Thanksgiving dinner has long been an all-day affair. But, we’re living in very different times than the days of the earliest feasts, when just cooking meat on a spit over a fire took several hours.
There are now three professional football games airing throughout the day, social media correspondences to keep up with and an implied obligation to get everyone’s belly stuffed in time for the ensuing shopping rush known as Black Friday, which, each year, seems to infringe more and more on the holiday. Oh, who are we kidding? Perhaps a lot of us have simply just become so lazy that we’d happily activate any device that reduces even the most mundane aspect of the cooking process to a push of a button. Automatic stirrer? Yes, please. Thankfully, we’ve got you—and even those who are the worst procrastinators (you know who you are)—covered with this high-tech guide for preparing an efficient and delicious traditional meal.
Let’s start with the customary centerpiece, otherwise known as the Thanksgiving turkey. Baking a bird typically requires going through a tedious process of rubbing, basting and slow roasting. An alternative, gaining in popularity over recent years, is an outdoor method of deep-frying turkeys so that the meat comes out moist beneath a layer of dark, crispy skin. Whereas cooking a turkey in the oven can take upwards of six hours, a 10-pound turkey can be ready to serve in 35 minutes with this method. Deep-frying kits, however, are potentially hazardous pieces of equipment if not handled properly, a fact proven year after year by the thousands of fires resulting from accidental turkey explosions.
Waring’s Pro Turkey Fryer/Steamer ($250), one of the few indoor fowl-fryer machines, is a godsend. Hailed by Newsweek as the one indoor fryer that can “save your Thanksgiving,” the all-electric rotating system allows home chefs to deep-fry turkeys weighing up to 18 pounds by simply lowering the prepped poultry into an oil-filled stainless steel reservoir. Built-in safety features include a magnetic breakaway cord, a basket that stays cool to the touch and lid vents that release steam to prevent boilovers. After about an hour, you get an evenly cooked turkey that’s ready to eat. As an added bonus, the device features a steamer function for other occasions, such as clam bakes.
Besides the inherent trickiness of serving up a well-cooked turkey, properly pulverizing potatoes into a thick creamy paste has also proven to be somewhat of an art. Shortcuts like tossing potatoes into a blender produce a watery goop that barely resembles the fluffy handmade goodness that everyone’s expecting. Potato ricers work well, but they are quite laborious to use.
The Better Potato Masher ($59.95), sold through Hammacher Schlemmer, functions like a mechanized ricer. Using a rotating motor, pieces of chopped and boiled potatoes are pressed and pureed through a sieve all the while “preserving their starch granules, breaking up any lumps, and yielding a smooth, fluffy batch of this beloved comfort food,” according to the product description.
Gravy is one aspect of Thanksgiving prep that should be easy enough to make itself, except the part where you have to stir…and stir…and stir again. The Uutensil Stirr ($25) automatic pan stirrer will literally take that tedious aspect of human labor out of your hands. Just place the device directly over the pan as you mix in milk, cream, flour and other ingredients. Reviews of the first version weren’t very positive, with Apartment Therapy concluding that the device is incapable of consistently stirring anything beyond “a thin liquid.” Tests carried out on oatmeal and milky sauces showed that the gradual thickening of the sauce caused the Stirr to grind down to a halt. But, the company has since released a new and improved model, which should (hopefully) have worked out these kinks.
Whether you augment the main course with a side serving of pumpkin pie or a heartier choice, such as mincemeat pie, the Breville Personal Pie Maker can enure that your dessert is loaded up and made piping hot within a fraction of the recommended 45-minute duration it takes to oven bake it. Kind of a like a waffle iron for pies, the mini-pie machine comes with a precut dough cutter and tamping tool to press the unbaked crust to fit each of the four (4-inch in diameter) pie molds. After adding and sealing in the filling, you simply close and lock the lid and in about 8 minutes, your pies are ready to serve. You can check out a thorough review of the pie maker on the site Baking Bites.
Even after the cooking is done, don’t let the nuisance of popping that all-important bottle of wine foil your Turkey day celebrations. For that, there are a number of electric corkscrews on the market that promise less fiddling around with broken corks. Though various models seek to differentiate themselves by offering a few unique features, the underlying mechanism is the same. Just remove the foil cap, fit the device over the cork and, with a simple press of a button, the winding metallic spiral worms itself securely into the plug before gently extracting it. Press another button and the device recoils, automatically spitting out the cork.
Wine tool specialist Metrokane is selling a version that includes an LCD screen that shows how many uncorkings are left before having to recharge. But a comprehensive review of select products in the New York Times found that the company’s Rabbit Corkscrew still needed some work, as a test run required a maddening intervention they likened to a “hasty C-section” to get the device to release the cork. Other models, such as the Oster Wine Vacuum Corkscrew, they found, were much more reliable.