THANKSGIVING: COOKWARE ESSENTIALS
There’s nothing worse than a long backstory when you’re trying to cut to the meat of an article (the useful bits) but!! I want to offer a quick personal anecdote and I will explain why in a moment: I grew up in a house as an only child with just my mom (no pity here, I have the best mom in the world, my dad wonderful and my step mom is my second mother and other best friend + they have two kids so I had the benefit of full attention plus siblings — did I win the family lottery???).
Now, my mom doesn’t really like to cook but, she is quite “foodie”: she loves a delicious crusty quiche, the perfect cookie, a warm loaf of bread. What she does better than possibly anybody on earth is make a phenomenal, meal-in-itself salad. She’s known for it in the family, her salads are to die for and, essentially, I grew up eating salad + some picked up bakery item and/or takeout. ** I wrote my college entrance essay on takeaway food and how I associated different flavors with the various cities we lived in: D.C., London, Seattle, L.A, NYC.
Mom is also interested in food sources — organic/local, etc. so my love and interest for food integrity stems from her. We did a lot of health food store runs when I was little. Spirulina graced my bedside table in the morning, lumps and all. I’m certain she singlehandedly supported Odwalla in the 90s (before we graduated to raw and cold-pressed). Praise be that she permitted whole grain waffles coated in maple syrup because sometimes there were just loose carrots in my lunchbox. My cousin Eloise (who’s house was full of delights such as Wonderbread, Twix bars, apples and Jiffy) would sneak me a second lunch to school so I rock out and skip the 9 grain abomination which to my seven year old mind looked like wood chips. (I know my mother would be laughing at this).
Flash forward: I’m 33, food is one of my predominant interests and has played a pivotal role in my career: I spent time out of school in the Office of Alice Waters, majored in food photography at SCAD and now am truly, as an adult, teaching myself how to cook properly. Those of you who have followed our Instagram for many years might have also seen some of this journey unfold on snapchat. I do wish I had some of those early stories because I was learning how to chop a vegetable and it was more amusing than nowadays because i’m actually starting to get the hang of things a bit.
Now, I offer this ONLY because this post starts at the most basic of the basics — like, you need a peeler — so if you grew up in a house that smelled like sizzling onions and garlic you probably already know this. Whether this is a refresher or new news, here we go:
BASIC KITCHEN TOOLS
Several of these items are ‘lifers” — pieces that will be used weekly (if not daily) as you begin or continue your journey in the kitchen. I have tried to divide it up between investment pieces and cheap and cheerful (replaceable but useful day to day things that are neutral enough that you don’t need the top of the line).
It takes time to build a kitchen collection and perhaps you have already started. I know that I am still finding my way but, after hosting Thanksgiving for larger family groups three years running, these tools have proved useful time and time again! I also wish to note that much of our kitchen collection was from our wedding registry but, we have been lucky to partner with Williams-Sonoma and Le Creuset throughout the years as well. I don’t want to be flippant about how much some of these things cost and I’m truly listing what I use most regularly below! Having said that, Black Friday sales seem to have started early this year (the one good thing to come out of 2020?).
Last but not least, if you are healthy and well, this is the perfect year to test out your skills because you’re (hopefully) cooking for smaller groups. This means you can also grab a regular-sized Dutch oven vs the jumbo, etc.
Wooden spoons, spatulas, peeler, whisk, masher, sieves and knives. These All-Clad colanders are also wonderful. A salad spinner. The knives above are the ones we have from our wedding (I think, we’re in a rental) but these are slightly more and receive far superior reviews. They are on sale!!
Chopping blocks: we have a few of these, some statement ones, a few basics and some plastic ones that we use for meat only (chicken breast).
POTS, PANS, CAST IRON, ROASTERS, DUTCH OVENS
First and foremost: if you’re going to make a Turkey, I think a roasting pan is very helpful. We’re going to talk about this in the menu section but we typically make chickens for Thanksgiving in our Green Egg at home. So, I don’t have a lot of experience here but I have gathered the best resources for you about how to prep, cook and carve your Turkey in that section. This roasting pan looks a lifer and is tres chic, this one is the cheaper chicken and also very stylish. It’s a personal call: are you going to be roasting a lot in your life? We eat a mostly vegetarian diet so for me, I’d rather grab the sweet dutch oven vs. the chic roaster but, if you’re a bit meat eater I would splurge here.
We currently just have the basics (some non-stick, some All-Clad) but there are lots of alternatives and progressive non-stick eco pans I keep receiving ads for on social. This non-stick works well for us but I would be curious to try some of these. I recommend one (at least) sautée pan as well! We make a lot of pasta with vegetables and use it to cook the vegetables and combine the boiled pasta, etc. Here is a non-stick.
They can be a bit tricky to take care of but I personally love stainless steel and the “classics”. Here’s a slightly smaller (less expensive) set.
Cast irons are fab. We have a bunch and collected more for our “cooking with fire” series we’re planning to do this winter. We adore our Smithey. Yes, it gets really, really hot so you have to adjust accordingly but we use it a lot and I should make some videos to show you how we do! It was given to us by the brand and it’s one of the few things we had brought up to our rental.
Dutch Ovens are the best — soups, stock, larger pastas. In the case of Thanksgiving I would boil and mash potatoes in this. We have an oversized one from our wedding registry and all the other sizes, we use the smallest most often (we have the mineral blue and white).
Measuring bowls, measuring spoons, measuring cup, glass bowls, whisks, rolling pin, baking trays, cooling rack, the “I know what I’m doing” apron: these are the basics of everyday baking. I linked to items that can be delivered in time for Thanksgiving below:
There’s the debate of the standing mixer. Since receiving ours, it has totally upped by baking game BUT I got by for years with a handheld electric and didn’t even know what I was missing — that’s to say, either will do, depends on how ambitious you’re feeling about your kitchen skills/bank balance. You might also consider a pastry blender in tandem with your handheld if you go that direction.
There are a couple multi-use tools that work well for both baking and cooking, and even bar: namely, I’m thinking of a food processor and a juicer.
OTHER KITCHEN TOOLS & WORTHWHILE GADGENTS
A vitamix — possibly my favorite tool, i’m still using the original model I bought in college. An instapot (good for surrounding meals) and the upcoming season. Salt and Pepper grinders.