From now until Thanksgiving, we’ll be answering some of the most commonly asked holiday meal questions. Have one you’d like us to consider? E-mail us or join our weekly live Web chat on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m.
For complete Turkey Day coverage, visit our Thanksgiving Central page.
Q: How big a turkey do I need?
A: The advice depends partially on whom you ask and the larger context of your meal. The USDA suggests one pound of turkey per person. We’ve previously suggested about 1 1/2 pounds for each diner to allow for leftovers. (See below recipes that will use your excess turkey.)
One of our staple resources in the Food section is the “Chef’s Book of Formulas, Yields & Sizes,” by Arno Schmidt. The book says one 22-pound turkey will yield 12 pounds of roasted meat, including scraps, which equates to 22 servings — lining up perfectly with the USDA guidance.
Here’s something else to keep in mind: What else will you be serving? “Chef’s Book” indicates you can stretch that 22-pound bird to 40 servings “on a buffet when served with other meats and salads.” Because we’ve never been to a Thanksgiving dinner that didn’t include many other dishes, that might be a more helpful rule of thumb.
Even better: If you are serving many more than a dozen guests, consider buying two 12- to-14-pound turkeys rather than one large one. Smaller turkeys cook more quickly (and more evenly), and you’re more likely to find refrigerator or cooler space to defrost and/or brine them and pans to roast them in. And if you’re having a small dinner, think about roasting a stuffed turkey breast instead; you’ll find a nifty recipe in Food on Nov. 19.
Today’s plan-ahead tip from deputy Food editor Bonnie S. Benwick:
There’s always a new holiday recipe that beckons. If you’ve found one that sounds delicious, give it a test run in a weeknight dinner.