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Kitchen & Cooking

Everything you need to make the perfect Thanksgiving turkey

Don't fear the bird.

A top-down photo of a Thanksgiving feast with a beautifully golden turkey front and center. Credit: Getty Images / LauriPatterson

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Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends, reflect on what another year has brought you, and probably grumble about how the turkey is kind of dry.

This Thanksgiving may be different for many people but the holiday spirit remains—if you're cooking your turkey for the first time or opting for a chicken (or duck) instead, having the right strategy and tools on hand can help make your roast bird a delicious centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table.

Yes, turkey is a notoriously fickle and tricky meat to cook well, and huge birds plus long cook times can equal dry, bland meat. Here are the products we recommend for the perfect bird.

1. A hefty, versatile roasting pan

Holiday Dinner: Roasting Pan
Credit: Getty / YinYang

Yes, you need a roasting pan—this one from Viking is useful beyond Thanksgiving.

A hefty roasting pan a no-brainer for your Thanksgiving turkey, but you can also use one year-round for sheet pan meals and cooking for a crowd. That makes investing in a good one worth it.

The tri-ply stainless steel construction on the best roasting pan we tested from Viking definitely gives it some heft, but the handles are super wide and comfortable, distributing the pan's weight nicely. It had excellent heat distribution as well. It's big and sturdy enough to handle a 20-pound turkey and it's capable of cooking anything you throw at it.

Get the Viking 3-Ply Roasting Pan with Non-Stick Rack on Amazon for $164.05

2. Poultry shears for tough birds

A raw chicken and a pair of poultry shears on top of a red plastic cutting board.
Credit: Reviewed / Lindsay D. Mattison

A good pair of poultry shears are great for spatchcocked birds.

If you prefer preparing a spatchcocked turkey to reduce cook time and yield more succulent meat, you’ll need a good pair of poultry shears. Spatchcocking is easy enough, but you do need to cut out the backbone (which, as the name implies, is lined with a bunch of bones that'll destroy your expensive knives). We love these OXO Good Grips shears because they’re easy to handle and their super-sharp blades cut through tough turkey bones like they’re butter. They're easy enough to sharpen when they get dull and they lock for safe, easy storage. It’s always nice when you don’t cut your hand digging through your gadget drawer!

Get the OXO Good Grips Spring-Loaded Poultry Shears on Amazon for $25.49

3. Digital thermometers for accurate cook times

Holiday Dinner: Thermometers
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Digital meat thermometers and probe thermometers are essential when cooking for a crowd.

Don't overcook your bird! Confidently toss it into the oven and forget about it until it beeps by probing it with this top-performing probe thermometer. In addition to being the most accurate probe we tested, it also has a nice backlight display. You can use it as a timer, adjust the alarm's volume, or use it to keep track of the minimum and maximum readings. We especially love its hinged tilting screen for easy viewing on the countertop, but it also has a magnet and a clip if that works better for your kitchen.

If monitoring your turkey's temperature from inside the oven isn't important to you, pick up a ThermoPop instead. It immediately impressed us with its super quick, accurate readings and its beautiful appearance when testing the best digital meat thermometers. The probe is long enough to keep your hands safely away from any hot steam. It also features a super thin tip that didn’t allow for many juices to escape after probing. With a click of a super soft button, the display rotates 360 degrees for ease of viewing. Another click and the backlight illuminates the large numbers.

4. The right carving knives

Holiday Dinner: Electric Knives
Credit: Reviewed / Lindsay Mattison

Electric knives and carving knives are absolutely necessary if you're preparing a turkey.

After you’ve spent all that time and money to prepare your turkey, you definitely want to present it just right. You could use your chef’s knife, but there’s something ceremonious about pulling out a good carving knife. Plus, since you don’t use it as frequently, chances are good it’s razor-sharp when you need it. You’ll quickly and easily be able to carve up your turkey and present perfect slices.

It doesn’t come as a set, but you can also pick up the matching carving fork. I usually use a set of kitchen tongs, but the fork certainly looks nicer and gives you better control.

If you’re dealing with a really tough bird, there’s no shame in breaking out a good electric knife, like our favorite from Black & Decker. First, it aced all of our performance tests, but that's not what impressed us the most. The Black & Decker also has the most comfortable handle and was the quietest knife we tested. The round handle fit perfectly in our hands and stayed put, even when our hands were covered in chicken grease.

* Get the Mercer Culinary Renaissance 11" Granton Edge Slicing Knife on Amazon for $22.99
* Get the Black & Decker EK500B Electric Knife on Amazon for $16.29

5. A large, durable carving board

Holiday Dinner: Carving Board
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Our favorite carving board from Teakhaus is useful year-round.

When we tested cutting boards, we split the winners into three categories. Our favorite bamboo cutting board was great for any task in the kitchen, but the size and heft of this Teakhaus made it more of a specialty board than a catch-all winner. It happens to be perfect for resting and carving a turkey, though, because it can easily hold a 25-pound bird! It also happens to be a gorgeous piece that makes a stylish addition to your kitchen counter. The use of teak (a high-oil wood) fought off moisture better than the other wooden boards and it held the largest amount of liquid (2/3 cup) in its groves before spilling over.

Get the Teakhaus Rectangle Carving Board With Hand Grips on Amazon for $99.95

6. A fat separator for great gravy

Holiday Dinner: Fat Separator
Credit: Williams-Sonoma

A fat separator is the key to a smooth gravy.

Fat separators might not be the sexiest gadget in the kitchen, but you'll need one if you're hoping to make a killer gravy this year. By design, bottom-draining separators make it almost impossible to pass a lot of fatty-liquid through their valves because the fat floats on the top.

Some of them have temperamental levers, but the trigger on this model is super easy to control and, by design, will minimize splashing, creating less mess than some of the other models we tested. There's also a pour spout on the top, which makes it much easier to remove the fat left behind. And, since the lever mechanism is located on the outside of the separator, we had no problems when it came time to clean everything up.

Get the OXO Good Grips Good Gravy Fat Separator on Amazon for $25.99

7. A turkey baster for juicy meat

Left: A person bastes a turkey using a turkey baster. Right: A fully cooked turkey sits in its roasting pan on a kitchen counter with a turkey baster next to it.
Credit: Williams Sonoma

To help prevent the bird from drying out, you can use a turkey baster.

There are many different ways to cook a turkey but if your top priority is to make sure the all parts of the bird gets evenly cooked and stay moist, you probably will benefit from having a turkey baster on hand. Basting the turkey has many benefits—it not only helps bring down the surface temperature and slows down cooking, which will result in evenly roasted breasts and legs, but it also prevents the skin from drying out in the hours-long process of cooking a turkey.

Get the OXO Turkey Baster with Cleaning Brush for $13.99

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