The Gear I Need to Tackle My First Thanksgiving

Check out our guide for all the gear I’ll be relying on this year.

This year, I’m hosting our family for Thanksgiving for the first time. While I’ve hosted several Friendsgivings in the past, they’re usually potluck-style and casual. Here’s how I’m tackling my first time as the host—and cook and baker—of an entire Thanksgiving feast. First, I’m sharpening our chef’s knife and getting out our top-rated roasting pan and favorite carving board. Next, I’m inventorying my utensils. I’ll need our best balloon whisk to make homemade gravy and whipped cream. Finally, I’ll grab our winning pie plate which ensures crisp and flaky pie crust every time.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

Pizzas emerged perfectly browned and crisp on the outside, with a tender interior, as if they were baked in a professional pizza oven. The steel also provided excellent oven spring to make our rustic bread loaf rise tall and develop a deeply browned, crackly chewy crust. While it’s a beast to lift, being absolutely flat with no handholds (but also no cutouts that waste space), this steel is tough and will last forever, providing easy cleanup—just keep it dry and oil it lightly after washing, as you would a carbon-steel or cast-iron skillet.

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Still the best—and a bargain—after 20 years, this knife’s “super-sharp” blade was “silent” and “smooth,” even as it cut through tough squash, and it retained its edge after weeks of testing. Its textured grip felt secure for a wide range of hand sizes, and thanks to its gently rounded edges and the soft, hand-polished top spine, we could comfortably choke up on the knife for “precise,” “effortless” cuts.

Update: November 2013 Since our story appeared, the price of our winning Victorinox Swiss Army 8" Chef's Knife with Fibrox Handle has risen from $27.21 to about $39.95. We always report the price we paid for products when we bought them for testing; however, product prices are subject to change.

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Our longtime winner excelled, with uniform, steady heating and good visibility inside the saucepan to monitor browning. Its cup-shaped stay-cool handle was easy to grip, and a helper handle provided another grabbing point when the pan was full. Even after brutal whacking on concrete, this model emerged with only tiny dents inside and one slight dent on the bottom, and it still sat flat on the counter.

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With an ergonomic Santoprene rubber handle and a balanced, lightweight feel, this whisk was like an extension of a hand. It whipped cream and egg whites quickly, thanks to 10 wires that were thin enough to move through the liquid quickly but thick enough to push through heavy mixtures and blend pan sauces to smoothness.

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With a roomy, medium-depth basket of very fine, tight, stiff mesh, this strainer removed lots of bran from whole-wheat flour and produced silky purees. A long, wide hook allowed it to sit securely on a variety of cookware, and while its rounded steel handle was a bit less comfortable than some, it was still easy to hold. This strainer’s sturdy construction makes it worth its high price: It looked as good as new even after serious abuse.

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This fat separator had a large strainer dotted with many small perforations for fast and efficient filtering. It also had easy-to-read measurement lines written on its side in red. Most impressive, it had a tightly sealed bottom release valve, ensuring no leaks, even after we opened and closed the valve 150 times and washed the model on the top rack of the dishwasher 10 times. The only small issue: It requires a strong squeeze to open it.

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Our previous favorite still excelled with power; precision; and a compact, streamlined design that takes up less space than most food processors, despite having one of the largest capacities, all at a moderate price. Its smooth, simple bowl and blade design are easy to handle, monitor during use, and clean. Its unusual feed tube placement allows for increased bowl visibility. It comes with just three blades for chopping, shredding, and slicing that can all be stored inside the bowl, with no accessories box to deal with. However, since we last tested it, the chopping blade was redesigned and leaves slightly bigger gaps between it and the bottom and side of the bowl, so it couldn’t effectively incorporate egg yolks into single-batch mayonnaise. We didn’t discover any other adverse effects from these slightly bigger gaps, which were still narrower than those of lower-ranked models. It did chop mirepoix uniformly and was one of only two models to give us perfectly green-colored yogurt in our dye test. Although it lacks a mini bowl for very small jobs, a double batch of mayonnaise worked well.

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These oven mitts kept our hands comfortably cool and in control when holding hot equipment or reaching into a hot oven. When compressed, they were the thickest of the models with a silicone exterior. The silicone is heavily textured for better grip, and because it flexed with our hands, we could easily pinch thin cookie sheets and small handles or knobs. The fabric lining moved around inside the mitts at times during use, but it stayed put better than the linings of other models. The mitts can be machine-washed, but they have to be laid flat to dry. The silicone became permanently stained.

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This golden-hued metal plate baked crusts beautifully without overbrowning; even bottom crusts emerged crisp and flaky. Additionally, we liked this plate’s nonfluted lip, which allowed for maximum crust-crimping flexibility. One minor drawback: The metal surface is susceptible to cuts and nicks, but we found that this didn’t affect its performance.

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This classic model was accurate and had bold, easy-to-read measurement lines that clearly corresponded to specific numbers. The handle, though small, was smooth and wide enough to be comfortable. We also liked that the glass resisted staining and was durable. Our one criticism: Using the cup properly requires crouching down and looking at the lines at eye level, which was uncomfortable for some. 

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