Thanksgiving Kitchen Essentials


Kitchen Tools You Need To Own

The Basics

Every kitchen should be equipped with the basics. Standard items like cookware, casserole dishes, and spatulas.


Optional items can make your life simpler.   This includes items like an immersion blender or a kitchen torch.


And then there are the expensive, I just gotta have it, kind of tools.  Like a standing mixer or a sous vide water bath cooker. Things that any home chef would love to have.

Each Kitchen Tool Has Its Place

When it comes to cooking a full Thanksgiving meal, the right kitchen tools and appliances will make all the difference. Quality and specific use is the difference between “making due” and “making magic”. When it comes to a large dinner with multiple sides, salads, desserts, and gravy, it’s important to know what you need before you need it. 

What is it about cooking?

I love to cook.  I’m in our kitchen every evening chopping, mixing, and creating meals.  But I don’t cook for myself.  If my husband is out of town, I’ll be pouring myself a bowl of raisin bran or heating up leftovers.  So, is it truly for the love of cooking itself? Or do I spend hours in the kitchen because I have a need to feed others?  What makes me happy is having friends and family sit down together to break bread and leave with a full belly. When they’re happy, I’m happy. Cooking, for me, is a reason to bring people together to share and make memories. And cooking with the right tools makes everything more enjoyable. 

Cooking for a small army?

Or making a small meal for two?

If you’re cooking a whole turkey with all the sides, you’ll want to own all of the basics.  If this is your first big holiday meal, start with the essentials to get your dinner going.   If you rank higher in the family and have seen your fair share of large family meals, jump further down the list to the finer things in life with a few of the more costly, but luxurious kitchen purchases.


Every home cook should own these basic items if you plan on inviting guests over for the holidays.  I’ve included items that are inexpensive, necessary for holiday meals, have multi-year-round use, and are of a high enough quality without spending crazy money.  These are your true essentials to cook a holiday meal!

Carbon Steel Roaster

Not the most expensive, not the fanciest – but it’s exactly what you need and when it comes to a full sit-down meal, owning the right tools is as important as not burning the turkey.


This roaster comes with a “floating rack” to hold your turkey, ham, or chicken up and away from the grease at the bottom.  The side handles are a must.  The upside to the carbon steel material is that you can use it right on the stovetop to make your gravy.  This roaster is also non-stick, so clean-up is a breeze.  But please, DO NOT put this in your dishwasher if your want to own it for the long haul.

Baking Dish Set

You’ll want an 8×8 and a 9×13-inch set.  These are basic pyrex and will last forever. I still have mine from my first wedding in 1995.  If they can outlast a marriage, they’ll be the ones I stand by.


These are the two most used sizes for most recipes.  The included lids mean the leftovers can go easily into the fridge.  If you are making sides to take along somewhere other than your own kitchen, you’ll want the lids and this casserole carrier.

Knife Set

I know that a quality knife is expensive.  And if you have the money, I’m a big fan of Shun Knives, but for knives that will slice easily through your turkey and also your tomatoes, while not breaking the bank, these can’t be beat!


I can’t explain the science behind ceramic knives or why these inexpensive things seem to stay sharper than my $800 set.  They are very SHARP! and clean up easily – but as with ANY knife you own, DO NOT put them in the dishwasher.  The included plastic sleeves let you add them to your kitchen drawers without fear of cutting yourself or causing damage to the blade.  Bonus, if you’re looking for camping knives that don’t cost much, grab a set now!

Large Cutting Board

As far as basics go, this one will do the job.  With any wooden cutting board, maintenance is the key to lifetime use. Regularly clean with warm water and mild dish soap. Because all wood is porous, don’t let it soak in water and dry well to prevent warping or swelling.  For a sanitizing deep clean,  scrub with vinegar and salt and rinse in warm water.  When the board is completely dry, rub in food-grade mineral oil and let the oil absorb into the wood grain.  I do this a few times a year.


It’s inexpensive, includes grooves to hold any spillover, and the side handles let you easily carry it from countertop to table. Bamboo is almost stain-free, and it’s earth-friendly as it’s a highly renewable resource.  It’s a feel-good purchase as well as being functional.


You can spend a fortune on quality cookware, but if you just want a set that’ll git ‘er done, here’s my choice.


For the whole kit & kaboodle, this set has pretty much anything you’ll need, from boiling potatoes to cooking biscuits.  As a bonus, you’ll get the cooking/serving tools and for the leftovers, there are also five containers with lids.  The cookware is nonstick for an easy clean up with soft touch cool handles.  Looking for a starter set? Or do you just need some new pots & pans?  This is my choice for an inexpensive purchase.

Kitchen Utensil Set

This all-inclusive set will have you baking, mashing, prepping, and peeling in no time! With 42 pieces including the countertop utensil holder, everything you need is easy to store and easy to reach.


This is literally everything you need.  Essentials 101.  For a great price, you’ll get 42 pieces!  The heat-resistant nylon tools are compatible with your non-stick cookware and it’s all dishwasher safe.  The sleek contemporary black and stainless steel design will look fantastic in every kitchen.

Mixing Bowls

Pyrex wins my vote once again!  Short of dropping and breaking them, you’ll have them forever.


This set includes four bowls in the sizes you’ll need for mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy.   I love having lids to store leftovers or for hauling your favorite salad to your next potluck. There are both less expensive and costlier sets you can buy, but Pyrex has my heart. Year-round uses for mixing, serving, and storing.  What’s not to love?

My Secret To The Perfect Bird

Now that you have the basics and before we review the optional and the luxury items, I want to share my secret for making the perfect turkey, every time.  I bow down to the turkey master, ALTON BROWN.  He not only uses all the typical culinary moves but adds science to the why and how to make the perfect bird!  And believe it or not, there is NO basting!  This episode, although only 4 minutes long, is in 2 parts. If you’re interested in watching the earlier stages of turkey prep, prior to going into the oven, click here.

Optional Bits

Once you get past the basics, there are kitchen tools that are really just handy to have around for the holidays.  they may only be used a handful of times a year, but they are well worth owning.

If you’re ready to shop for some fun and unnecessary items, let’s get to the reviews!

Kitchen Torch

You don’t know you need this until you have one! Crème brûlée, check.  Perfect lemon meringue pie, check.  Roasted peppers, you bet!  If there’s a meal you normally put under the broiler, try using this instead.  It’s precise, it won’t heat up your kitchen, and it’s kind of fun to use!


You can find a kitchen torch for as little as $10 and for as much as several hundred dollars. But since I don’t need a kitchen appliance I can weld with, I chose this. The flame is impressive, so remember safety first!  The butane reading gauge will let you know if you’re running low on fuel, and the safety lock and flame adjuster will prevent any unwanted flare-ups.  Don’t forget to buy butane fuel, as this ships without.  

Digital Meat Thermometer

Any meat thermometer will work.  And the pop-up plastic piece that comes with the turkey will work in a pinch (it’s not always accurate and part of the meat may be undercooked or it pops up too late and your bird is dry)  So if you’re going to buy a thermometer, there are several advantages to a digital one over a basic instant-read thermometer. 


One great reason is the easy-to-read, large, backlit display.  My middle-aged vision appreciates this feature.   It’s intuitive to set, and it will sound an alarm when your temperature is reached.  It has both a stand to set next to the oven and a magnet to snap directly to.  It comes standard with a timer, in case you’ve loaded Alexa or SIRI up with so many dinner items, you can’t keep track of which alarm is for what any longer.

Pie Pan

Why have I placed a pie pan in the “optional” category?  Well, because most people don’t bake from scratch anymore, or they choose touse a disposable pie dish.  But if you’re going to impress your family and have the time, here is what I recommend.


OH, look! It’s another pyrex recommendation!  It also comes in a set of two.  So your aunt Edna, who hates pumpkin pie can opt-in for the apple.  Or cherry.  Or lemon meringue.  These are fairly practical as far as baking dishes go, and after the holidays they will make for a great quiche. Simple, durable, and affordable. There’s almost no excuse for serving a store-bought dessert.

Immersion Blender

From taking the lumps out of your gravy to whipping up fresh cream for your pumpkin pie, you’ll love owning an immersion blender.  I have two.  A KitchenAid and a Braun.  I prefer the Braun, although the KitchenAid detaches for the dishwasher.  The Braun just seems to work better for me and if it’s rinsed right after use, the cleaning is easy. 


The specially designed blade area limits the amount of splattering that can occur.  A very welcome and thought-out feature when you have this blending in a hot pot of soup.   This set comes with a whisk attachment and a tall perfectly-sized blender cup.  I’ve had my Braun for at least 20 years and it’s never failed.  What better endorsement is there than that?

The luxurious extras

Now for the crème de la crème of kitchen extravagance!  Once you own all the basics and have purchased the fun things, now it’s time to move on to the pricier items that you’ve longed to own and rightfully deserve!

Anything by Le Creuset

Indispensable to master chefs around the world, you’ll make Julia Child proud by owning one of these bad boys! Le Creuset is the height of kitchen cookware luxury and with 24 color options, they’re pretty enough to leave out on your stovetop all year round!


Think stovetop, bakeware, cookware kitchen tools, salt & pepper mills, and stoneware.  Le Creuset is the epitome of fine craftsmanship and high quality.   These enamel cast iron beauties have been around for about 100 years and come with a limited lifetime warranty, making this your finest go-to kitchen item for generations to come.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

Having this sitting out on your counter is a badge of honor for any home chef.   I waited to own the real thing, and in my late 40s, I opened a glossy and glorious Empire Red mixer as a Christmas gift from my boyfriend.  I also ended up marrying him a year later. Coincidence or good taste?  We’ll never know, but he’s a smart man nonetheless!


This thing is a powerhouse!  Whip up the perfect mashed potatoes, knead your own dough, or shred poultry or pork.  And with all the available attachments, it’s so much more than a mixer. Bonus, there are over 20 colors available to match any kitchen decor.

Cuisinart Food Processor

You can absolutely find a less expensive food processor.  But for my needs, Cuisinart was the only way to go.  I use it for shredding, slicing, and for making my almost world-famous pesto from my garden grown fresh basil.


This 12 Cup Food Processor has a separate 4-cup  bowl nested inside the big bowl. So it’s like having two food processors in one. Included are adjustable slicing discs and a reversible shredding disc to provide multiple food-cutting options.  It’s powerful, simple to use, and easy to clean.  All the parts go right into the dishwasher. When your food is ready, pour out your ingredients without having to remove the blade, (like most processors) making it less of a hassle and less messy to use. 

Sous Vide

This probably isn’t a luxury, but if you’re a serious cook, a Sous Vide water bath cooker will take your meals to the next level!  Not for the faint of heart, because you’ve got to be patient and genuinely love making food that resembles restaurant quality.  Between the wait time and post souviding steps that follow, you can truly create perfect meals, every time. 


I cook almost every night, but I also have very expensive restaurant expectations.  This little number perfectly cooks chicken, fish, vegetables, eggs, beef, lamb, and pork.   The consistent and reliable final meat temperature that a water bath produces ultimately saves money by not having to eat out as often.  Now if I could just get it to make a perfect extra dirty martini, I may never eat out again!

All-Clad Copper Core Cookware

This is the best of All-Clad.   Any respectable home chef would love cooking with these heavy-duty, even heat-distributing, mirror-polished beauties!


All-Clad is known for making great cookware, and these are the high end of anything they produce.  The copper core helps to keep the heat evenly distributed in your pan.  The heavy-duty bottoms are solid on the stovetop.  They’re oven and broiler-safe up to 600°.  They come with a limited lifetime warranty because this set will be the last time you ever have to buy cookware.   I recommend cleaning with BarKeepers Friend for Cookware, and they’ll look brand new forever.  Serious cooks, THIS is what you want. 

Shun Knives

A good knife is paramount to preparing meals.  A good chef will bring their knives wherever they go.  You develop and nurture a relationship with an incredible piece of forged steel.  I’ve always been impressed with Shun. And honestly, there are many good knife choices.  It all comes down to personal preference with this price point. Understand which knives are for which type of cutting.  More important is the care of your knives.  NEVER put them in a dishwasher, wash and dry immediately, hone them regularly, and find someone to professionally sharpen them.   Anything this good requires care and maintenance.


Shun knives are art in and of themselves.  The Japanese handcrafted razor-sharp blades are an investment worth making.   They are lightweight, incredibly strong, and designed to fit perfectly in your hand.  You can get precision cuts with a Shun, and for some home chefs, there is nothing more exquisite.  Look for classes on kitchen knife-cutting techniques.  It’s a learned skill.  And as a bonus, you can impress your friends with how fast you can slice a mushroom.

Oh, and Alton agrees.  If you are on the fence about which knife to purchase, watch the video below and become a believer. 

Unpopular Opinion (Maybe)

Cast Iron is King!

True, there is a learning curve, and it needs to be seasoned,  and there’s a tad bit more maintenance with cast iron than with other cookware options. But for me, it is my number one choice!  True, it’s heavy, but when properly maintained, it will give you a non-stick surface (yes, you can easily fry an egg in one) and cast iron will last you a lifetime.  OH, and talk about the best possible sear on your steak!  From stove top to oven, a cast iron pan or dutch oven is well worth any extra time it takes to make sure it lasts forever. Also, you get to call it a skillet, which just sounds so old-timey to me that I want to bake bread and churn my own butter! If you’re not familiar with cast iron, start small with one skillet, season it well, and you may find in a short amount of time, it become your favorite cooking tool.


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About The Author

Janet Danelia

Janet lives in Northern California with her husband, Matt. She has had a 20+ year career in the building industry where she developed a love for the alchemy of creating a home. Her favorite things are decorating, DIY projects, gardening, cooking, entertaining, and a love of everything Halloween. She quit her day job to blog and share her passion for all the things that make a House a Home.

HI! I'm Janet Danelia. I love everything having to do with home design (inside & out) and I have yet to meet a DIY project that I wasn't willing to tackle. I'd love to bring you along for the journey, where together we can make any house a HOME!

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