The fourth Thursday in November looms large in the minds of both at-home chef’s and first-time turkey cookers. It’s a time to dazzle your extended family, with tasty turkey, out-of-this-world sides and perfectly cooked pies. But, without the right tools for the job, all your hard work might find your Turkey Day missing the mark.
Here is a list of our Top Five Thanksgiving Turkey Tools:
5 – Carving Board
A carving board is something that’s often overlooked in the kitchen. Whether it’s plastic, paper composite, glass, or wood, a second rate cutting board has the potential to put a cramp in the carving of your bird.
Too slippery and the board could launch right off the kitchen counter sending a once flightless bird airborne. Too porous and the board may warp, crack, or break leaving valuable turkey drippings all over the counter. Too brittle and bacteria may be hiding in deep cut scars from cooks past.
A few characteristics to consider when you’re looking for the perfect cutting board include, cutting surface, weight, stability, and durability. After putting several carving boards to the test, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen found one that out performed the rest.
We took a look at a few tests conducted by the chef’s at America’s Test Kitchen and echo their choice for your “must-have” carving board.
The J.K. Adams Reversible Carving Board is reasonably priced at $70 for a Medium (14”X 20”) and $105 for a Large (16”X 24”). The board is crafted of North American maple, which is durable enough to withstand daily use, yet gentle enough on your knife’s edge. And, with such a large surface area, the J.K. Adams Carving board is big enough for even the largest birds.
One side has an indentation to secure your turkey for carving and the other is flat to accommodate everything else; both sides have a 1/2”-wide channel to catch your drippings.
4 – Roasting Pan
With prices that range from $20-200 dollars, selecting the right roasting pan can be difficult. Whether it’s the weight of the pan (don’t forget to factor in a 15lb. turkey, liquid and veggies), the overall construction, or material, the folks at American’s Test Kitchen had this to say about what makes a great roasting pan.
The first thing they considered was the pan’s handle design. After putting several models to the test, they concluded that a pan with upright handles riveted to the pan body was the best option. When pulling the pan out of the oven, his type of pan proved to be the easiest to handle (pun intended) with bulky oven mitts.
Next they factored in the pan’s weight and overall construction. Anything too heavy would make it difficult to move the bird from the counter top to the oven, and back again. A delicious turkey dinner is best eaten without a back that’s been thrown out!
As far as construction materials are concerned, they recommend a pan with an aluminum core and stainless steel coating. The aluminum ensures a uniform cook and eliminates hot spots, which could ruin an otherwise perfectly golden bird. It’s also light weight and will not present a problem when getting in and out of the oven.
The Calphalon Contemporary is everything you need in a roasting pan. It meets all of our prerequisites and comes with an affordable price tag. For that reason, the Calphalon Contemporary is a Top-Rated turkey tool.
3 – Timer
What’s Thanksgiving without a timer? When phone calls have been made, invitations extended and guests starting to arrive, timing is everything!
Mashed potatoes have to land on the table with the green bean casserole. You’ve got to have enough foresight to time the turkey so it’s ready with the homemade cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. Well, what better way to orchestrate a feast fit for a harvest party than with a big, and loud timer.
For our money, it doesn’t get any bigger, or louder than the EXTRA BIG and LOUD Timer from ThermoWorks. Built for noisy, hard-working commercial kitchens, this timer will rise above the noise created by a house full of dinner guests and alert you when your time is up.
A large 3/4″ height display let’s you see the digits from across the kitchen, and four volume settings lets you customize the sound. The unit attaches with a magnet or keyhole mounts and stores the last timer setting to memory. Did we mention it’s waterproof with an IP65 rating?
2 – Knife
There are two “must-have” knives in our Turkey Tools countdown. Now, I know what most of you are thinking, “Shouldn’t a knife be number one on the list?” Sit tight, we’ll explain why it’s not when we get there. Sufficed to say, they come in second – a close second.
Your perfectly cooked bird needs the love and attention of perfectly paired carving tools. We recommend two, a carving knife, and a deboning knife to maneuver around bones and sinew.
The perfect carving knife’s longer blade is perfect for accommodating larger cuts of meat (i.e. breast, ham, roast). A blade of at least 10-12” is necessary to get the job done right.
Another characteristic to look for is a granton edge. This unique design removes a portion of metal from the blade, which reduces the surface area of the blade, helping to eliminate drag against the meat; it also makes the blade edge a little thinner. A thinner blade means thinner slices of meat!
Your deboning knife will have a very narrow blade that can easily negotiate the tight spaces around the bones. A 6” blade is preferred, and should be flexible, but not too flexible. You’ll want to be able to feel the blade as you address the meat and have total control as you carve out the tastiest morsels.
Another important consideration is a handle that retains its grip even as your hands become greasy. A slip of the hand and a cut on the finger can contaminate the turkey and leave you scrambling for a replacement.
The knives that live up to the task are the Victorinox 6” Deboning Knife and 12” Carving Knife. Their reasonable price points and exceptional level of quality make them a “must-have” on your turkey tools list.
1 – Thermometer
Our number one turkey tools is a cooking thermometer. Not only will they help you protect yourself from food borne illness, but will also help ensure that your bird is cooked to a perfectly done internal temperature. For that reason, it beats out a kitchen knife for the number one spot.
From start to finish, a cooking thermometer can help you know what your bird is doing. Before it goes into the oven, you can insert a thermometer probe that can be left in the turkey as it cooks in the oven. The Original Oven Thermometer will allow you to monitor the internal temperature of the turkey from a meter that sits outside of the oven.
No more opening the oven door to spot check the turkey and letting valuable heat escape into the kitchen.
As the turkey gets closer to “done,” the Super-Fast Thermapen is a great instant-read thermometer that’s ideal for spot checking areas in the breast and thigh. It’s super-fast three second readings ensure that when you have to open the open door you’re in and out in as little time as possible.
Finally, for the unconventional turkey chef, who prefers to smoke, or fry their bird, we recommend the versatile TW8060. It’s dual thermocouple channels will let you monitor two temperatures at once.
Turkey smokers can watch the temperature of their pit with one channel and the internal temperature of their bird with the other. Deep fryers can keep an eye on their oil temperature while watching their turkey. There’s even an alarm that will alert you when you’ve reached your ideal internal temperature!
When food safety is on the line and you’ve got a house full of hungry mouths, you can never have too many thermometers.
Stay for future posts where we’ll share what we’ve learned about alternatives to roasting a turkey. We’ve come out of the ThermoWorks’ Test Kitchen with some great tips, tools and techniques for smoking and frying your Thanksgiving Feast.