, which helps to avoid cross-contamination. One side boasts grooves for catching juices, and rubber grips prevent the board from sliding around as you cut.
Whether your family members opt to drop off dishes at each other’s houses or you’re cooking for two and expect to have a lot of leftovers, you’re going to need some quality food storage. “This glass set is durable and attractive—a major step up from the cheap plastic containers I used to have,” Murtaugh says. “Plus, the bases are microwave- and oven-safe for easy reheating.”