Dinner and Chef

Just in Time for Thanksgiving—Best Inexpensive Kitchen Tools

If today’s topic seems a bit premature because Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, let me remind you of the first time you hosted Thanksgiving dinner. I know that I was a wreck, and for two reasons: time and cooking tools.

I didn’t allow enough time to plan ahead, let alone properly prepare the meal once the day arrived. And I sure didn’t have the right equipment.

Dinner and Chef

Thankfully, there’s still enough time to plan, time to prepare, and time to make sure we’re properly equipped to make this Thanksgiving a day of calm, joy, and gratitude. But only if we start now!

I’ve done Thanksgiving Dinner enough times now to know that there are a few pieces of equipment that are absolutely necessary to make sure the process goes smoothly and the dinner is a huge success. The challenge, though, is making sure we’re not loading up on unitaskers—tools we use only one day a year. We want to make sure that items we buy for the kitchen can be used all year long.

Here are our picks for Best Inexpensive Thanksgiving cooking tools that will make your day easier, tools I’m certain you’ll be reaching for throughout the year.

Roasting Pan

If you will be roasting a turkey, you need a reliable roasting pan. Granted, measuring in at  17 x 13 x 3 inches this is not a small item so make sure you have a handy place to store it between uses.

The Circulon Nonstick Roasting Pan with Rack is a fabulous roaster and my updated pick for Best Inexpensive—super affordable!

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This pan will not warp, peel, pit, or become hopelessly stained. It is dishwasher safe, cleans up like a dream and is oven safe to 450 F. I love the way the handles are attached, making it easy to lift this roaster from the oven. It’s a beautiful piece you will use throughout the year for sheet pan meals, preparing a roast for a crowd, or any number of other options.

Probe Thermometer

There are few things quite as mysterious as knowing when a turkey is done to perfection—not raw in the middle and not overdone so it is dry-as-dust, either. Wiggle a drumstick? Press on the thigh? Probably not the wisest way to turn out a perfectly roasted bird.

The easiest and most reliable way to serve a perfectly roasted bird is with a probe alarm. You simply insert the probe into the turkey’s thigh before you put it in the oven and then sit back and wait for it to reach the temperature you have designated.

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This Oneida Digital Probe Thermometer is our pick for the best inexpensive option. For the money, it really is the best option. This is the probe thermometer you will use and rely on for years—decades—to come. It is super accurate, reliable and durable, too.

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Digital Thermometer

A more expensive but super easy-to-use and reliable thermometer option is the ThermoWorks ThermoPop digital display food thermometer. This rotating display pocket thermometer rotates the display in 90-degree increments. Hold the ThermoPop in either hand or read it when it’s upside down. Any angle is convenient. To test the food item’s temperature, simply insert then wait for 3 to 4 seconds for a digital display. Comes in a choice of  9 cool colors and makes for an excellent gift for that very serious home chef or grill master on your Gift List!

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Fat Separator

The turkey is roasted to perfection. You take it from the oven and you dread what’s coming—making the gravy. It looks like you have more than enough juices in the bottom of the roaster, but what’s that clear thick layer sitting on top of the dark, yummy drippings? It’s fat. Sure you need a few tablespoons or so to make the gravy rich and flavorful, but how can you get rid of the excess without tossing the good stuff at the same time?

It’s a big problem that only a fat separator can solve. This handy 4-cup OXO Good Grips Fat Separator works like a charm. Just make sure you don’t misplace that red rubber stopper that sits in the spout (watch the video). You’ll use this handy fat separator continuously through the year to remove fat from any liquid, but also as a measuring cup for liquids.Kitchen and Cup

Poultry Shears

You will be so happy to reach for these Chefs Heavy Duty Poultry Shears when it comes time to cut through poultry meat and bones. And that whole fish you’re sure to catch next summer? You bet. And all manner of applications you’ll encounter every time you cook.

The comfortable handles on these shears are spring-loaded and one piece with the blades to give great slicing power with very little effort. Just be careful! These shears will slice through anything including your fingers (not that I know this from first-hand experience or anything).

Always lock the blades in place when storing in the utensil drawer. The stainless steel used in the construction of these shears will not rust and also makes clean-up easy. Super useful, super handy and super well-priced! A close up of a device

Slicing Knife

You know how much I love my Mercer bread knife, so opting for its companion 11-inch Mercer Culinary Renaissance Granton Edge Slicing Knife is a no-brainer (equal top-quality and just as remarkably priced).

Here’s my promise: You do not have to spend hundreds of dollars for a high-grade, quality piece of cutlery suitable for carving a turkey. Or a roast, steak or chicken. The blade edge on this knife is truly amazing and will be a much-welcomed member of your favorite kitchen tools. Constructed of high-carbon, no-stain German cutlery steel, it resists rust, corrosion, and discoloration. 

A close up of a knife

Bar Mops

You don’t want to face preparing your Thanksgiving Dinner (or any dinner for that matter) without a good supply of dish clothes and towels. The secret for keeping organized (and sane) is to clean up as you go. Around here we love bar mops. I have six dozen of these white terrycloth 16 x 19-inch bar mops that I go through like water. I just toss them into a small kitchen hamper and launder when it’s full. Utopia Kitchen Bar Mop Towels are the best value, great quality option in bar mops.


Pro tip: Do not be afraid to use bleach when you launder bar mops—not every time, but as stains begin to appear. You wouldn’t believe how many times my stash of bar mops have been washed in super hot water with detergent and bleach, then with a cup of white vinegar added to the last rinse. They look super white, feel soft (no softening products at all—use only the proper amount of detergent, which is 2 to 3 teaspoons in my front-loader and wool dryer balls in the dryer) and are hole-free. And they are not young—at least a couple of years, I’m guessing. Why don’t I keep track of important information like that? Next time, I promise.

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6 replies
  1. Mary Kocher says:

    Thank you so much for the tip about buying a Fat separator from Amazon. It will be great to remove that fat from your nicely cooked meal and still be able to make flavorful gravy !
    Great buying tip that will pay off in the long run. Here’s to your Health !

  2. Sue in TX says:

    Hmm, some of these items are wonderful kitchen helps – but you may have a ready substitute. In the interest of simplifying your life and keeping possessions under control, consider:
    1/2 sheet (think 2X a 9X13 pan) cake deep pan (not a jelly roll pan) with 2 cooling racks in the bottom instead of the roaster pan – useful all year for big-batch baking of cinnamon rolls, double sized cake or lasagna for a crowd
    Barbecue temperature probe thermometer works for the oven too
    If your kitchen has an ample supply of decorative kitchen towels, consider replacing them with fresh new ones and reusing the older faded ones in place of bar mops.

    On the other hand, I’ll be looking at the poultry shears – kitchen shears just don’t stand up to this job.

  3. Belle Mieloch says:

    Hosted thanksgiving for my youngest son and family last year. Did as much as I could the day before Rolls Sweet Potato casserole and the stuffing.just had to heat them up. Saved time and let me enjoy the day. Just two of us this year.

  4. Cathy says:

    About a year ago Kohl’s had a sale on Circulon and I bought a “try it” set with a skillet, sheet pan and two utensils. I love them! I use the sheet pan often for sheet pan dinners. They’re very sturdy and the sheet pan doesn’t snap/bend in the oven like my 2 older cookie sheets do. Everything browns nicely in both pans and slides right off. I have Kitchen Aid nonstick and Food Network stainless sets, so if/when it comes time for different pans, will be buying Circulon. Hmm, maybe Santa will bring me some!

  5. Rhonda Morrison says:

    I just got 2 Food Network Roasting Pans at Kohls for 6.99 each. Kohls website had them for 9.99 and I also had a 30% off code. They are not 9.99 at the moment, but may be in the coming weeks. These pans are not as nice as yours, but I figured for that price I would try them. (Just a little above what you would pay for the foil ones at the grocery store). My husband has used some of my pans for the smoker (so they get covered in smoke stains). He now has his own roaster pan for the smoker!


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