FE Top 10 Holiday Cooking Essentials

by Laura on November 26, 2011

in Tools

With the holiday season in full swing, I’m well into my planning mode. I just don’t like it when I leave things to the last minute, then have to rush around to gather things that I need. I like lists, and try to get working on completing that list as soon as it is created.

In case you’re of the same ilk, and are thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or New Years’ celebrations over the next several weeks., we’ve given you our thoughts on the top ten essentials for holiday entertaining – the necessary tools for preparing holiday inspired meals for your family, friends, and whomever passes by your home this season.

Take a look at the following 10 pages and let us know what you think of the Family Eats Top 10 Holiday Cooking Essentials and share with us some of your kitchen tool favorites. Have fun.

1. Roasting Pan

This is my savior during the holidays. It gets pulled out for every Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ham and New Year’s roast. In between, I use if for making batch after batch of caramel corn. Throughout the year, it is always sitting there waiting for our family entertaining needs.

“The roasting pan is the star of the Thanksgiving dinner,” says Tara Steffen, national marketing manager, Mauviel USA. “It is essential to have a quality roaster, one with sturdy construction and even heat distribution.”

Roasting pans are made of variety of different materials- – stainless steel, stainless steel with an aluminum core, enameled steel, anodized aluminum, and copper, for example. All of which are pretty darn effective. Some come with nonstick surfaces, which may prevent the pan drippings from browning. Further, a dark surface can make it more difficult to see how pan sauce is progressing.

Remember that a roasting pan will be carrying around a heavy bird, so you’ll definitely want one that can handle the weight – and one that has handles that are comfortable to use. (This is why I’m not a fan of the grocery store aluminum roasting pans). A roasting pan’s depth should be no more than 2 inches deep, because anything deeper and the food may begin to steam. Another essential feature to consider are the handles. They need to be securely attached, and in a position that is comfortable – after all, you’ll be lifting and maneuvering the pan with a turkey inside.

2. Gravy-Making: The Fat Separator

“When you have the right tools in the kitchen, cooking holiday meals is effortless,” says Patrick Lobo, National Sales Manager for Cuisipro USA, “It is essential to look for kitchen tools that are designed to tackle a specific task with precision and ease.” That is why I am a big fan of the fat separator. For quite some time, I was the traditionalist, skimming fat from the top of the liquids using a spoon. Now, after using a fat-separator pitcher, I’m not sure I can turn back. It makes the process almost effortless.

It prevents the fat from sneaking into the gravy. Because things can get slippery in the kitchen, look for a separator that is non-breakable. Also handy is a heat resistant container that can hold at least a pint of liquid. A comfortable handle is also an essential, especially if you are wearing an oven mitt.

3. Carving Tools

“Carving a turkey at the table adds to the anticipation and excitement at any Thanksgiving feast,” explains Marc Wade National Sales Manager, housewares division, for KAI USA Ltd. “The first slice is momentous and sparks the beginning of the celebration.  Carving a turkey is not difficult but a cook needs to be prepared. The most important step is to have on hand the right tools for the job. “

I couldn’t agree more. Quality cutlery – that is properly sharpened – is an essential during holiday times. I begin the day’s preparation with quality knives for prepping the food, and end the day with that all -important task of carving.

Choose a carving knife that is at least 9 inches long (so that you can easily get through the turkey), and a blade with a bit of flexibility to make it easier to maneuver. A narrow tip is helpful for penetrating the turkey and quickly removing the meat from the bone. As the Kai USA company chef explains it, “A long slicing or carving knife with a very sharp edge will produce clean slices without tearing; this insures that the juices stay in the meat.  The key is to hold the knife at an angle against the grain of meat and slice evenly, without sawing.”

4. Food Processor

This is an everyday favorite in my home, and at the holidays, I truly fall in love with my food processor all over again. It is indispensable for holiday meal preparation. My 11-cup Cuisinart shreds and chops vegetables for my stuffing, purees ingredients for soup making, and even cuts butter into flour when making a pastry crust. The food processor helps cut down on prep time, and gets me cooking in no time.

Look for a food processor with good design. The most effective design is when the bowl and the blades sit directly on top of the motor. Choose a feed tube that is large enough for your purposes, and choose a capacity that won’t leave you wishing you had more room. I have an 11-cup, and have never had a time when I needed more room. Keep in mind that the capacity refers to ‘dry’ food, as the liquid capacity is about half of that for dry ingredients.

5. Thermometer

When it comes time to carve the turkey wouldn’t it be devastating to find out (while everyone is sitting at the table staring at you, waiting, waiting for you to start carving), that the turkey isn’t done — or even worse, is overdone and dry.

To save me from that fate, I swear by my meat thermometer. It takes the guesswork out of cooking the turkey, and also gives me the assurance that a safe cooking temperature has been reached, harmful bacteria has been destroyed, and the turkey is cooked to perfection.

“With entertaining at home on the rise, especially around the holidays, every home cook should be using a thermometer to ensure meats, breads and more are cooked to the ideal temperature,” says Jan Murtagh of Component Design Northwest. “Using a good cooking thermometer can help the home chef prepare meals to perfection and avoid a common problem of overcooking foods,”

You can opt for the ovenproof thermometers that are placed in the food at the beginning of cooking time. Personally, I like the digital instant-read thermometers that are used for monitoring temperature at the end of the cooking time. These are handy to use on a wide variety of foods from burgers to roasts – which make them handy for use every day.

6. Baster

Sure, a spoon will also do the trick, but having a good baster on hand can make the task much more convenient. They come in many varieties, just be sure that the bulb is firm enough so that it won’t collapse or stick together when squeezed. As for the baster’s shaft, the opening at the tip should be wide enough so that it doesn’t get clogged with large drippings.

The baster I swear by is a bit fancier than the basic version. The Cuisipro Dual Baster comes with an injector head attachment, for injecting juices, gravy and butter right into the meat. I stick to the regular basting, which has a fun shower head design to create more even basting, than the single directed squirt you get with traditional baster designs. And, it’s bulb is on a thread which makes it easy to quickly and securely attach the bulb for use and cleaning.

7. Pie Dish

Pumpkin pie, Mincemeat pie, Pecan pie – three pies that will appear at our Thanksgiving feast, regardless of how few, or how many people are joining us. For this reason, it is always essential for me to have a great pie dish that performs, and to have many of them. My favorite – for performance and for its beauty is the Emile Henry Pie Dish

I’m not alone in my love for this dish: “The Emile Henry pie dish makes perfect pies and it is so beautiful. It is our favorite pie dish. That is why we at the American Pie Council chose the Emile Henry pie dish as the exclusive pie dish for the APC Crisco® National Pie Championships. We love to bake our pies, especially our holiday pies, in these dishes,” says Linda Hoskins, Executive Director, American Pie Council (APC)

Made of Burgundy clay, which heats evenly and produces a nice crust, the dish is deeper than traditional American pie pans, making it ideal for your deep-dish recipes.  The dish is glazed in beautiful colors, making this the ideal oven to table piece.

8.  Trussing Tools

I admit it, when it comes time to truss the turkey I’ve been known to dig through the craft box in search of some twine. Now that I’ve the foodloop, from fusionbrands, I can stay in the kitchen and out of the craft room. This handy, heat-resistant trussing tool replaces kitchen string and toothpicks in food prep and cooking process. Made of silicone, it is heat resistant to 675 degrees so it will withstand anything you can throw at it in the oven or on the grill. The flexible foodloop is designed so that you can easily adjust its size for any task, from 1-inch to 4 inches (or larger by linking several together). Now I never have to worry about running out of twine, or worse bartering with the kids to use their craft string.

9. Oven to Tableware

We all love setting the table, making sure we have matching and coordinating looks. We also want ease of use. And that is where oven to table cookware is the ideal choice for holiday meals.

Perhaps more importantly, using oven to table ware lessens the amount of dishes to be washed at the end of the day.

As Nancy Commins of Kuhn Rikon explains, “Oven to table ware is perfect for holiday entertaining.  It keeps soups, stews, mashed potatoes, or even gravy, piping hot for up two hours, freeing up space on the stovetop to prepare other holiday dishes.”

Other than a personal chef and someone to clean up after the meal, what more could you ask for?

10. Coffee Maker

You might wonder why I’ve included the coffee maker on my list of holiday essentials, but isn’t there always a need for serving up quality coffee? We brew our coffee in a 10-cup machine, which can be programmed to begin brewing at a specific time. What I find useful especially during holiday time, is the thermal carafe – The coffee can be kept at proper brewing temperature for an extended period.

My dream is to have high-quality automatic coffee center from Jura-Capresso that grinds and brews with the push of a button is ideal for holiday entertaining. No need to wait for a pot to brew, just press the button when needed  . . . . and, you can even brew to the specifications of your guest. Whether they like a short espresso, cappuccino or even decaf, these machines are programmed to produce different beverages at the touch of a button. (Perhaps I should add this to my Christmas list – hint, hint).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Previous post:

Next post: