When it comes to preparing a massive meal like Thanksgiving Day dinner, I have learned (often the hard way) there are some tools I would not want to do without.
Here is a list of my top must-haves:
Heavy-bottomed roasting pan — Buy the best you can afford. If roasting a turkey in one of those throwaway aluminum pans, you will not have good drippings for flavorful pan gravy. Thin aluminum is not a good conductor of heat, and so there’s a risk burning the bird.
Years ago, I took the plunge and purchased a heavy duty roasting pan. I have never regretted it. I use it for roasting chickens, rib roasts, crown pork roasts, beef tenderloin, pork loin, ham and, of course, turkey.
Fat separator — When pouring pan drippings into a fat separator, the fat and flavorful juices are almost immediately separated. Then, you can easily pour the drippings into gravy, giving it true depth of flavor, something not possible from bottled or powdered gravy. You can pour the drippings into a glass bowl and then spoon off the fat, but a fat separator makes the task easier and more precise.
Meat thermometer — If you’ve ever begun carving the turkey and found it to be raw near the bone, you know the importance of a reliable thermometer. Digital ones are terrific for giving an instant read. Just make sure to insert it into the thickest part of the turkey and do not touch the bone.
Oven-safe serving containers — For a big dinner like Thanksgiving, avoid using grandma’s heirloom bowl. Whenever possible, minimize cleanup and streamline preparation.
Carving knife and fork — My mother always used (and still uses) an electric knife, but we prefer a sharp carving knife and fork. A good set is not cheap, but with proper care it will last a lifetime. Whichever you prefer, make sure to have a carving set handy.
Lovely platter — Whether you carve the turkey at the table or in the kitchen, remember to purchase (or borrow) a large enough platter.
Garnish, garnish, garnish. A garnished turkey platter is certain to receive plenty of oohs and aahs. Use fresh herbs, cranberries, kumquats or whatever else you have on hand.
Plastic containers for leftovers — If sending leftovers home with any guests, purchase some containers at the dollar store. That way you don’t have to worry about getting the containers back.
Wrapping — Have plenty of aluminum foil, plastic wrap and plastic zipper bags in all sizes.
A plan — Jot down a timeline for the big day. Even if you think there is no way you will forget to warm up the rolls or set out the cranberry sauce, having it all written down takes the stress of forgetting out of the equation.
One last thought. Thanksgiving Day is a special time for most families.
Years ago, we started a new tradition at our home. Besides the traditional blessing, we also go around the table and everybody says what they are thankful for.
This is a great way for even young children to begin to think about and verbalize what really matters in life.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers. We are certainly thankful for all of you.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.