How much turkey do you need each Thanksgiving guest?

The purchase of a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is a significant decision. Would you prefer a bird with a rich history or a traditional fowl-in-a-bag from the grocery store? Either fresh or frozen? Complete or in parts? What is the exact quantity of turkey that you require for each individual? This is undoubtedly the most crucial factor to take into account.

To determine the appropriate size of your Thanksgiving turkey, you must first determine the number of people you will be hosting and the amount of turkey that each individual is likely to consume. In the end, if you are the one who is hosting Thanksgiving, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone goes home with as much excellent food as they possibly can.


To be more specific, how many pounds of turkey do I need for each individual?

As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that each individual consume between 1 and 1 and a half pounds of turkey. Remember that a whole turkey comes with several components that aren’t going to be eaten, so if it sounds like a lot, keep in mind that it is. When you buy a whole turkey, a significant portion of it is bone, according to Jessie YuChen, who is a recipe creator and a former employee of BA.

The smaller birds have a greater chance of having a larger percentage. To make the most of the leftovers, Jessie suggests increasing the amount of food to be served to each individual to two pounds for smaller groups (more on that later). According to Jessie, a weight range of 11 to 13 pounds is a decent choice for groups of four to six persons. Most of our recipes call for a bird that weighs between 12 and 14 pounds.

In addition to the bones, the entire bulk of a complete bird includes cartilage and less desirable portions of meat around the shoulders, neck, and back. These slices of meat are more suitable for preparing stock the following day than they are for presenting on a platter. Even if you are purchasing one pound of turkey for each of your guests, this does not guarantee that you will receive the same quantity of turkey meat.

How much turkey do you need each Thanksgiving guest?

What should I do if I am concerned that I will not provide adequate service to my guests?

“The majority of people put out so many sides that running out of turkey isn’t an issue,” says Amiel Stanek, who is a contributing editor for the publication. According to my observations, Turkey is the item that people long for the least. It is even possible for you, as the host, to divert part of your attention away from a Rockwellian chicken that is cartoonishly big and make some serious considerations regarding the Thanksgiving side dishes.

Here is where you may tailor your selection to the size of your gathering, the preferences of your guests, and the requirements of your event. Should we have a few more vegetarians on the menu this year? You should go all out with mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and roasted vegetables (we recommend balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts, which are a favorite in the test kitchen).

Do you want to demonstrate your expertise in baking? Put together a large tray of stuffed biscuits that will steal the show. Additionally, you must have cranberry sauce, whether it is homemade or purchased from a can; the choice is entirely yours. If you are now asking, “How big of a turkey do I need?” Amiel observes that the likelihood of the turkey cooking evenly decreases in proportion to its size.

It is much more appealing to him to serve smaller amounts of perfectly cooked poultry than to provide enormous portions of poultry that are half raw and half dry. If you want to make sure that the breast flesh is wonderful and moist and that the dark meat is cooked all the way through, I believe that a turkey that weighs between 14 and 15 pounds is going to give you the finest results.

How much turkey do you need each Thanksgiving guest?

Choose a turkey that is on the smaller side. We assure you that there will be sufficient funds for everyone. If a bird weighing 15 pounds seems insignificant in comparison to the number of people who will be attending your celebration, Amiel and Jessie suggest incorporating a different type of meat or protein into your meal. Jessie says, “I like to do steak or lamb chops, which are very festive and a lot easier to prepare than a whole turkey.” She is referring to the fact that these cuts of meat.

The presence of a second meat on the table not only provides a backup option if your bird is on the leaner side, but it also allows your turkey to become more elongated. If you aim to consume a total of 1 to 1 and a half pounds of protein per individual, which includes the supplementary main course, you will not have any concerns to worry about.

There is also the possibility of omitting the roast turkey entirely in favor of a smaller bird, such as roasted chicken or glazed duck, which would create an equally lovely centerpiece for a party of a lesser size. What is a good size of turkey for each individual? 12 to 14 pounds is the weight range that we recommend, regardless of the crowd. It is never a bad idea to have a couple of extra turkey breasts. Rebecca Jurkevich did the food styling, while Kalen Kaminski did the prop styling. Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott were responsible for taking the picture.

How much turkey do you need each Thanksgiving guest?

What if I am going to serve turkey to a very large group of people?

If you have ended up with a large chicken and are now concerned about cooking it evenly, you might want to consider dividing it up into smaller portions so that you have greater control over the actual cooking durations for each part. The technique of spatchcocking is a well-liked option; however, Amiel recommends going even further:

He advises, “Take the legs off and cook them separately from the breasts. Slow-roast them until they are really tender and falling apart the day before, then reheat them while you roast the breasts.” “Take the legs off and cook them separately; then roast the breasts.” Another excellent choice is the stock-braised turkey legs dish that was developed by Chris Morocco, who is the director of food. If you prefer white meat, you could also try these dry-rubbed, bone-in breasts.

Certainly! Here are 10 FAQs related to how much turkey you need per person for Thanksgiving:

How much turkey should I buy per person?

That’s right! Planning for 1 pound of turkey per person is a good baseline for estimating how much turkey you’ll need for your Thanksgiving meal. If you want to ensure there are leftovers or if your guests tend to have heartier appetites, aiming for 1.5 pounds per person is a smart approach. This guideline helps ensure everyone is well-fed during the feast and allows for some extra turkey for delicious leftover meals afterward. Adjusting based on your specific circumstances and preferences can make your Thanksgiving gathering even more enjoyable!

How much turkey do you need each Thanksgiving guest?

Should I factor in bone weight when buying the turkey?

Absolutely! When purchasing a whole bird, the weight mentioned typically includes bones. It’s essential to keep this in mind when estimating the amount of meat you’ll get from a whole turkey. If you’re buying bone-in cuts or a whole bird, you won’t receive the entire weight in edible meat.

For boneless cuts or specific portions, the calculations differ since you’re not factoring in the weight of bones. For instance, if you’re buying boneless turkey breasts or thighs, you’d estimate the amount based solely on the meat itself without considering bone weight.

This distinction is crucial because bone-in cuts can impact the amount of meat you’ll get per pound purchased. Always consider the type of cut or portions you’re buying to accurately plan for your Thanksgiving meal or any other occasion.

What if I’m serving a mix of adults and children?

Absolutely! When you’re catering to a mix of adults and children for Thanksgiving, considering their varying appetites is essential for planning the amount of turkey needed. Children typically consume less food compared to adults, so adjusting the quantity accordingly is a good idea.

For children, estimating around 0.75 to 1 pound of turkey per child is a reasonable guideline. This accounts for their smaller appetites and ensures there’s enough turkey for them to enjoy without excess leftovers. Adapting portion sizes based on age and appetite differences can help ensure everyone has a satisfying Thanksgiving meal. Adjustments like this can contribute to a well-balanced and enjoyable dining experience for all your guests.

How much turkey do you need each Thanksgiving guest?

**Does the weight of the turkey include stuffing?**

The weight guidelines generally don’t account for stuffing. If you plan to stuff the turkey, factor in an additional 0.5 to 1 pound of stuffing per person.

 **What if I’m serving other main dishes alongside turkey?**

If you’re serving multiple main dishes, you can adjust the turkey quantity accordingly. In such cases, you might aim for 0.75 to 1 pound per person since the turkey won’t be the sole focus.

 **Should I consider dietary preferences or restrictions?**

Absolutely. Consider dietary preferences (vegetarian or vegan guests) and any restrictions (allergies or religious dietary guidelines) when planning the amount of turkey to prepare.

 **Can I rely on a turkey-size calculator?**

Turkey size calculators can provide estimates based on the number of guests, their appetites, and desired leftovers. They’re a useful tool but consider personal preferences and adjustments.

 **What if I’m also serving pre-cooked or pre-packaged turkey dishes?**

If offering pre-cooked or pre-packaged turkey dishes (like deli slices or precooked roasts), adjust the amount of whole turkey you’ll need accordingly, reducing the total weight.

 **How does the type of turkey affect portion sizes?**

Different types of turkey (organic, heritage, or standard) might have varying meat-to-bone ratios. Organic or heritage breeds might have more meat per pound compared to standard varieties.

 **What about turkey leftovers?**

If you enjoy leftovers, consider buying a larger turkey. Leftovers can be used for sandwiches, soups, and other meals, so having extra can be advantageous.

Remember, these guidelines serve as starting points. Tailor your turkey purchase based on your guests’ preferences, any dietary needs, and whether you desire leftovers. Happy Thanksgiving planning!

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