How Much Turkey Per Person Is Enough? Use This Guide to Find Out

Don’t fret about how much turkey to serve on the big day. We’ve got your back (and tips!).


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Hosting Thanksgiving is a thrill for most. It’s a time to cook some family classics, try new recipes, feed the people you love, and gather around the table. Yet one of the most asked questions prior to this yearly feast often revolves around how much turkey you really need per person. It’s one of the key things to get right ahead of purchasing a bird or doing the big shop, then also possibly having to thaw the turkey, so you don’t want to realize at the last minute you might not have enough… or gasp, too much. Although a little extra meat goes a long way, and we’ve got delicious ideas for what to do with leftover turkey too. It is, after all, one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. 

This guide will offer a helping hand in deciphering how much turkey per person is enough on Thanksgiving (or any other festive occasion when the mood strikes!). Keep it close and refer to it when planning your gathering.

How Much Turkey Per Person Do You Need?

As a general rule, calculate 1 to 1½ pounds of turkey per person. You might be thinking there is no way one person can eat that much turkey, especially when Thanksgiving sides aplenty are served. But keep in mind this is not counting just the weight of meat, this is also considering bone and cartilage, which is of course a package deal. 

While calculating 1 pound of turkey per person leans on the safe side, accounting for 1½ pounds of turkey per person guarantees leftovers to enjoy post-holiday, and who doesn’t love that? Especially when you’ve got these delicious leftover turkey recipes you can make in under an hour. 

To keep you from crunching the numbers, if you’re having eight guests, you’re looking for a bird that weighs about 12 pounds, that’s 1½ pounds of turkey per person. This means no one will ask if there’s more turkey, and there will be ample leftovers. For a party of 10, that’s a bird that weighs at least 15 pounds. If a generous amount of leftovers is not what you’re after and you’re a little bit nervous about cutting it close with 1 pound per person, then meet in the middle and calculate 1¼ pounds of turkey per person—that’s a 10-pound bird for eight guests.

What About Preferences for White Meat vs. Dark Meat?

If you know right off the bat whether your guests prefer white meat or dark meat, then you can opt to roast bone-in breasts for white meat, turkey legs for dark meat, or a mixture of both breasts and legs. For larger gatherings, you could still roast a turkey (don’t forget, 15 pounds max!) and then roast breasts or legs to make up the difference. Average about ¾-pound per person for bone-in turkey breast, or one turkey leg per person clocking in at around 1½ pounds per leg. 

What If You're Cooking for a Crowd? 

If you’re hosting a larger gathering, say for more than 10 people, stop calculating right now. You don’t want to get a bird larger than 15 pounds. The chances of it cooking unevenly and the meat drying out are high, and because you want juicy, flavorful meat throughout, it’s not worth the risk. The game plan in this scenario is to roast two smaller birds instead. This also gives you the opportunity to try two different turkey recipes if you’re feeling inspired, or even try frying a turkey if you’re feeling adventurous. Another option is to roast a bone-in breast or two, or turkey legs as previously mentioned– and you can still serve it beautifully on a platter without having to carve a whole bird.

How to Store Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey

You’re already equipped with must-try leftover turkey recipes. But what’s the best way to store leftover turkey meat? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, turkey meat should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking, and in separate airtight food storage containers or ziptop bags (to avoid one big lump of meat) for up to four days.

Alternatively, freeze leftovers for up to six months. To reheat the leftovers safely, make sure it reaches 165 degrees no matter the method of reheating. The meat should be piping hot. Use an instant-read digital thermometer to be extra sure. And to avoid dry turkey meat, always cover when reheating.

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