How Much Turkey Do You Need for Thanksgiving? Your Ultimate Guide to Feeding a Crowd

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One of the main reasons Thanksgiving is also known as Turkey Day is because everyone wants to eat turkey! However, before you go place an order, you should figure out how much turkey each person will need to feed everyone around your holiday table. The large, eye-catching centerpiece is among the most important items on your shopping list. Fortunately, we’ve got an easy formula to help you figure it out, so you can go back to choosing your favorite turkey recipe!

To account for the bones and other inedible portions of the turkey, a general guideline is to estimate 1 1/4 pounds of turkey per guest. That should be plenty especially with everyones favorite Thanksgiving side dishes on the dinner table. Of course, you could always aim for 1 1/2 to 2 pounds per person if you have any ardent supporters of white or dark meat or if you want to send everyone home with a bag of leftovers. In this manner, there will be enough for leftover turkey pot pie the next day and everyone will be sure to get their favorite cut.

Ah, Thanksgiving. A time for family, friends and of course, a whole lot of delicious food. But when it comes to the centerpiece of the feast the turkey, figuring out how much to buy can be a head-scratcher. Fear not, fellow Thanksgiving warriors! This guide will equip you with all the knowledge you need to ensure everyone gets their fill of juicy turkey, without any unwanted leftovers (or worse, running out!).

The Golden Rule: 1-1.5 Pounds per Person

As a general rule of thumb plan on 1-1.5 pounds of turkey per person. This accounts for both the meat itself and the bones which you’ll want to factor in when purchasing a whole bird. So, if you’re expecting 10 hungry guests, a 10-15 pound turkey should do the trick.

Pro tip: If you have some vegetarian guests, you can adjust the amount of turkey accordingly.

Light Meat vs. Dark Meat Preferences

Let’s face it, some folks are die-hard white meat fans, while others can’t resist a juicy drumstick If you know your crowd leans heavily towards one type of meat, adjust your purchase accordingly

For white meat lovers: Consider buying separate turkey breasts and legs, roasting them individually. This way, everyone gets their preferred cut without any leftover dark meat languishing on the platter.

For mixed preferences: Some chefs recommend bumping up the amount to 2 pounds per person to account for varying preferences. This ensures everyone gets their fill, regardless of their meat of choice.

Feeding a Big Crowd? Go Big (But Not Too Big)

If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving extravaganza, don’t fret about running out of turkey. 2 pounds per person is the absolute maximum you’ll need, even with a large group. Remember, there’s a whole buffet of delicious sides and desserts to fill everyone’s plates.

Bonus tip: Opt for two smaller turkeys instead of one behemoth. This ensures more even cooking and juicier meat.

Fresh vs. Frozen: Which Turkey Reigns Supreme?

When it comes to choosing your turkey, freshness is key. Fresh turkeys boast superior flavor compared to their frozen counterparts. Think of it like comparing a crisp, garden-fresh vegetable to a canned one. Freshness wins every time!

Size matters: Aim for a turkey in the 16-18 pound range. This sweet spot offers ample meat without being overwhelming.

Heritage vs. Conventional: The type of bird you choose depends on your guests’ preferences. Conventional turkeys have larger breasts, perfect for white meat enthusiasts. Heritage birds, on the other hand, pack more flavor into the meat but tend to be smaller with less white meat.

Heads-up: If you’re using a heritage bird in a recipe designed for a conventional one, keep a close eye on the cooking time and adjust accordingly.

Make the Most of Your Bird: Tips and Tricks

With your turkey secured, it’s time to turn your attention to the cooking method. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a Thanksgiving newbie, these tips will help you achieve turkey perfection:

Brining: This technique involves soaking the turkey in a salt-water solution, resulting in incredibly juicy and flavorful meat. It’s a bit of advance planning, but well worth the effort.

Butter-Blanketed Turkey: This recipe uses butter-soaked cheesecloth to create a golden-brown, crispy exterior and succulent meat underneath. It’s a surefire crowd-pleaser.

Turkey Breast on the Bone: For white meat aficionados, this option delivers juicy, flavorful meat. You can customize the seasonings to your liking.

Sheet Pan Turkey: This convenient method involves roasting the turkey on a sheet pan with vegetables for a complete, hassle-free meal.

Fried Turkey: For those who love a crispy, golden-brown bird, deep-frying is the way to go. Just be sure to follow safety precautions.

North Carolina-Style Barbecue Turkey: This regional favorite infuses the turkey with smoky, tangy flavors. It’s a perfect option for a casual Thanksgiving gathering.

Cajun Turkey: Spice things up with a Cajun-inspired turkey, like Bobby Flay’s Cajun Brined Turkey-Two Ways. It’s a flavor explosion that will have your guests raving.

No matter which recipe you choose, remember to relax, have fun, and enjoy the Thanksgiving spirit! After all, it’s a time to celebrate with loved ones and indulge in delicious food.

6 people = 8 lb. turkey

This Thanksgiving, if you’re entertaining for two or four people, consider purchasing a turkey breast in place of the whole bird. Breasts are much easier to work with, and many people’s favorite part of the turkey is the white breast meat! They take less time to thaw and cook. You should budget 1/2 pound (8 ounces) per person for a boneless breast—hell, you can even cook one in an air fryer!

How much turkey do you need per person this Thanksgiving?

Although you already know that each person should have at least 1 1/4 pounds of turkey, we’ve simplified the recipe to make shopping this holiday season easier. Find out what size turkey to shop for for your family feast:

How long does it take for a 20 pound turkey to cook in the oven?


How many people will a 20 lb turkey feed?

Number of Guests
Turkey Weight–

How many servings in a 20-pound turkey?

A 20-pound turkey will feed between 12 and 14 people.

How many people can you serve with a 20-pound turkey?

Chef Neal Fraser of Redbird in Los Angeles budgets for 2 pounds per person as does Rocco DiSpirito, executive chef at The Standard Grill in NYC. “So, for 10 people you should prepare a 20-pound turkey.

How much turkey do I need to feed 2 people?

The general rule of thumb is 1–1½ pounds turkey per person. If that seems like a lot, remember that a whole turkey comes with a lot of parts that don’t end up getting eaten. “When you buy a whole turkey, a lot of it is bone,” says recipe developer (and former BA staffer) Jessie YuChen.

How many people can a 20 pound turkey feed?

When estimating serving sizes, you should plan on about 1-1/4 pounds of turkey per person. That means a 20-pound turkey should feed 16 people. However, your final estimate should also take other factors into account, including the possibility of leftovers. A whole turkey might weigh anywhere from 14 to 70 pounds.

How much is a 20 pound turkey?

The retail price of a fresh turkey is around $ 1.51 per pound, or $ 30.20 for a 20-pound bird. How much money is a 16 pound turkey? And that’s in part because turkey prices are the lowest that they’ve been since 2010, according to Farm Bureau the report.

What size Turkey should I buy?

The number of guests is the very first start to determine what size turkey to buy. Most turkey portion serving sizing charts are based using a bone-in turkey. A chart might say 1 to 1.5 pounds of purchased turkey per person, so an 8-pound turkey is allegedly perfect for 6-8 people. I say NO! Initially, the bone removes some of that weight.

How much stuffing do you need for a 20 pound turkey?

A 20-pound bird will take a prohibitively long time to cook. If stuffing is on the menu, plan on heating it in a separate casserole dish. Estimate about 3/4 cup of stuffing per guest. That means if you’re preparing a 20-pound turkey for 16 people, you’ll need a total of 12 cups of stuffing.

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