Where to splurge and save for Thanksgiving cooking implements

One might not need a flavor injector, potato scrubbing gloves or a wi-fi enabled thermometer that syncs with one's iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, but there is a range of cooking tools that can come in handy for Thanksgiving prep and execution.

Some implements are worth splurging on, said Gale Tan, a former culinary manager for Sur La Table in Palo Alto who now runs a local pop-up dinner company.

For example: a culinary torch, which can be used for anything from giving a turkey that perfect golden outer crunch to topping crème brulee or making s'mores. It's also not Thanksgiving-specific and can be used throughout the year.

Sur La Table at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto carries kitchen torches (a mini goes for $24.95 and two larger ones for $49.95 and $63, respectively). William Sonoma at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto carries one for $49.95.

A digital thermometer with a probe is also preferable for cooking turkey, said John Gurnee, chef de cuisine at LB Steak in Menlo Park.

Williams-Sonoma carries a range of thermometers, from basics like an instant-read digital thermometer ($39.95) all the way up to a dual probe thermometer (monitor the progress of two meats at once or two parts of a single turkey) for $42.95 and the smart thermometer that syncs with Apple devices ($199.95). Sur La Table has similar digital and non-digital options, but the smart thermometer is specific to Williams-Sonoma.

When it comes to roasting pans, Tan said there's really no difference between a $300-splurge and the disposable pans that can be purchased at grocery stores.

"The thermometer is crucial," she said. "The roasting pan, not so much."

For the multitasker, Tan suggested a triple timer that can monitor three items at once, or one culinary feat that needs to be done at intervals. Both Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table in Palo Alto carry a triple timer ($19.99).

Other necessary items: a baster and kitchen twine, Gurnee said.

"I'm a firm believer in kitchen twine; some good string so you can truss your bird up. Most turkeys come with metal thing that twists around turkey's feet (but) you can't beat old fashioned string.

"Basting the skin with the drippings that come off the bird helps give you a nice beautiful brown skin. I can't say enough about that."

Williams-Sonoma carries an angled dripless baster for $19.95 as well as basting brushes (from $10 to $17.95); Sur La Table also carries a range of brushes ($6.95 and up) and a few basters, one dripless ($11.95).

Sur La Table also goes beyond helpful tools to machines that do the work for you: a rotisserie turkey fryer and steamer ($249.95) or a smoker (one size, $299.95; a larger size, $399.95).

Sous vide immersion circulators — a technological innovation that stems from the sous vide method of cooking (cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath with a regulated temperature) have become standard in restaurant kitchens, allowing chefs to cook foods at precisely controlled temperatures. Though expensive and somewhat intimidating, immersion circulators are making their way into home kitchens, as well.

Immersion circulators help prevent overcooking and can be used for anything from vegetables to meat to poached eggs. And because the food is sealed completely airtight, it can be stored for long periods of time — an advantage for cooking meat for the holidays.

Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma carry various immersion circulators, from about $300 up to $1,000.


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