November 20, 2017 1:35 pm

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and soon millions of people across the United States will be gathering with family, friends, and other loved ones to share a meal and make new memories. The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and obviously there have been many technological advancements since then. Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner now is much different than it would have been nearly 400 years ago. Now, we have innovations that allow people to make a large meal more easily. Check out these inventions that have impacted Thanksgiving dinner and read about how they were invented.

Meat Thermometer

The first thermometer is credited to Santorio Santorio in the early 1600s when he applied a scale to an air thermometer and it could accurately measure temperate. The meat thermometer, commonly used to check on the Thanksgiving turkey and other dishes, was not invented until the 20th century. George E. Ford filed for the patent in 1939 and described the meat thermometer as a “to use in roasting meats to indicate when the roast is done: bi-metallic thermometer with a spacing chamber between its dial housing and the thermometer tube to facilitate the handling when inserting or withdrawing the thermometer from the meat.” The meat thermometer has been helping us cook moist, delicious turkeys and roasts ever since!


An electric mixer has many uses for cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It can be used to whip potatoes, prepare home-baked bread, and mix filling for pies. The first mixer with rotating parts was patented in 1856 by Ralph Collier. Several more iterations followed, some with whisks, some operated by hand, and eventually those operated by electricity. The first modern electric standing mixer, however, was invented in 1908 by Herbert Johnson, an engineer for the Hobart Manufacturing Company.  It was commercially available in 1915 and available for home-use by 1919.


Did you know that the wine bottle as we know it was not invented until the 18th century? Innovations in glass blowing made it possible for crafters to make bottles with narrow necks, making airtight storage possible. The English came up with the idea to seal wine with a cork, and at first, corks were removed with an existing tool that was used to clean muskets. However, the English quickly invented the corkscrew specifically for wine opening. Early corkscrews were usually T-shaped devices that pulled the cork. In the 1930s, the double-winged-lever corkscrew was patented, and it is still commonly used today. In the past few decades, corkscrew innovations have included portable electric corkscrews and reusable plastic corks. Did you know that someone who collects corkscrews is known as a helixophile? Share that fun fact at the Thanksgiving table while you’re sipping on a glass!

Can Opener

Storing food in iron and tin cans became commonplace in the early 1800s. Back in those days, cans could be up to 3/16 of an inch thick! To open the cans, it was suggested that they be cut around at the top with a chisel and hammer, and people did this for about 50 years until cans gradually got a little thinner and Ezra J. Warner invented the first can opener in 1858. Warner designed a pointed blade that, when pressed into the can, was prevented from penetrating too far into the contents by a guard. The guard then swung out of the way and a second curved blade cut around the top of the can with a saw-like action. This first can opener left a very jagged edge and this design was never a big hit with the public, even though it was widely used by the U.S. Army in the Civil War. Today, many people have electric can openers, but some choose to stick to the more utilitarian hand-crack designs. Pass the cranberry sauce!

Deep Fryer

Deep fried turkeys are delicious, but they can also be dangerous if not done properly. Despite many warnings, some people still insist on putting frozen or partially thawed turkeys into deep fryers, which can cause them to explode! There are some accounts of people in the southern United States deep frying turkeys “Cajun style” as early as the 1930s, although back then, there was no fryer specifically designed for cooking turkeys. The practice gained popularity in the late 1970s and turkey fryers became readily available in the mid-1990s. For the past decade, Texas has led the country in the most fryer-related insurance claims on Thanksgiving Day. Be careful!

BONUS: Turkey baster

It seems as if the basic idea of the turkey baster has been around for so long that there is little information available about its invention. Historians believe that the turkey baster pre-dates Thanksgiving and has been used in various cultures for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Who knew?!

The yearly Thanksgiving feast would not be like it is today without various food preparation inventions that make our lives a little easier. When you’re pondering what you’re thankful for this year, be sure to mention inventors!

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