Thanksgiving Pantry Primer for Beginners

Baking Powder and Baking Soda

Be sure to buy fresh containers of baking powder and baking soda if yours are more than a year old. Your baked goods will flop—literally—without them.



Don’t worry if you can’t get dinner on the table in time. Take the edge off guests’ hunger with some tasty, fresh-baked bread from your local bakery or market.



You’ll need to stock up on lots of it. Pour melted butter over dry stuffing to moisten it, serve room-temperature butter to spread on dinner rolls and keep some cold butter in the fridge for working into pie dough.



Fresh cranberry sauce is a cinch to make and so much better than the jellied stuff that comes in a can. For a beautiful, simple centerpiece, buy an extra bag or two of the bright-red berries and use them to fill clear glass vases of varying heights.


Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Splurge on a nice bottle and drizzle it over roasted vegetables before serving. Or, use it to whip up a quick salad dressing.



Homemade piecrusts and holiday cookies can’t be made without this kitchen essential. Keep it sealed in an airtight container for freshness.


Green Beans

Whether baked into a casserole or simply sauteed, these vegetables round out a traditional holiday meal and look pretty on the plate. Look for bright green beans that snap when you bend them. And don’t even bother with the canned variety—they just don’t compare.



The flavors of the season really come through with the help of fresh herbs like sage and thyme. Chop them and sprinkle over dishes right before serving.


Jarred Gravy

Making gravy is the final task before you sit down to eat—you need the drippings from the cooked bird—and after a long day of cooking, it isn’t always so easy to pull off. Buy a backup jar of premade gravy just in case.


Kosher Salt

The best way to season your bird (and a host of other dishes) is to sprinkle it with kosher salt. Keep a bowlful handy in the kitchen.



Add crunch to stuffing or jazz up dessert with a sprinkling of toasted nuts. Buy big bags of nuts and store them in the freezer to keep them from going rancid.



The start of many a great dish, these pantry powerhouses should be stored in a cool, dark place. Buy them by the bagful—you’ll use them.



Buy whole peppercorns and grind them fresh for each recipe; —the flavor is far superior to the pre-ground stuff.



From roasted to mashed, russets to Yukon golds, nearly every Thanksgiving table hosts a spud of some sort. Take advantage of potatoes’ long shelf life and buy them in advance of the big day.



Be sure you have fresh jars—spices should be replaced every six months—of seasonal favorites like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and ginger.


Stock and Broth

Your shelves should be stocked full (pun intended) of chicken and/or vegetable stock and broth. You’ll need it to add moisture to dry stuffing, deglaze pans and make gravy.



From a teaspoon in your after-dinner coffee to a whole lot more in your pecan pie, sugar (both granulated and brown) is an essential holiday staple.


Vegetable Oil

The high smoke point of vegetable oil makes it a great choice for all that intensive cooking. Purchase a big bottle.



Have a nice bottle of both red and white wine on hand for everything from deglazing pans to calming first-time-host jitters.

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