A chef who’s cooked over 5,000 turkeys shares the secrets to the best bird ever

Thanksgiving is a joy but, let’s face it, also kinda stressful. There’s a lot to do, plus the anxiety of worrying whether this year’s bird will be juicy and delish or dry and disappointing. To take that concern off your proverbial plate, we tapped Yankel Polak, head chef at ButcherBox, the meat-and-seafood delivery service. Chef Yankel knows a thing or two about making a terrific turkey. Here he shares the tools that make it easy; snatch them up before they sell out — and in plenty of time to set yourself up to win Thanksgiving.

Turkey Baster

“After two hours or so in the oven, the turkey will start releasing juices. This is peak basting time, because the turkey will also begin absorbing anything you pour over it,” Chef Yankel explains. He likes to use this turkey baster because it makes basting “a total no-hassle job.”

Thanks to the clear cylinder, you can see exactly what’s inside. And the round silicone bulb makes it easy to use at any angle. “Rather than trying to ladle or spoon the juices from the bottom of the pan, this baster is a simple squeeze and baste method, with plenty of distance from a hot pan,” he said. It’s safer, easier, quicker and more efficient.

Silicone Sauce Basting Brush Set

“While basting your turkey will keep it moist, a brush allows you to add additional flavor,” said the chef. This smart set consists of a 7.5-inch brush and a 12-inch version that helps you get to hard-to-reach spots.

The brushes are heat-resistant up to 480 degrees and dishwasher-safe too. Chef Yankel says they “make it easy to add herbs, garlic, citrus, wine or any other flavor profile you can dream up, before, during and after cooking.” May we suggest using these tools to slather on the chef’s All Purpose Holiday Butter, for a super-flavorful turkey your guests will go gaga for? You will thank us.

Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 16-Inch Rectangular Roaster with Rack

A good roasting pan is a must for turkey. Chef Yankel recommends this Cuisinart option: “It makes roasting, resting, and moving your turkey to a platter or cutting board almost too easy! The removable rack sits low enough to allow the turkey to cook in its own juices (though I recommend adding some broth, wine, and root veggies to the bottom for more flavor) while allowing easy access to the liquid for basting.”

It’s so sleek and pretty, you can even skip the platter: “I love it because it’s well-constructed and looks nice enough to work as a centerpiece on your table as well. The slight rim around the outside of the pan makes it easy to wrap with foil if that’s your preferred roasting method or simply to cover leftovers for the day after.” And Chef Yankel is not the only fan; nearly 4,000 Amazon shoppers give this roasting set a five-star rating too!

Meater Smart Meat Thermometer

This smart gadget is an investment, but one you’ll quickly find indispensable. Use it all year long (and for years and years to come) to ensure meat is never overcooked or undercooked.

Says Chef Yankel, “I love this thermometer because I can track whatever I’m cooking via the app on my phone! No more guesswork, and no more babysitting the turkey all morning. While whole turkeys do generally come with a pop-out thermometer, other cuts generally do not, so if you are cooking a beef or lamb roast, or even just a turkey breast on its own for smaller gatherings, a digital thermometer will always be worthwhile.”

This smart thermometer is compatible with iPhones, Androids and tablets, and it lets you set up custom alerts for when your meat reaches the temperature you want. It can even estimate how long to cook different meals.

And that pop-out thermometer that’s included with whole turkeys is not perfect: “Typically, the included pop-out gauge only informs you when the turkey breast (where it’s been inserted) has reached 165F. Adding a digital probe to another area, such as the thigh bone, or being able to check the temperature across the whole turkey allows you to rotate, baste and cover as needed, ensuring a perfectly cooked bird every time,” he added.

Turkey Brine XL Complete Kit

“Brining a turkey (or nearly any lean meat) has been a chef secret for too long.” says Chef Yankel. “The overnight bath in a savory solution will change your turkey game forever. If you want to go the extra mile and have an unforgettable turkey, but are intimidated by the idea of brining, this kit makes it a no-brainer.”

With simple instructions and a double-seal turkey-sized brine bag that makes refrigerator storage easy, this set only calls for the addition of salt and water. It can accommodate a turkey up to 20 pounds. Just remove the bag before adding the bird to your roasting pan (of course), as it is not oven-safe.

If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping on all the items here, as you know. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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