How Many People Does a 20lb Turkey Feed? (Easy Calculations)

It’s your turn to host a big turkey dinner, but you have no idea how much turkey to buy! There are several factors to consider, making it hard to pick a bird.

We will look at all the factors indepth and help you decide how much turkey to prepare.

How Much Turkey Per Person Should You Serve?

You plan to serve a pound per person of turkey, however, kids will probably eat about half a pound. Remember that the carcass accounts for some of the weight. Also, turkeys experience shrinkage while roasting.

A 15-pound turkey won’t have 15 pounds of meat, a good rule of thumb is that a 20-pound turkey will feed about 15 people. To ensure that you buy a big enough turkey, aim for 1.25 pounds per person, some people will say one and a half pounds per person for easier math.

Or you can just count the people on the guest list and add a few extra pounds. For a smaller crowd, you won’t need as much extra turkey. For a large gathering, you’ll want to get a turkey that’s a bit oversized.

What Is The Average Size Turkey?

The average turkey at the store will be a 15-pound bird, around Thanksgiving, you will, fortunately, find bigger options.

Instead of buying a huge turkey, consider cooking two smaller turkeys. This is helpful if you can’t fit an entire turkey into the oven. It can also make for easier preparation.

Factors That Determine How Much Turkey to Prepare

Below are the five main factors to determining how much turkey you should purchase.

Other Meats

If turkey will be the star of the show, you may need a bit extra. However, if you will also prepare ham or meatloaf, less turkey should suffice.


What Side Dishes Will You Be Serving?

If you have a lot of delicious side dishes, people might not eat much turkey, some popular side dishes are cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing. Sweet potato casserole, buttery rolls, and a seasonal salad are other popular options.

And don’t forget that people may want to leave room for dessert! If you have pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, or pecan pies, nobody will want to fill up on turkey.


Time of Day Your Thankgiving Feast Will Be Served

The later in the day you eat, the hungrier everyone will be. If you’re not eating until the evening, check if your guests already had a Thanksgiving meal.

Guest Preferences

If you’re feeding your family, you probably know how much each person will eat. Some people refrain from eating meat and will only have a small slice to be polite.

Other people will load up on turkey because they’ve been looking forward to it all year.


Do You Want Leftovers?

A lot of foodies love leftover turkey sandwiches. If that’s the case, make sure you have extra meat! Even if you don’t like turkey sandwiches, there are many creative ways to use the leftover meat.

You can shred turkey leftovers and put them in soup, with pasta or rice, or even make a turkey salad sandwich. If you look online, you’ll find plenty of creative turkey recipes.

How to Prepare the Turkey

Now that you figured out what size turkey to buy, it’s time to worry about cooking it. There are so many Thanksgiving horror stories, but it’s not too difficult to prepare a turkey.


Properly Thaw the Turkey

To prevent bacterial growth, you should thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator, you should allow about a day per four pounds of turkey.

If you forgot to put the turkey in the fridge, you can always thaw it in cold water, the cold water method takes about 30 minutes per pound.

To minimize the risk of food poisoning, frequently change the cold water. Consider buying a fresh turkey instead of a frozen bird to skip the thawing time completely.

Brine the Turkey

Brining the turkey can add some flavor as well as give you crispy skin. Brine for up to 48 hours for optimal taste. Remember to brine the bird in the refrigerator to comply with food safety guidelines.

How to Smoke Turkey in an Electric Smoker

Do you plan on smoking your turkey in an electric smoker? This is a good option if you don’t want to have to tend to a fire all day, you just set the temps and let it cook. Plus you have extra room in your oven or all the sides you want to make!

This is how to smoke a turkey in an electric smoker so that you end up with juicy turkey with golden skin every time.

How to Smoke Turkey in a Gas Smoker

If your smoking turkey in a gas smoker see the method here.

How to Roast the Turkey

Set the oven to 325°F, and plan for about an hour per four pounds of meat, the important thing is that the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Roasting time estimates are merely estimates. You will need to allow some extra time just in case. For smaller turkeys, allow a 30-minute buffer window. For larger birds, it may take an extra hour.

Check it with an accurate meat thermometer for the best results.


How Long Should You Let Your Turkey Rest?

Once the internal temperature reaches a safe temperature, you are ready to let the meat rest, let the turkey rest for at least twenty minutes to allow the juices to distribute perfectly. After the resting period, go ahead and carve it.

During the holiday season, people eat a lot of food. So even if you don’t have enough turkey, they’ll be able to find their fill elsewhere.

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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