It’s a fine New York City tradition, like queuing at the Public and seeing your first, and last, midnight movie at the Union Square theater. To host Thanksgiving in your very New York City apartment. For some inspired home cooks, this is no big deal. Just another 20-person dinner party with multiple oven preparations, five stovetop side dishes to fire a once, a bourbon punch to chill and more dishes in the sink than a Fishs Eddy. But those hosts—confident and casual and resting the turkey just as the last bites of jamón ibérico are plucked from the appetizer boards—are like unicorns. They are also annoying, because they are rich and have two ovens. Fuck that.
But the key to successful home cooking, both solo and for a crowd, is not just reading the recipe all the way through (please do that) and devising a plan. It’s also making sure you have the right tools for the job. “A lot of people think they need to have gold plated flatware and crystal goblets,” says Tux Loerzel, manager of the excellent kitchen store Whisk in Williamsburg. “And a lot of people come in freaking out because they got the biggest turkey they could find, and they don’t have a pan it’ll fit into.”
Loerzel is here to help, and stresses the importance of taking time and not overcomplicating things. “It’s just dinner,” he says, adding that when it comes down to the big meal — be it the celebrated Thursday night or Friendsgiving — the biggest, fanciest, most-expensive shindigs often go unnoticed. The six bottles of Beaujolais nouveau your guests drained before getting to the table can make the meal itself an afterthought. But investing in a few kitchen items will make the dinner, and future dinners, go that much more smoothly. Here are a few suggestions, which can be ordered online or picked up at the shop.
17 x 12 Roasting Pan
A pretty critical piece of equipment for making that bird happen. This one is good because it’s inexpensive and non-stick, meaning the dreaded scrubbing is a little less painful than usual. Also includes a custom-fit roasting rack. $42
Messermeister Carving Knife Set
Have you ever tried to carve a turkey with a steak knife? Us either, but Loerzel swears some people try it. “It’s dangerous!” This carving set includes an 8-inch knife and 7-inch fork, both forged from German stainless steel. QUESTION: Why is it important to invest in a good carving set. I mean, aren’t I only going to use this once a year? A carving set doesn’t have to be reserved for Thanksgiving or Christmas. They’re great for a simple roast chicken or pot roast too. In a pinch you can use your chef’s knife instead, but it might be a little bulkier.
MAC 6.5” Santoku Knife
Japanese knife company MAC is used by guys like Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert and famous for being lightweight — compared with German counterparts Wusthof and Henckels. This santoku-style utility knife can be used for many tasks like chopping vegetables, slicing the jiggly canned cranberries. $120
This two-sided whetstone is good for both sharpening and honing the blade. QUESTION: What is a whetstone? Is it hard to use? How often do I need to use it? A whetstone is a rough stone block used for sharpening knives and what the professionals use to make sure their knives are razor sharp. They do take a bit of technique to use, but they get your knives waaaay sharper than those pull through ones. How often you use them depends on how often you use your knives. I’d say generally I sharpen my knives once every month or two.
Investing in a good kitchen timer is really important, especially for baking — where one minute over can mean disaster. True, your iPhone features a nice timer. But do you really want to set your iPhone a few feet from the boiling potatoes? This one looks cool too. $20
Cuisinart Immersion Blender
The immersion blender was a gift from the gods, allowing cooks to blend thing directly in the pot they are being cooked in — especially soups and purées. It is also great for making mayonnaise, meringue and salad dressing. Pesto too! Cuisinart is the go-to model. You’ll burn the motor out eventually, you’ll use it so much. $80
Acacia Wood Salad Bowl
It’s about time you invested in a good salad bowl, this one made of acacia wood from Pacific Merchants. $30
Olive Wood Salad Hands
Sure, these salad “hands” are a handsome way to toss that salad. But if these salad hands could talk, they would have a story to tell too. According to the manufacture Be Home, the hands are “Handcrafted by artisans from small communities or local villages in Southeast Asia. Their labor provides sustenance for their lives and families and the commercialization of their handicrafts gives them an opportunity to educate the next generation of artisans.” $22
Oval Serving Platter
While this oversized ceramic serving vessel is technically a fish platter, styled in a 1860s Parisian kind of way, it can be used for many other things than pike quenelle. $38
Jubilee Bundt Pan
This cast iron baking pan was Loerzel’s suggestion. An intriguing one. QUESTION: This jubilee pan looks COOL. But, what should I make with it? A bundt cake is a great dessert to make for Thanksgiving. They’re way less involved than pie crusts or fancy layer cakes, but they’re just as impressive thanks to the shape. A pumpkin pound cake or an apple spice cake is a perfect way to round out your Thanksgiving dinner. $34
Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker
Investing in an ice cream maker is investing in your future, a future void of $9 bodega pints. And what better way to show off your new talents with dairy, salt and eggs then at Thanksgiving. This two-quart maker promises results in under 30 minutes. And a little pro-tip here. Don’t attempt to make ice cream in a hot kitchen. That’s not going to work so well.
Perfect Ice Cube Trays
This silicone tray makes perfect 1.25-inch cubes, which is a great size for cocktails or straight spirits over rocks. Very pretty rocks in this case. $15 for two trays
Yarai Mixing Glass
The Japanese are famous for producing the world’s most elegant barware, and you may have spotted this mixing glass at your favorite cocktail bar. It’s heavy duty and nearly impossible to shatter. $50
1.5 Gallon Drink Dispenser With Ice Bucket
Punch or “large-format drinks” are perfect for Thanksgiving, as you won’t be forced to play bartender while the party is roaring in the living room. This dispenser features and no-drip spigot, and can also double as an ice or wine bucket. QUESTION: What punch should I make? My philosophy is to keep it simple and don’t stress yourself out. A great simple punch recipe for Thanksgiving is fresh apple cider with some bourbon. You can add some spices like ginger, cloves or cinnamon sticks if you want to jazz it up, or maybe some fun bitters for an interesting twist. $60
This is merely a patchwork of cool products you can buy to help upgrade your kitchen for the mighty Thanksgiving heave, and there are many more knives, pots, dishes and heart-shape quiche pans to ponder. But this all leads to another big question: What exactly to make? In the coming weeks, a flood of well-intentioned cooking advice will hit the papers and Internet. A lot of it will be sound, and some of it is bullshit (don’t let anybody tell you you must brine your turkey!). For ideas, one good place to start is the New York Times Menu Planner. It breaks things down by size of party, dietary restrictions, timing and cooking expertise. Times Food Editor Sam Sifton wrote a book about cooking Thanksgiving, and is a trusted guide.
But, remember the three most important words of all: It’s Just Dinner