"Dear Greensbury, what size turkey do I need for the number of people I’m having over for Thanksgiving dinner?"
As Thanksgiving approaches, we get this question every day. If you search for an answer online you'll find that the most common answer is 1.5 pounds per person. But we’re here to tell you that most people need less than that (it is also worth noting that often the sources for that 1.5 pound ratio are large conglomerates and grocers looking to sell you the biggest bird possible).
If your Thanksgiving gathering is 15 people (which is about average), then 1.5 pounds per person means you need a 22-23 pound turkey--which is an absolute monster! In the first place, turkeys are not meant to grow that large naturally so you have to wonder how the supplier produces birds of that unnatural size. Beyond that, believe it or not, you’ll probably have more leftovers than you can eat.
Yes, it might sound like blasphemy to suggest such a thing, but the truth of the matter is that most families end up throwing out a fair amount of their Thanksgiving leftovers. Sure, turkey sandwiches are great for the next couple of days but then we grow tired of them plus those leftovers only last in the refrigerator for so long.
To prevent this excess food waste, the key to choosing the right size turkey is not only the number of people you’re serving, but also thinking about everything else on your menu. Remember, Thanksgiving is not your ordinary meal--when was the last time you had mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy for a Thursday night dinner? The point being that with all those side dishes, most people actually eat less turkey at the meal than they would otherwise.
So if you take into account everything on the table, and you’re realistic about the amount of leftovers you’ll actually consume, then you probably need less turkey than you think.
In our experience, about 1 pound of turkey per person is just right.
Typically this leaves enough for those who want seconds plus more for a few sandwiches through the weekend. Like we said, just right.
If you’re having a larger dinner, or think you want a bit more in the leftovers department, then think about adding a bone-in turkey breast rather than buying a freakishly large whole turkey. You can cook the turkey breast the day before (or first thing Thanksgiving morning), and then all you have to do is reheat it after the whole turkey is out of the oven and resting before carving. The other benefit of adding on the turkey breast is that it gives you a little extra white meat if that is something your crowd prefers.
As you think about your Thanksgiving menu this year, look for the Goldilocks of turkeys--something that is not too big or too small, but is just the right size.
-The Greensbury Foodies