Happy Hacksgiving! 28 Clever Thanksgiving Hacks That Will Make You So Grateful

published Nov 6, 2023
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Slicing pie
Credit: Sarah Crowley

No one ever said that creating a beautiful Thanksgiving meal to share with a house full of loved ones would be easy, but it can be easier. Even for me (a culinary school-trained former chef and current recipe developer), there’s always one dish that turns out a little differently than expected (*cough* the gravy *cough*). Thankfully, though, the internet provides instant access to millions of other who are preparing the same types of holiday meals — and sharing their best tips.

From turning a store-bought pie into an Instagram-worthy confection to effortlessly divvying up leftovers, there are dozens of ways to take the stress out of this food-focused holiday. We rounded up 28 of the smartest, most practical Thanksgiving hacks we could find online to make hosting a little simpler (and maybe even more fun). Be sure to before the big day rolls around.

1. Use a fork to peel potatoes.

Get those spuds under control by sticking a fork in one end and using it as a handle while you peel. No more wet taters slipping around while you prep!

2. Score and boil potatoes for a quick peel.

Rather than go at the potatoes’ skin before boiling, you can use a knife to score them through the center before boiling and cooling for super-easy peeling.

3. Rock and roll your way to cut vegetables.

For big, hard vegetables like butternut squash, this hack shows how to rock the vegetable back and forth as you cut it for easy and safe chopping. Just watch those fingers!

4. Peel and mash potatoes at the same time.

In a TikTok hack so viral it became legendary, @lorafied shows how to use a wire cooling rack to peel and mash potatoes in one simple step. Just boil potatoes whole, slice in half lengthwise, and push each half skin-side up through the rack into a bowl.

5. Wear goggles when cutting onions.

You’ll find thousands of results for onion-cutting hacks on TikTok, but Tiffani Thiessen demonstrates the most effective one: wearing safety goggles to keep your eyes tear-free.

6. Use water to thaw a turkey in hours (not days).

Let’s be clear: Thawing a frozen turkey takes time, so please plan ahead. But if you didn’t get around to the whole thawing thing on Monday, @problemsolved shares how to submerge the bird in water to thaw it way faster.

7. Create your own roasting rack.

Roasting turkey on a rack is the best way to allow the hot oven air to circulate around the bird, ensuring crispy skin all over. If you don’t already have a roasting rack, form a ring with aluminum foil to place in the bottom of your pan so that your turkey is propped up while cooking.

8. Spatchcock your turkey.

For a quicker-cooking bird with blissfully crispy skin, you’ve gotta go with a spatchcock. Cutting out the bird’s backbone may seem daunting, but this step-by-step video from @dadwithapan shows you exactly how to do it.

9. Use compound butter for a mess-free, flavorful bird.

One particularly great but messy way to get a tender, well-seasoned turkey is to add butter and herbs under the turkey skin before roasting. Simplify this task with a homemade compound butter loaded with salt and spices that you can easily slip under the skin.

10. Get clumpy spices out of the jar.

If it’s been a minute since you’ve used your dried spices, they might not pour out as easily. To loosen them, turn your spice jar upside down as you would to shake it, and then twist the lid back and forth in a semi-circle motion.

11. Use frozen onion rings to top green bean casserole.

Give your GBC a welcome upgrade when you swap out the French’s fried onions for actual onion rings from the freezer section.

12. Brown the butter in your cast iron for better skillet cornbread.

Save time and build flavor with this trick: Pop a couple of tablespoons of butter into your cast iron skillet and put it in the oven while it preheats. By the time the oven heats up, you can add your batter, and your pan will be ready to go.

13. Customize pre-made biscuit dough for gourmet dinner rolls.

Skip the mixing and proofing, and use a can of refrigerated biscuits to make these Parmesan and parsley dinner rolls for Thanksgiving.

14. Make gravy ahead of time.

Perfecting your gravy at the last minute is as stressful as it is unnecessary. Make gravy in advance and then refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to serve; then, just reheat it on the stove.

15. Use tongs to stem kale.

Cut your prep time considerably by using the loop end of tongs to remove leafy greens like kale from the stem.

16. Keep gravy warm in a Thermos.

Everyone’s grandma, aka @brunchwithbabs on TikTok, has a brilliant Thanksgiving tip to keep gravy warm in a Thermos. It’s a handy way to free up stovetop space or take your gravy on the go!

17. Keep a stash of soft butter.

Butter makes everything better, but softened butter takes it one step further. Have it ready for sauces and potatoes by putting a wrapped stick on your counter the day before. Throw a stick on a fancy plate for the table, too.

18. Use salt to chill wine bottles quickly.

Did you forget to put your wine in the refrigerator? Don’t panic; chill (literally)! Add a handful of salt to a tub of ice to get that bottle frosty in mere minutes.

19. Save time with big-batch drinks.

Instead of crafting individual cocktails, a task you definitely don’t have time for on Thanksgiving, whip up a batch of autumnal sangria and serve it by the pitcher.

20. Make “pumpkin pie” charcuterie.

If you’re looking for a charming, kid-friendly Thanksgiving snack, try @athomewithshannon’s pumpkin pie cheese appetizers. They look like the famous dessert, but the savory bites are made with crackers, cheddar cheese, and cream cheese.

21. Use a paper towel as a pastry brush.

Egg wash is a non-negotiable for a beautiful golden-brown pie crust, but if you don’t have a pastry brush to put it on with, don’t worry — Daphne Oz shares how to use a paper towel instead

22. Prep your pie crust weeks in advance.

Some things are best done à la minute, but pie crust isn’t one of them. If you’re planning on baking for Thanksgiving, cross those pie crusts off your list ahead of time and keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to bake.

23. Make cute desserts out of store-bought pie.

This TikTok from @athomewithshannon gives two options for making individual desserts from a store-bought pumpkin pie. Choose between mini pies and chocolate-covered pumpkin pops, or make both!

24. Pack up leftovers in disposable muffin tins.

Don’t send your guests home empty-handed. Take @brunchwithbabs’ suggestion for using disposable muffin tins to pack up Thanksgiving leftovers for your guests. This way, everyone gets a little bit of everything without needing five storage containers to hold it all. 

25. Pull, wash, and label platters in advance.

Save yourself the trouble on Thanksgiving day by getting out the platters you plan to use a day or two in advance. If they’re dusty, give them a little wash, and use Post-It Notes to label each platter so you’ll know what goes where.

26. Create a gorgeous Thanksgiving buffet station on a budget.

TikTok creator @athomewithshannon outdid herself with this stunning and spacious Thanksgiving buffet, which she pulled together using $1.25 craft paper, a Sharpie, and decorative elements like faux branches and leaves.

27. Expand your table for extra guests.

If your dining table isn’t quite big enough for the food and the people, you might have already thought of adding a square folding card table to the end of your dining table. Instead, add a folding table of the same length as your dining table (rather than width) to one side and cover it all with a big tablecloth to create one massive, feast-worthy table.

28. Triple-bag your trash.

Trash cans fill up fast during the holidays, and you don’t want to have to stop what you’re doing to line the bin every time one reaches peak volume. Instead, triple-bag the bin in advance.

Make holiday entertaining less frantic and more fun with our guide to the best hosting hacks and tips. This content was presented by a sponsor; it was created independently by our editorial team.