Now that Halloween, the first of the major fall holidays in the US, has passed, everybody is going to rush to take down their ghosts, ghouls, and jack-o’-lanterns and replace them with turkeys, cranberries, and other symbols of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday. Some celebrate it as an American tradition. Others look at it as simply an excuse to get together with family to watch some football. And still others just enjoy getting an extra day off from work or try to ignore it altogether. But however you regard it, there are often two areas in which many of us can use help: preparing the traditional Thanksgiving meal and dealing with the stresses that a family get-together can create.
Here are the tools the staff of The Verge use to cope with both of these Thanksgiving issues.
Nothing ruins a meal more than cutting into something and realizing it has to go back into the oven — except for maybe biting into something and realizing you overcooked it thanks to your fear of having to refire something. Either situation could derail a Thanksgiving dinner entirely, which is why you owe it to yourself to just use a thermometer. Just going by the numbers is, in my experience, a million times easier than trying to remember complicated tricks.
Personally, I have an older model of the ThermoWorks Thermapen because it’s one of the best out there. The latest model is no exception, but at $99, it’s a tough sell if you’re not a serious home cook. If you’re pretty sure you’ll only pull out a thermometer a few times a year, I’d recommend going with the $35 ThermoPop instead. It’s not quite as fast as its more expensive sibling (ThermoWorks promises a reading in two to three seconds versus the one-second reading from the Thermapen), but it’s way better than trying to judge whether a turkey is done by guesstimating its weight or poking at it with a fork and squinting to see what color the juice is. — Mitchell Clark, news writer
I’m going to steal a page out of Internet Shaquille’s book here and recommend that you get a good rechargeable milk frother. Not only can it up your at-home coffee game (I’ve bought significantly fewer mochas after getting one and am a solid 0.001 percent closer to owning a home because of it), but you can also use it for making dressings, small amounts of whipped cream, or thoroughly mixing hot chocolate mix into water.
I like the MudWtr Mud Whip because it comes with detachable heads, meaning I can quickly whip multiple substances without having to pause for a cleaning in between, and it’s USB rechargeable. Personally, I use it for ensuring that my Better than Bouillon or powdered buttermilk (both great kitchen hacks) are completely incorporated, so I don’t find chunks of powder or veggie jelly in whatever I’m cooking. — Mitchell Clark, news writer
The genius of the apple peeler / corer as a Thanksgiving gadget is that it works not just for apples but also for potatoes. If you are making a huge batch of mashed potatoes and you hate peeling, this is the device for you. Just stick each potato on your apple peeler / corer, give them a quick crank, and you’ll end up with some nicely peeled (and sliced) potatoes to boil. Of course, you can also use this for its intended purpose and knock out a few apple pies without all of the tedious peeling and slicing. — Helen Havlak, publisher
I’ve gone through several methods of storing recipes, from having boxes of index cards, shelves full of books, and even a Google Drive folder full of documents — and after discovering Paprika (shout-out to my colleagues for recommending it), I never want to go back to any other organization method. Paprika doesn’t have the most elegant or modern UI, but it does what it needs to do extraordinarily well. You can add recipes with tons of metadata, such as a custom category, cook time, nutrition info, and even a photo, and organize them in a variety of ways. You can also build grocery lists and meal plans based on those recipes.
It’s all the little extras that really make Paprika shine, though. Like any good recipe manager, the app lets you easily adjust how many servings of something you want to make, and you can also import recipes straight from the web; just give the app a URL, and it’ll automatically strip out the four paragraphs of backstory, leaving you with a recipe card that has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Also, when you’re displaying a recipe, you may notice that phrases like “an hour” or “12–17 minutes” look like hyperlinks. Tapping on them lets you start a timer for however long the recipe calls for (and yes, unlike the iPhone clock app, you can have more than one running).
The only downside is the price. It’s a paid — though not subscription-based — app, and you have to buy it for each platform separately. The mobile versions (iOS / Android) cost $4.99 each for the full version (though you can use the Android app for free if you’re fine with saving only 50 recipes and not having cloud sync), while the desktop versions (macOS / Windows) are an eye-watering $29.99. Having paid a total of $35 for the iPhone and Mac versions of this app, though, I don’t have any regrets, and I’d happily pay it again if I ever switched over to a Windows / Android setup. — Mitchell Clark, news writer
Ensuring a stress-free holiday
Nearly six years into its life, the Nintendo Switch remains the ultimate family-friendly party console. Every Switch (except the Lite) comes with two controllers, so that’s built-in multiplayer for one-on-one Super Smash Bros. Ultimate matches or a run through the new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe tracks. With Nintendo Switch Sports, you can harken back to the glory days of Wii Sports with a round of virtual bowling and even bowl at the same time as the person next to you. A favorite with my family is Quiplash 2, included with The Jackbox Party Pack 3, which lets up to eight people write hilarious / horrible jokes just by typing on their smartphones.
I haven’t made my Thanksgiving packing list yet, but I already know the Switch will top the list. — Jay Peters, news writer
I live in New York City, but several family members live in western New Jersey, and when they can, they invite us to join them for Thanksgiving. I’ve been to their home often enough, so I know how to get there, but the traffic on Thanksgiving between New York and New Jersey can add over an hour — or more — to the trip. So I need to minimize the frustration of navigating among drivers who are either on the phone arguing about who is going to sit next to whom at dinner or fighting three-helpings-of-turkey fatigue.
I’m old enough to remember when trying to avoid the worst of the traffic was a guessing game. Now, I can use Google Maps to find out ahead of time which are the best traffic routes and to get an estimate of how long the trip will take. And when traffic conditions change, I get to decide whether to stay on my current familiar route or switch to a less familiar but faster route.
Why am I calling out both Google Maps and Waze? For two reasons. I usually use Maps, especially since a lot of the good features in Waze have been incorporated into it, such as gas prices and reported accidents. However, sometimes it’s fun to switch to the crowdsourced interface that Waze offers. Either app gets me to and from our Thanksgiving dinner with a lot less stress. — Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor
Meditation apps and breathing reminders
In my family, Thanksgiving is a minefield. Half the family wears MAGA hats. The other half are raging New York leftists with Bernie Sanders bumper stickers. There’s a sprinkling of hand-wringing both-sides moderates, too. There’s also discontent over food. The Korean side of the family thinks turkey is dry as hell, and you might as well artfully arrange LA galbi to look like a turkey. The non-Korean side of our international menagerie bangs their spoons on the table demanding proper mashed potatoes with three boats of gravy.
It’s a hoot. Or it would be if I wasn’t an anxious ball of nerves. I’m always tense, wondering when a well-meaning in-law might ask me where I “learned to speak English good.” (It’s happened twice now.) Or if the less traditional side of the family will ruffle feathers by proclaiming Watergate salad an abomination. So breathing reminders on my myriad smartwatches and meditation apps are the main way I survive this clash of worlds.
Apple Fitness Plus has its own five-minute meditations — perfect for the hour before relatives arrive and much-needed bathroom breaks. The Calm app has soothing soundscapes, also perfect for when you feel the urge to yeet yourself out a window during the annual debate over whether pecan or pumpkin pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. I’m always double-wristing smartwatches, so it helps that two devices ping me every hour, reminding me to breathe. I don’t even like meditation apps that much, but on Thanksgiving, I just need them.
I haven’t murdered anyone yet, so I think it’s been pretty successful. — Victoria Song, reviewer
If you must know anything about me, it’s that I can’t cook. Normally, I can get by just fine on my own, but during a food-focused holiday like Thanksgiving, it’s a little difficult to fly under the radar when it comes to lack of skill. My mom and I generally have a small Thanksgiving dinner to ourselves, which means, due to my habit of burning anything I try to make, she has to do all the heavy lifting in the kitchen. Sure, I help with the food prep — I’m quite handy with a knife at least — but the main value I provide is entertainment.
I take it upon myself to curate the best music using my Spotify Premium account, which will have us jamming along while trying to scrape together a hearty meal. I hit all the classics I know my mom will sing to: a little Elton John, maybe some Aretha Franklin, a lot of Cher. I might even mix in a little ’90s country music or bluegrass to pay homage to our family’s roots.
And when I’ve really got her singing and dancing, I take the opportunity to sneak a few bites of her dressing or mashed potatoes ahead of dinner — because that’s truly the most important task for the kid of the family. — Kaitlin Hatton, audience manager