Thanksgiving is affectionately known as Turkey Day, thanks to the succulent roasted gobbler that plays a starring role on so many Americans' holiday tables. For some of us, the nickname extends to the festive and treasured props that only make it out of the cupboard for special occasions. In my family, it's the hand-painted, turkey-shaped china serving platter that sits 364 days a year on a ledge shelf in my parent's dining room.
We say, why stop there?
These days, lots of other kitchen gadgets and accessories are in the running to become new T- Day favorites.
Here we offer some turkey-shaped products that are sure to sneak even more fun into preparing for the day's big meal.
• One of Thanksgiving Day's toughest jobs is figuring out when the bird's ready to be pulled out of the oven -- still tender and juicy, but cooked to the right temperature (a steady 165 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh). Take the guesswork out of it with Sur La Table's Pop-Up Turkey Timer ($14.95). Made with food-grade silicone and steel, this sturdy little gadget (you can use it 300-plus times) is as fun to use as it is easy: when the legs pop up, the turkey's done. Just as accurate but a lot cheaper is Kikkerland's set of three disposable pop-up timers, which come with a miniature turkey on the ends. They're just $2.49 on coolstuffexpress.com.
• More adorable still is Chef Pals Terrific Turkey Thermometer (on sale for $21.59 at Kohl's). Attached to a heat-resistant, 36-inch cable that lets you gauge the cooking bird's temperature without opening the oven, it flashes a light and "gobbles" when the turkey is done. Talk about a talking turkey!
• Sure, you can use a spoon or brush to coat drippings on top of the turkey. But a better way to suck up pan juices (and squirt them on the roasting bird without disturbing it) is with a baster. Sur La Table's Animal House Turkey Baster ($9.95) is made of heat-resistant, dishwasher-safe rubber and holds up to 3/4 of an ounce of liquid. That means you can amuse your guests when you're squeezing drippings into a pan of gravy.
• Turkey's great, but no Thanksgiving meal is complete without at least one spectacular dessert. With Nordic Ware's Platinum Classic Turkey Mold ($41.50), you can bake a 3D cake that's so pretty you'll want to use it as an edible centerpiece. (Cornucopias are so yesterday.) A nonstick coating allows for easy release and clean up. Available at Williams-Sonoma, Wholey Balcony Cookware and other local retailers; for a complete list, go to nordicware.com.
• If grab-and-go desserts are more your style, Vermont-based Ann Clark offers a 4-inch cookie cutter in the shape of Tom Turkey ($3.99). Its sturdy metal handle is perfect for child-sized hands, and each comes with a recipe card for cookies and frosting, as well as detailed instructions on how to ice the finished product so it looks like, you know, a turkey.
• Have you ever eaten at a fancy restaurant where the butter comes in the shape of a seashell? Bet it makes you feel kind of special. We're guessing Keller's Turkey-Shaped Butter Sculptures will have a similar effect on your guests. Almost too pretty to eat, let alone melt into a sauce, it's available in select Giant Eagle and Wal-Mart stores through the end of December ($4.49 for a 4-ounce box).
Gretchen McKay: email@example.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.