equipment
Here’s What a Professional Kitchen Equipment Tester is Using to Cook Her First Solo Thanksgiving
Whisk? Check! Baking sheets? Check? Fat separator? Check!
10-26-2020
Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

This year will be my first time cooking Thanksgiving solo and I am a wee bit nervous. To be clear, I have made Thanksgiving dinner before, but never without my dad to take care of the turkey or my mom to make her mac and cheese. 

My parents are heading to Pennsylvania to spend the holiday with my grandma, who would otherwise be very lonely. And because of COVID-19 and wanting to stay as socially distanced as possible, my husband and I will be spending Thanksgiving just the two of us, attempting to make all of our favorite dishes. 

As an equipment tester, when I found out about everyone’s Thanksgiving plans, my initial (very on-brand) thought was: Do I even have the right equipment to make a full-on Thanksgiving meal? A quick assessment of my kitchen answered that. I did have most of what I’d need to make a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and a few family-favorite dishes, but I was definitely missing some essentials. 

Core Equipment

If this is your first time making a Thanksgiving meal too, here are five core pieces of kitchen equipment that you’ll need to get the job done (bonus: they’re also really, really useful no matter the time of the year).

Rimmed baking sheet
Cooling rack
Dutch oven

Rimmed Baking Sheets: If you know me, you know I have an obsession with my rimmed baking sheets and own four half-sheets and four quarter-sheets, all of which will be helping me on Thanksgiving with all sorts of tasks: holding my prepped ingredients, toasting nuts, drying out bread cubes for stuffing, roasting vegetables, and roasting the turkey (more on that below). 

Wire Rack: For an alternative to an expensive roasting pan, set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet, like you would for cooling cookies. That’s it! Will it be more unwieldy than a roasting pan with a turkey on top of it? Yeah, but the wire rack-rimmed baking sheet combo is a heck of a lot cheaper. Plus, if you’re cooking for two or a smaller group, you may well have a modest bird or even a turkey breast. Wire racks will also be useful for cooling rolls and pie.

Dutch Oven: I’ll use my Dutch oven for making gravy and cranberry sauce and boiling potatoes for mashing, of course. I haven’t found my favorite gravy yet (I’m going to try this recipe this year!), but my go-to cranberry sauce hearkens back to my college days. My professor, Jim Shahin—who was the barbecue columnist for the Washington Post—brought in a cranberry chutney for our journalism class’s Thanksgiving party. It was slightly spicy and packed with raisins, dried figs, and pistachios. I never attend a Thanksgiving meal without it. 

As far as the mashed potatoes go, even though it’ll just be the two of us, I’ll probably make enough mashed potatoes to serve eight because I love both mashed potatoes and using up leftover mashed potatoes in creative ways, such as potato cakes and tots.

13 by 9-inch Broiler-Safe Baking Dish: My cousin and his husband gave me our winning 13 by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish, the Mrs. Anderson's Baking Lasagna Pan with Handle, as a wedding present (thank you, Joey and Brian!). It’s always one of my favorite dishes, but especially on Thanksgiving, where it will be pulling double-duty with stuffing and my mother-in-law’s recipe for gingersnap-topped mashed sweet potatoes.

Whisks: Gravy, pie filling, marinades—my whisks will be getting quite a workout on Thanksgiving! I will also be using this holiday as an excuse to buy our top-rated mini whisk, which will be helpful for salad dressing especially.

Specialty Equipment For Thanksgiving Cooking

If you’re like me and have the basic equipment, but want to go a step further with your gear, here are four investment-worthy items that’ll help you make Thanksgiving classics.

Potato ricer
Fat separator
Pie server

Potato Ricer: Considering how much I love mashed potatoes, I myself was surprised I do not already own a potato ricer. I’ll be buying this one from RSVP International, which is our favorite and highly recommended.

Fat Separator: I’ve had some serious gravy fails in the past, and this year I’m determined to make the best gravy ever. So, I’m investing in a fat separator. I probably won’t use it much outside of Thanksgiving, but for gravy? It’s worth it. 

Pie Plate & Pie Server: I’m not a pie person, but I love pumpkin pie. And while I do have a pie plate, it came from Goodwill and is definitely not the best, which is why I’m buying our favorite from Williams Sonoma. I’ll also be ordering a pie server and I’m particularly excited about its serrated slicing edge.