Thanksgiving is coming. If you’re hosting, the holiday’s approach may bring anxiety as well as excitement. Will the turkey be done in time — and will it be moist and tasty? Will your sides be the stars of the show? And will you ever get out of the kitchen and be able to spend time with your guests?
We scoured TikTok for tips and tricks to lower your Thanksgiving stress and boost the holiday joy. We found lots of great tips, and then ran them past Food Network recipe developer Amanda Neal for her feedback — for that, and so much more, we are super grateful! Here’s what we found.
Save time and lower your stress on Thanksgiving day by prepping and chopping all your vegetables the night before and storing them in the refrigerator in resealable bags like TikToker @nataliecamilay. Or, Neal suggests, “use reusable glass containers for less waste.”
Spare yourself the frustration of removing the cranberry sauce from the can by punching a hole in the opposite side of the open one, as @trentonaschoff demonstrates in the video above. “But,” Neal cautions, “please don’t use a knife. That is very dangerous and will dull the knife blade. Just punch a hole with your can opener.”
“Everyone knows that making gravy is the most stressful part of Thanksgiving,” Kathleen Ashmore (@katcancook) says in this video. “What if I told you that you could make it ahead of time?” Yes, it’s a game changer for real. “I love this video,” Neal says. “It’s so useful and informative, and saves time on the day-of.” Plus, she adds, “You can add some chicken bouillon base or poultry seasoning for added ‘turkey’ flavor.'” Gravy problems solved!
Who has time to stop everything, step out of the kitchen and start mixing up cocktails when guests arrive on Thanksgiving day? You have a turkey to tend to and sides to supervise! One handy solution: Make a seasonal sangria ahead of time so guests can enjoy it while you do whatever it is you need to do. Thanksgiving sangria recipes — like this one and this one or, heck, this one or this one — abound on TikTok, so you can definitely find one that suits your taste. “Sangria is a great Thanksgiving drink because you can make it ahead,” Neal agrees. “I love the fall-inspired versions with apple cider and cinnamon. You’ll probably have some left over from apple picking, so it’s a great ingredient to include.”
Dinner-party-throwing TikToker Mya Hansel (@hanselkai) shares this fun tip “for being able to focus on the food and entertain your guests at the same time”: She makes an ingredient list and sets up a little bar so her guests can make themselves their own drinks. “So cute — and very convenient for the host,” Neal says. She suggests adding “some easy-to-assemble drinks, such as a bottle of wine, a few beers, and some nonalcoholic beverages” to your DIY bar area as well.
Why offer your guests a regular veggie tray when you can offer them one in which the vegetables are arranged in the shape of an adorable turkey? Yeah, we’re totally doing this for Thanksgiving this year. Neal loves how light and fresh this appetizer is, especially in contrast to the rest of the holiday meal, and offers an additional hack for this super-cute idea: Prep it ahead of time. “Make the dip and refrigerate, and then slice all the vegetables,” she advises.
With all the baking and cooking you’ll be doing for your Thanksgiving feast, the last thing you need is to get complicated with your appetizers. So keep it simple with easy a few three-ingredient recipes, like this delicious-looking one shared by easy-recipe maven @jlodonohue. Neal approves of these big time. “Always a great option for Thanksgiving — or any holiday really,” she says, while also noting, “you could use another cured sausage and roll in any of your favorite seasonings.”
Not all Thanksgiving meals are formal affairs. Maybe you’re having the kind of gathering where guests just grab a plate, serve themselves and sit wherever. (We love those, too.) But if you’re having a more elegant seated meal, you may want a refresher on table setting etiquette. In that case, Neal agrees, this video, which has some fun tips may be “very useful.”
Napkins are more than just useful and tidy — with a little folding they can also elevate your table decor. And you don’t need anything too fancy to accomplish an attractive look. This video offers three different cloth-napkin folding techniques and ideas to elevate them. Each is “super cute — and so achievable,” says Neal. “I also love that you can personalize with different colored napkins, or stick in a few sprigs of fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, to make things extra festive.” Agreed!
This “Thanksgiving Life Hack” TikTok video, which promises to teach you “how to spatchcock a bagock!” is highly entertaining. It will also show you how to butterfly your bird by cutting out the backbone and flattening it out so it cooks hotter and faster. If you’ve not tried this technique before, “don’t let it scare you. Don’t be nervous — you gotta start somewhere, buttercups,” Desarae Legros (@Cooking_comedy_chaos) cheerfully reassures. Legros demonstrates with a chicken, but the technique would be similar with a turkey. “This is a good preparation to know and understand because it helps to cook the turkey evenly,” Neal says. However, she warns, it is much more difficult to spatchcock a whole turkey than a chicken — and you may just want to ask your butcher to spatchcock your turkey for you to save you the trouble. If you decide to DIY it and attempt to spatchcock at home, Neal advises that you should “dry the turkey very well so it’s less slippery, and make sure to use very sharp kitchen shears.”
Recently, TikTokers have been big into the delights of compound butter (see also: butter boards). In this video (and this one, too, if you’re looking for a recipe variation), butter is seasoned, rolled into a log, covered in plastic wrap and frozen. (I, personally, would avoid putting it directly in the ice bin, especially ahead of hosting guests, for fear of making the ice taste funny, and would opt to place it elsewhere in the freezer.) Once it is removed from the freezer, the compound-butter log is sliced into medallions and slid under the turkey’s skin to render the meat flavorful and moist. “Compound butter is a great way to season a turkey,” Neal says. “Plus, you can make it ahead of time, so there’s less prep on Thanksgiving day. And you can personalize it with your own dried herbs and spices.”
“I can’t have Thanksgiving without Grandma Pat’s corn souffle,” says Teri Turner (@nocrumbsleft). Using pantry items like Jiffy corn-muffin mix and a can of creamed corn, along with a handful of other fridge and freezer staples, this recipe is super easy and looks delish. It’s “a great hack for Jiffy corn mix,” says Neal, adding that the one-bowl factor is also appealing. “You could top with shredded cheese, or add a pinch of cayenne for some heat,” she suggests. “Yum!”
This classic recipe looks so good, we had to include it. “It’s the week of Thanksgiving and you gotta have a mac & cheese recipe down pat — otherwise you’re getting kicked out of your family this week,” says Chef Law Cannon (@lawcannon). We’ll also suggest our own hack: Prep this the day before Thanksgiving, to minimize work on the day itself. You can “make the mac and cheese and assemble in the baking dish, then bake right before serving,” says Neal. There you go. Mac…hacked!
Included above from @halfbakedharvest is another make-ahead side dish that looks super yummy. “I love the tip of roasting garlic,” Neal says. “It’s something you can do ahead of time and adds so much flavor to a variety of dishes — sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, garlic bread, vinaigrettes, etc.”
This video, which blew up last year, shows you how to make adorable little “turkeys” out of strawberries, marshmallows, pretzel sticks (we think) and chocolate. “People love a chocolate covered strawberry,” Neal says, with a laugh. “These check a lot of boxes because they’re adorable and easy to make.”
If the below garbage-bag hack was Shannon Doherty’s (@athomewithshannon) favorite Thanksgiving hack, this dessert tip does one better: She says turning a $6 grocery-store pie into cute little mini-pies and pumpkin pops is her one of her favorite hacks of all time. “Turning a store-bought pie into something more refined by simply using a biscuit cutter is so smart,” Neal says, approvingly. “I also appreciate that she had a use for the remaining pie as well.” Neal notes that this hack could be done with sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie and even a pecan pie. However, she cautions, “I would avoid any pies with a double crust, because the top crust will look sloppy once cut.” Noted!
“Music is the most important part of creating a beautiful dinner party,” says dinner-party enthusiast Mya Hansel (@hanselkai). Hansel goes for a moody vibe during cocktail hour and, when everyone is sitting down to dinner, a playlist with a lot of Brazilian, Portuguese and Spanish tunes on it. Neal agrees that music is an essential part of setting the tone for a holiday gathering. “So many people enjoy making Spotify playlists, and having some moody music playing during your Thanksgiving meal will help to set an enjoyable vibe,” she says. As far as what songs to put on your list, “any music really goes,” Neal advises, with one caveat: “Leave the explicit tunes for friendsgiving — this playlist is for a family meal.”
“The easiest way to send guests home with leftovers? Try the muffin tin,” says TikToker @brunchwithbabs, who calls herself “everyone’s grandmother.” Babs advises that you make a “to-go station” using muffin tins for guests, noting that they can then serve themselves a “little bit of everything” and heat all the items at once by popping them in the oven when they’re ready to eat them. So smart! Neal calls Babs’ suggestion “a clever and convenient hack using single-use aluminum containers,” but notes she would opt for a reusable container instead, in order to produce less waste. Still, she notes, “this could be useful if you have guests that won’t be able to return reusable containers in a timely fashion” — such as those coming to your Thanksgiving feast from far away.
“If you only remember one Thanksgiving hack, this is it,” says Shannon Doherty of @athomewithshannon. Her hack? Turn Command Hooks upside down on either side of your garbage can and then layer three clean trash bags in the can, securing each under the Commando Hooks. Then, once one bag is full, you can remove it and have another at the ready without having to pause in the middle of your party to fluff out a new bag. Neal also sees another advantage to the Commando Hook hack: It’s useful “for keeping the garbage bag in place when you’re dumping heavy foods, such as the turkey carcass,” she notes. So true!