Thanksgiving Classics, Reimagined

It’s everything we’ve always loved about the holiday, just improved slightly.

We love Thanksgiving classics—but this year we’re putting a fresh spin on some of our favorite side dishes and desserts. We’re starting by using one of our favorite appliances: our top-rated   air fryer. By using it to make Air-Fryer Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash, the oven will be available for other foods. We’re also making our version of the classic jellied cranberry sauce with this new recipe from Adam Reid. It’s imbued with fresher, fruitier flavor that will convince even the cranberry-sauce skeptics at the table. This recipe relies on our winning fine-mesh strainer to achieve that iconic silky-smooth texture. And to get some pumpkin flavor without the hassle of baking a pie, we’re making these pumpkin cheesecake bars. The recipe uses our longtime favorite food processor and a mixture of ground ginger, graham crackers, and melted butter to make a delicious crust.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

This model, our previous favorite, was not as heavy as the Batali wheel, so we had to use slightly more force, and roll back and forth a few extra times to cut through chewier crusts, but it did the job. It won points for its well-designed wheel, which was easy to clean, its thumb guard, and the large, soft handle that absorbed extra pressure.

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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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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 new favorite won us over with its ultrasharp, moderately flexible blade, which made every task seem nearly effortless. It kept its edge throughout testing, even after deboning an additional 10 chicken breasts. Its slightly shorter length proved especially advantageous with finer jobs, giving us more control as we boned chicken breasts. And although we wish the plastic handle were made of a grippier material, its slim profile made it easy to grasp in different ways.

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Although made from single-ply stainless steel, this durable, sturdy small roasting pan turned out beautiful, well-browned food. Its handles were a little smaller than we prefer but still reasonably easy to grip. Its V-shaped nonstick rack did a good job of holding the chicken, though it slipped around in the pan a tiny bit more than we would have liked. Note that this model has a slight indentation around the perimeter that serves as a mini grease trough; this can make it a little trickier to make gravy, and you’ll have to move roasting vegetables around a touch to brown them evenly.

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Our winner had it all: Straight sides that produced attractive cakes with well-defined edges and a 1⁄2-inch lip that made it easy to hold. It was the only metal model in the lineup that was molded, a construction technique that renders it seamless and therefore easy to clean (even though it is not dishwasher-safe). It lacked a nonstick coating, but baked goods released with ease when we greased and floured the pan. We did notice very faint scratches in the bottom of the pan after repeated passes with a paring knife.

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This saucepan has the same tri-ply fully-clad construction as our top-rated All-Clad pan, with two layers of stainless steel sandwiched around a layer of aluminum. It performed almost as well, but ran a little fast and hot, so onions browned slightly around the perimeter of the pan. The cooking surface is relatively narrow. The moderately heavy frame was easy to lift and scrape food from, but its handle gets hot during extended cooking. Its shiny interior dulled after cleaning up pilaf, and it suffered more damage in our abuse testing than higher-ranked models.

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This simple, small, sleek model aced every test: It was the most powerful of the lineup at 1,100 watts, making it the fastest to heat water, and it held whatever temperature we set with perfect accuracy, whether we were cooking for 12 minutes or 20 hours. Easy and quick to set and monitor via an extremely user-friendly app (that’s compatible with iOS and Android), it’s also simple to clip onto any size vessel for cooking (if desired, a strong magnet in the base lets you stand it in metal pots without clipping it). Because it has no display, it isn’t harmed when it’s dropped in the water, unlike other models. Its small, lightweight, and slim profile makes it a snap to store when you’re done cooking. (Note: The only difference between this model and the stainless-steel version—which costs about $50 more—is the trim on the outside of the device, so we recommend this less-expensive polycarbonate model.)

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