Exactly How Much Turkey Do I Need to Feed the Family?

We'll tell you how much turkey you need for your holiday meal (plus leftovers!).

Since Thanksgiving revolves around eating turkey (about 46 million birds each year!), you definitely want to make sure there's enough for everyone around the table. It's also the holiday we most look forward to eating those delicious leftovers for days after. But before you go buying the ingredients for your Thanksgiving menu, what size turkey should you get to feed the family? With our handy guide, you'll know exactly how much turkey should you be buying per person and whether that 15-pound bird is big enough or a few extra pounds are needed.

Turkey in Roasting Pan
Brie Passano

Turkey Math

As a general rule when buying turkey, plan on 1 pound of turkey per person. This allows approximately 7 cooked ounces of meat per serving. Though if you're wanting to enjoy turkey leftovers (obviously!), our Test Kitchen recommends 1½ pounds of turkey per person so everyone can literally get stuffed with enough left for a few extra meals. Here are some turkey numbers keep in mind for Thanksgiving Day:

  • 4 to 6 people = 4- to 9-lb. turkey (If you can't find a bird that small, you can get a slightly larger bird that will allow for more leftovers.)
  • 8 to 10 people = 14- to 16-lb. turkey
  • 12 to 16 people = 16- to 22-lb. turkey
  • 18 to 20 people = 27- to 30-lb. turkey

Obviously, while the range of weights you'll find on turkey at the store varies, it's rarer to find birds less than 10 pounds or over 30 lbs. For large groups of people, consider buying a couple of smaller turkeys to match the pound per person rule. So if you need to feed 60 people, buy two turkeys that are around 20 pounds each. Families that prefer white meat might also want to consider just buying turkey breast (or a couple extra in addition to the bird) for your meal.

Once you've got the bird, give it enough time to defrost before following the proper cooking times. That way you ensure your roast turkey is safely cooked and perfectly juicy when it's time to serve. And don't forget to utilize those pan drippings to make flavorful gravy to top your favorite Thanksgiving sides (hello homemade stuffing and mashed potatoes!).

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