13 things you need to host Thanksgiving for the first time
From cookware to tabletop, and everything in between.
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The holidays might look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean they have to feel any less special. Even though it’s probably going to be you and your quarantine pod—or maybe you’re having an outdoor Thanksgiving—you’re still going to need a few key kitchen tools plus some basics for serving in order to pull this off.
As far as the food goes, our experts have tips for how to roast your first turkey, the best pie dish, along with how to avoid common Turkey Day fails. And remember: Not everything has to be homemade! Source sides or desserts from the grocery store, or better yet, your local farmers’ market. No one will know (or care) that you didn’t labor over every single dish for hours.
Here’s what you’ll need to make Thanksgiving happen.
1. An apron
If you’re like me then you love an excuse to dress up a bit these days—don't ruin the first fancy outfit you’ve put on in months! Throw on a Hedley & Bennett apron because it’s cute and means you won’t have to rush to remove stains whilst entertaining (but if you do need to do that, here’s how).
2. A roasting pan
Yes, you actually need a roasting pan if you plan to roast a turkey this year, and don’t forget the rack! This vessel has been perfected over the years and the rack has been engineered to ensure all turkey dripping goodness is collected for basting (and later, gravy). Our pick for your first roasting pan is the Circulon Nonstick Roasting Pan with Rack because it’s a good bang for your buck. If you’d like to invest a little extra, check out other roasting pans we’ve tested.
3. A carving knife
Speaking as someone who clumsily carved their first Thanksgiving turkey using a chef’s knife, I can confidently say you’ll want a good carving knife to streamline this process. A carving knife will yield lovely even slices. And since you’ll likely use this once a year, maybe twice if you’re a Christmas ham kind of person, we recommend the 11-inch Mercer Culinary Renaissance Granton Edge Slicing Knife because it’s so sharp you may never have to sharpen it. If you’re looking for an electric option, check out our favorite electric carving knives.
4. A digital meat thermometer
Since you’ll definitely want to make sure your meat is cooked through (hello, salmonella), make sure you order a digital meat thermometer before you cook your bird. This kitchen gadget can range from $20 to $100, and after we put our favorite digital meat thermometers to the test we found you don’t have to choose between cost and efficiency. The Harbor Instant Read Thermometer is great for your first Thanksgiving because it’s accurate and affordable.
5. A pie dish
Pumpkin pie is the best and most important part of Thanksgiving—there I said it! If you’re planning to bake your own, you’ll need a real pie dish and not a cake pan, loaf pan, or other vessel you think you can use to create pie perfection. A good metal pie dish is a great way to achieve flaky crust and yummy pie, but they can be a bit fussy to maintain. When we tested our favorite pie dishes, the Emile Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish yielded crispy crust and easy cleanup. Bonus: It comes in five bright colors, and we absolutely encourage you to match your pie dish to your outfit.
6. A cast iron skillet
Consider this the MVP of your Thanksgiving dinner prep. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet will produce beautifully flavored dishes, especially when it comes to veggie sides for your holiday meal. Of course, a cast iron skillet will also come in handy virtually any day of the year, so think of this as an investment in future deliciousness. The Lodge Chef Collection cast iron skillet gets the job done for under $50.
7. A hand mixer
I love the consistency of mashed potatoes made with a hand mixer, probably because this is how my mom and dad always made them. You could go for the potato ricer method, loved by some of our editors, or you could select a kitchen tool with year-round uses like a traditional hand mixer and make your ‘taters the old-fashioned way. Cuisinart makes a great hand mixer, but for something that will get the job done at a fraction of the price, we recommend the Black + Decker Easy Storage Hand Mixer.
8. A set of mixing bowls
If you’re planning to mash potatoes, whip up a pie, or craft any number of Thanksgiving side dishes, you’ll need a set of mixing bowls. You probably already have at least one mixing bowl kicking around in your kitchen, but one simply will not do for this food-filled holiday! The Pyrex Smart Essentials Mixing Bowls Set has four sizes of glass mixing bowls—making them pretty enough for serving if you don’t want to dirty more dishes—and each bowl comes with a lid for easy storage when you inevitably have leftovers.
9. A cutting board
Splurge on this Thanksgiving essential because you’ll get lots of use out of it. A sturdy wooden cutting board like the Teakhaus Rectangle Carving Board With Hand Grips is great for carving your bird on Turkey Day because it’s moisture-resistant and remains stable while you chop. Post-holiday, this cutting board will make a superior base for a cheese or charcuterie board, and obviously for any and all future chopping needs.
10. Serving platters
Sure, some dishes can be served in the vessels they were cooked in (looking at you, corn casserole), but other Thanksgiving dishes really need a serving platter to make them shine. Food52 offers a serving platter and serving bowl as part of its Five Two line—we recently tested the Five Two pots and pans and loved them. If you love the look of the Five Two Serving Platter and you’re feeling extra fancy, you could fill out your set with other items from the Five Two Stoneware Dinnerware collection.
11. Cloth napkins
When I was growing up, we always saved our cloth napkins for special occasions and Thanksgiving was no exception. Cloth napkins are an easy way to elevate your dining experience, and they’re eco-friendly! Parachute, known for its internet-famous bathrobe and bedding, now offers a tabletop collection that conveniently comes in gorgeous autumnal shades: natural, sienna, and cabernet. The Linen Waffle Tabletop Collection includes a set of two of the softest waffle napkins I’ve ever felt—plus, they’re machine-washable, so cleaning is a breeze.
There’s truly no better way to set the mood than with candles and once again, Parachute comes to the rescue with the perfect pillar candles to complete our Thanksgiving tablescape. The Totem Candles are made by fan-favorite Areaware design company and sold by Parachute, so we know the quality is topnotch. And because these are pillar candles and not taper candles, you can set them on top of a saucer or small plate you already have instead of having to buy special candle holders.
13. Dish towels
Regardless of the number of Thanksgiving guests in your home this year, I can guarantee there will be lots of dishes to be done once the meal is over. Do yourself (and the environment!) a favor and make sure you’re stocked up on this kitchen essential. We’ve tested the best dish towels on the market and our favorite is the Williams Sonoma All Purpose Pantry Towel because it’s affordable and absorbent. But hey, if you’ve got some Thanksgiving-themed tea towels you’ve been waiting all year to use, we won’t judge.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.