Thanksgiving is almost here. If you’re entertaining guests, the arrival of the holidays can bring anxiety and excitement. Will the turkey be cooked in time? Will it be moist and tasty? Will your side be the star of the show? Do you get out of the kitchen and spend time with guests?
We’ve scoured TikTok for tips and tricks to reduce your Thanksgiving stress and add to the holiday cheer. We found a lot of great tips and passed them on to Food Network recipe developer Amanda Neal for her feedback – for which we are very grateful! Here’s what we found.
Prep and chop all your veggies the night before Thanksgiving and store them in the fridge in resealable bags like TikToker @nataliecamilay to save time and stress. Or, Neal suggests, “Use reusable glass containers to reduce waste.”
As @trentonaschoff demonstrates in the video above, avoid the frustration of getting cranberry sauce out of the can by punching a hole on the opposite side of the opening. “But,” Neal warns, “please don’t use a pocketknife. It’s dangerous and dulls the edge. Just use a can opener to make a hole.”
“Everyone knows making gravy is the most stressful part of Thanksgiving,” says Kathleen Ashmore (@katcancook) in this video. “What if I told you you could finish ahead of schedule?” Yes, that’s a real game changer. “I love this video,” Neil said. “It’s so helpful and informative, and a time saver for the day.” Plus, she adds, “You can add some chicken stock or poultry seasoning for a ‘turkey’ flavor.” Gravy problem solved!
Who has time to stop everything when Thanksgiving guests arrive, get out of the kitchen and start making cocktails? You have a turkey to tend to and two sides to oversee! A convenient solution: Make seasonal sangria ahead of time so guests can enjoy it while you’re doing whatever else you need to do. There are tons of Thanksgiving sangria recipes on TikTok — like this and this, or, heck, this or this — so you’re sure to find something that suits your taste. “Sangria is a great Thanksgiving drink because you can make it ahead of time,” agrees Neil. “I like a fall-flavored version with cider and cinnamon. You might have some left over from picking apples, so it’s a great ingredient.”
TikToker Mya Hansel (@hanselkai), who hosts dinner parties, shares this fun tip that “allows you to focus on the food and entertain your guests at the same time”: She lists ingredients and sets up a small bar so her Guests can make their own drinks. “It’s so cute—and convenient for the owner,” Neil said. She recommends adding “some easy-to-assemble drinks like a bottle of wine, some beer, and some non-alcoholic beverages” to your DIY bar area, too.
Why serve your guests a plain veggie tray when you can serve them one with veggies arranged in a cute turkey shape? Yes, we did exactly that for Thanksgiving this year. Neil loves how light and fresh this appetizer is, especially compared to the rest of the holiday meal, and he has an added tip for this super cute idea: prepare it ahead of time. “Soak and refrigerate, then slice all the vegetables,” she advises.
After all the baking and cooking for a Thanksgiving feast, the last thing you need is to complicate your appetizers. So keep it simple with some easy 3-ingredient recipes, like this delicious-looking recipe shared by easy-recipe expert @jlodonohue. Neal approves of these big moments. “Thanksgiving is always a great option—or any holiday,” she says, while also noting, “You can use another cured sausage with whatever seasoning you like best.”
Not all Thanksgiving meals are formal. Maybe you’re hosting a party where guests pick up their plates, serve themselves, and sit as they please. (We love these, too.) But if you’re craving a more elegant meal, you might want to brush up on table setting etiquette. In that case, Neal agrees, the video, which contains some interesting tips, could be “very helpful.”
Napkins aren’t just useful and neat – with a little fold, they can enhance your table decorations. And you don’t need anything too fancy for an attractive look. This video offers three different cloth napkin folding techniques and ideas for enhancing them. Each one is “super cute — and super easy to pull off,” says Neil. “I also love that you can personalize it with different colored napkins, or add a few sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme to make things extra festive.” Agreed!
This “Thanksgiving life hack” TikTok video that promises to teach you “how to spit out a bag!” is hilarious. It will also show you how to butterfly a bird by cutting off the backbone and flattening it so it cooks hotter and faster. If you haven’t tried this technique before, “don’t let it scare you. Don’t be nervous—you’ve got to start somewhere, buttercup,” happily assures Desarae Legros (@Cooking_comedy_chaos). Legros demonstrated with a chicken, but the technique is similar for a turkey. “It’s good preparation to know and understand because it helps cook the turkey evenly,” says Neal. However, she warns that it’s much harder to spit out a whole turkey than a chicken — and you might just want to ask your butcher to spit out your turkey for you and save you the hassle. If you decide to DIY and try to shoot a chicken at home, Neil recommends that you “dry the turkey so it’s not so slippery, and make sure you use very sharp kitchen shears.”
Lately, TikTokers have been all about the fun of compound butters (see also: butter boards). In this video (and this one, if you’re looking for recipe variations), the butter is seasoned, rolled into a log, covered with plastic wrap and frozen. (I would personally avoid putting it straight into the freezer, especially before entertaining guests, for fear of making the ice taste weird, and would opt to store it elsewhere in the freezer.) Once removed from the freezer, The compound butter log is cut into rounds and slipped under the turkey’s skin, making the meat nice and moist. “Compound butter is a great way to season your turkey,” says Neal. “Plus, you can make it ahead of time so there’s less Thanksgiving prep work. You can personalize it with your own dried herbs and spices.”
“I couldn’t have Thanksgiving without Grandma Pat’s Corn Souffle,” Teri Turner (@nocrumbsleft) said. Using items like Jiffy corn muffin mix and a can of creamed corn, along with a few other freezer and freezer staples, this recipe is super easy and looks delicious. It’s “a great coup for quick corn mixes,” Neal says, adding that the single-bowl factor is also appealing. “You can top it with shredded cheese, or add a pinch of cayenne for warmth,” she suggests. “Um!”
This classic recipe looked so good we had to include it. “It’s Thanksgiving week and you have to tap a macaroni and cheese recipe—or you’ll be kicked out of the family this week,” says Chef Law Cannon (@lawcannon). We’ll also suggest our own tip: Prepare this the day before Thanksgiving to minimize work that day. You can “make macaroni and cheese and put it in a baking dish and bake it right before serving,” says Neil. Give you. Macs… Hacked!
The above from @halfbakedharvest is another pre-made side dish that looks super delicious. “I love the tips of the roasted garlic,” says Neil. “It’s something you can make ahead and add so much flavor to a variety of dishes—sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, garlic bread, vinaigrette, etc.”
This video that went viral last year shows you how to make cute little “turkeys” with strawberries, marshmallows, pretzel sticks (we think), and chocolate. “People love chocolate strawberries,” laughs Neil. “These check a lot of boxes because they’re cute and easy to make.”
If the trash bag hack below is Shannon Doherty’s (@athomewithshannon) favorite Thanksgiving hack, then this dessert tip is even better: She says turn a $6 grocery store pie into cute mini pies with pumpkin Soda is one of her favorite hacks or all time. “It’s pretty clever to turn a store-bought pie into something more delicate by simply using a cookie cutter,” Neil says approvingly. “I’m also grateful that she has a use for leftover pie, too.” Neal notes that this recipe can be done with sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, or even pecan pie. However, she cautions, “I would avoid any pie with a double crust because the top crust will look sloppy once cut.” Famous!
“Music is the most important part of creating a beautiful dinner party,” says dinner party lover Mya Hansel (@hanselkai). Hansel creates a moody atmosphere at cocktail hour, and when everyone sits down to dinner, the playlist is full of Brazilian, Portuguese and Spanish tunes. Neil agrees that music is an important part of setting the tone for a holiday gathering. “A lot of people like to make Spotify playlists, and playing some moody music during the Thanksgiving meal will help create a happy atmosphere,” she says. As for which songs to put on your list, “any music will do,” Neal advises, with one caveat: “Reserve definite tunes for friend gatherings—this playlist is for family dinners.”
“Easiest way to send guests home with leftovers? Try a muffin tin,” says TikToker @brunchwithbabs, who calls herself “everyone’s grandma.” Babs recommends that you use muffin tins to create a “to-go station” for your guests, noting that they can serve themselves “a little bit of everything,” and pop them in the oven to reheat everything at once when you’re ready to eat them. so smart! Neal called Babs’ suggestion a “clever and handy hack for using single-use aluminum containers,” but noted that she would opt for reusable containers to reduce waste. Still, she notes, “it can be useful if your guests can’t return the reusable container in time” — such as those arriving from far away for a Thanksgiving feast.
“If you only remember one Thanksgiving hack, this is it,” said Shannon Doherty of @athomewithshannon. Re-crack? Turn the Command Hooks on either side of the trash can upside down, then place three clean trash bags in the trash can, securing each bag under the Command Hooks. Then, once a bag is full, you can remove it and have another bag ready without stopping halfway through the party to grab a new one. Neal also sees another advantage to the Commando Hook hack: “It helps keep the trash bag in place when you’re dumping heavy food like turkey carcasses,” she points out. so true!