Thanksgiving chaos with a side of burnt turkey

Best Inexpensive Thanksgiving Cooking Tools

If today’s topic seems a bit premature, let me remind you (trust me, I’m reminding myself) 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.


With Thanksgiving about six weeks away, we have 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.

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.

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Roasting Pan

If you will be roasting a turkey, you need a reliable roasting pan. Granted, this is not a small item (it is 16 x 13 x 3) so make sure you have a handy place to store it between uses. KitchenAid 3-Ply Stainless Steel Roaster is not the cheapest roaster out there (nor the most expensive, by a long shot), but it is our pick for best—at any price.

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 500 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.

KitchenAid Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Roaster with Rack

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 when you put the turkey in the oven and then sit back and wait for it to reach the temperature you have designated.

ThermoWorks ChefAlarm is our pick for the best probe thermometer out there. It’s a few dollars more than the cheapest thing you could find, but this is the probe thermometer you will use and rely on for years—decades—to come. It is super accurate, reliable and durable, too.ThermoWorks ChefAlarm

Digital Thermometer

A more inexpensive 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.


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.OXO Fat Separator

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! About $2Chefs Poultry Shears

Slicing Knife

You know how much I love my Mercer bread knife (it’s #6 HERE), 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. 

Mercer 11-inch Slicing 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.

MORE: 11 Money Savers That Will Pay for Themselves Over and Again

Hint: 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 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.


PREVIOUSLY: Got 20 Minutes? Make Soup!

Question: Will you be participating in making Thanksgiving Dinner this year? What are you doing to get ready? Share in the comments below! 

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3 replies
  1. K R
    K R says:

    I buy my bar mops at Costco-you get twice as many for basically the same price as the ones linked here. They’re the same size and a very good quality. For poultry shears, I prefer the “Kershaw Taskmaster Shears “. They cost a couple of dollars more, but are a great product. I do agree with you about Mercer knives, those things are great. I bought their bread knife two years ago and it is still the best bread knife I’ve ever had. I have several other knives from that company and love each one. I also have the ThermoPop and prefer it over the ChefAlarm. The kind of thermometer that stays in one place in a large turkey, roast, etc, only gives you the temp for that one spot, and large pieces of meat need temping over several areas. I also use it to temp my bread, and everything else that needs to be cooked to a certain temperature.

  2. Judi James Merrow
    Judi James Merrow says:

    Here in Canada today is Thanksgiving Day. So we are already full of turkey & all the goodies. Wonder how many people are from Canada?

  3. BethSh
    BethSh says:

    Sorry Mary, but if these are items you think are inexpensive, you live in a different income bracket than most of us. The great Turkey cooking bags work very well, cut the cooking time and cost less than five dollars. A wonderful roasting pan can be purchased for less than thirty dollars and will last for years. Even inexpensive meat thermometers work just fine, and last for years. I have made lovely Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for 8 people at a time with my everyday pans, it just takes timing and planning. Spending a couple hundred dollars for equipment to make a meal is just way too expensive for regular people.


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