Are you planning a Thanksgiving feast and wondering how much turkey to buy?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: A 20 lb turkey typically feeds about 20 people, assuming each person eats approximately 1 lb of turkey.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to calculate the right size turkey for your holiday meal, factors that can affect serving size, and tips for preparing and serving a delicious turkey.

How to Calculate Turkey Serving Sizes

Thanksgiving is a time of year when families and friends gather to share a meal together. The centerpiece of this meal is usually a roasted turkey. But how many people does a 20 lb turkey feed? The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the size of the turkey, the appetites of your guests, and whether or not you want leftovers. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you calculate turkey serving sizes.

Estimating Servings Based on Turkey Weight

The general rule of thumb is that you should plan for one pound of turkey per person. So a 20 lb turkey would feed approximately 20 people. However, this estimate doesn’t take into account the weight of the bones and other non-edible parts of the turkey. A more accurate estimate is to assume that about 50% of the turkey’s weight will be edible meat. So a 20 lb turkey will yield around 10 lbs of meat.

To calculate the number of servings, you can assume that each person will eat about ¾ lb of meat. So a 10 lb turkey will feed approximately 13 people (10 lbs of meat ÷ 0.75 lbs per serving). Of course, this is just an estimate and your guests may have larger or smaller appetites.

Adjusting Serving Sizes for Appetites and Leftovers

If you have guests who are known for having larger appetites, you may want to plan for more than ¾ lb of meat per serving. On the other hand, if you have guests who are light eaters or children, you may be able to get away with planning for less than ¾ lb per serving.

Additionally, if you want to have leftovers, you may want to plan for a larger turkey. A good rule of thumb is to plan for about 1 lb of turkey per person if you want to have leftovers. So a 20 lb turkey would yield approximately 10 lbs of meat, which would be enough for the initial meal and some leftovers.

Remember, these are just guidelines and you should adjust your calculations based on your specific situation. And if you’re still not sure how much turkey to buy, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and buy a larger turkey than you think you’ll need.

Factors That Affect Serving Sizes

When it comes to serving sizes for a 20 lb turkey, there are several factors that can affect how many people it will feed. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • The Number of Side Dishes: The number and size of side dishes you plan to serve alongside your turkey can impact the number of people it will feed. If you plan to serve several large sides, such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole, you may want to plan for fewer servings of turkey per person.
  • The Appetites of Your Guests: Some guests may have heartier appetites than others, which can impact how much turkey they will eat. If you have several guests who are known to be big eaters, you may want to plan for more servings of turkey per person.
  • The Presence of Leftovers: If you plan to have leftovers, you may want to plan for fewer servings of turkey per person. Leftovers can stretch the number of meals you get out of your turkey, so you may not need to plan for as many servings on the initial day of your meal.

It’s important to keep in mind that these factors are just guidelines and serving sizes can vary based on individual preferences and circumstances. However, by considering these factors, you can make a more informed decision about how many people a 20 lb turkey will feed.

Tips for Preparing and Serving a Delicious Turkey

Choosing the Right Turkey

When it comes to choosing a turkey, there are a few factors to consider. The size of your turkey will largely depend on the number of people you plan to feed. As a general rule of thumb, a 20 lb turkey will feed around 10 people. Keep in mind that larger birds may take longer to cook and may require special equipment, such as a roasting pan or a larger oven.

Additionally, consider whether you want to purchase a fresh or frozen turkey. Fresh turkeys are often more expensive but may have better flavor, while frozen turkeys are more convenient and can be purchased well in advance of your holiday meal.

Thawing Your Turkey Safely

If you’ve opted for a frozen turkey, it’s important to thaw it safely to avoid the risk of foodborne illness. The safest way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator, which can take several days depending on the size of the bird. As a general rule of thumb, allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey.

If you’re short on time, you can also thaw your turkey in cold water or in the microwave. Be sure to follow the appropriate guidelines for these methods to ensure that your turkey thaws safely and evenly.

Seasoning and Stuffing Your Turkey

When it comes to seasoning your turkey, there are countless options to choose from. Some popular options include a classic blend of salt, pepper, and herbs like thyme and rosemary, while others may opt for a more flavorful spice rub or marinade.

If you plan to stuff your turkey, be sure to do so just before cooking and to stuff the bird loosely to allow for even cooking. Alternatively, consider cooking your stuffing separately to avoid any potential food safety concerns.

Cooking Your Turkey to Perfection

Cooking a turkey can be a daunting task, but following a few key tips can help ensure that your bird is cooked to perfection. As a general rule of thumb, roast your turkey at 325°F for roughly 15-20 minutes per pound. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165°F.

Consider basting your turkey with melted butter or oil every 30 minutes or so to keep the meat moist and flavorful. Additionally, some cooks may opt to cover their turkey with foil for the first few hours of cooking to prevent the skin from burning.

Carving and Serving Your Turkey

Once your turkey is cooked to perfection, it’s time to carve and serve it. Begin by removing the legs and wings, followed by the breast meat and any stuffing that may have been cooked inside the bird. Be sure to let your turkey rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute.

Consider serving your turkey with a variety of sides, such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green beans, for a delicious and well-rounded holiday meal.


As you plan your Thanksgiving feast, remember that a 20 lb turkey will generally feed about 20 people.

However, there are a variety of factors that can affect serving size, so it’s always a good idea to calculate your needs carefully.

By following the tips and guidelines in this article, you’ll be well on your way to preparing and serving a delicious turkey that your guests will love.

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