This Is How Much Turkey to Make Per Person for Thanksgiving
When preparing the holiday bird, more is always better.
When feeding a crowd, it is always best to have too much turkey than not enough, don’t you think? Otherwise, how would you ever make those delicious leftover turkey sandwiches? But how do you know how much turkey to prepare? Here is a quick rule-of-thumb to remember when planning your holiday menu.
One Person = One Pound
In order to have plenty of Thanksgiving turkey for dinner, with enough for leftovers and to-go plates, remember this simple rule: 1 pound of turkey per person. If there are a couple of really big eaters on your guest list (those who treat the buffet line as an all-you-can eat event), opt for 1.5 pounds per person.
Depending on the number of guests you are expecting, you may need to purchase anywhere from two mid-range-sized birds to a large, 20 lb. whole turkey. If you are expecting 20 people, for instance, you may choose a 20-22 lb. turkey or two smaller ones. If you know the majority of your guests prefer white meat, however, skip buying the whole bird in favor of purchasing separate breasts and legs and roast them separately. When buying boneless meat, assume about 8 ounces per guest.
Keep in mind how long it takes to defrost a turkey, the amount of refrigerator space needed while said turkey defrosts, and how long your oven will be occupied roasting the turkey. (Free up oven space this year and enlist the help of your outdoor smoker to create this succulent Smoked Turkey with Herb Rub.)
How Much of the Most Important Side Dish (aka Dressing)?
You can’t serve turkey without Cornbread Dressing. Standard serving size for cornbread dressing is ½ cup. Seriously? Can Southerners really be satisfied with just ½ cup of this iconic dish? The figures below are for the standard, healthy serving size, but feel free to adjust according to the level of your family’s love for Grandma’s cornbread dressing:
8 guests: 4 cups
16 guests: 8 cups
24 guests: 16 cups
Now that we have the matter of the turkey and dressing settled, here is a quick run-down on the amounts you will need, according to the number of guests, for some of the other items found on the Thanksgiving table:
For 8 Guests
- Potatoes (3 lbs, or 6 large)
- Sweet potatoes (3 lbs, or 3 large)
- Canned cranberry sauce (2 16 oz. cans)
- Butternut squash (3.5 lbs, or 2 small)
- Brussels sprouts (2 10 oz. containers)
- Green beans (2 lbs)
- Pie (1–2, 9"–9.5")
For 16 Guests
- Potatoes (6 lbs, or 12 large)
- Sweet potatoes (6 lbs, or 6 large)
- Canned cranberry sauce (3 16 oz. cans)
- Butternut squash (6.75 lbs, or 3 medium)
- Brussels sprouts (4 10 oz. containers)
- Green beans (4 lbs)
- Pie (2–3, 9"–9.5")
For 24 Guests
- Potatoes (9 lbs, or 18 large)
- Sweet potatoes (9 lbs, or 9 large)
- Canned cranberry sauce (4 16 oz. cans)
- Butternut squash (10 lbs, or 4 large)
- Brussels sprouts (6 10 oz. containers)
- Green beans (6 lbs)
- Pie (3–4, 9"–9.5")