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How Much Turkey Per Person? Calculator Included!

Have you ever wondered how much turkey you need per person? Use our turkey calculator to figure it out. I know I’ve always struggled when I’m at the store staring at the different sizes. Read on for the simple rule of thumb to help you prepare for a turkey dinner!

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By Jeremy Pike


Let’s face it, making a turkey can be a stressful event for most people. It’s usually around the holidays and you have guests and family coming over. You don’t need to stress about picking the right size turkey. Use our turkey calculator to figure out just how big your bird should be. Knowing how much turkey per person I need by planning ahead saves a lot of hassle and wasted food. Our turkey calculator can help you determine what size turkey you need for the number of guests.

So here’s the rule of thumb for how much turkey you’ll need: You want around eight ounces of cooked turkey per person. Whether that’s a boneless turkey breast or a whole turkey, the end goal is 1/2 a pound of turkey on the plate of every adult and 1/3 of a pound for every child..

I’ll be the first to admit that I used to think turkey was only a holiday food. It can be difficult to cook properly because it dries out so easily. So… Turkey was relegated to holiday tradition status. Turkey can be great on the grill or smoker if you prepare it correctly. Don’t suffer through it, just take a look at our article on how to brine and smoke a turkey for some tips.

Turkey Calculator

NEW Turkey Calulator

How Much Turkey Per Person Calculator

Number of Adults

Based on .50lbs per person

Number of Kids

Based on .33lbs per person




Pounds of Uncooked Turkey

Uncooked turkey will shrink about 50% during the cooking process


Pounds of Turkey

How Much Turkey Per Person

Whether you’re preparing to host a holiday dinner or just having a roasted (or smoked) turkey for a weekend meal, the simple rule is 1/2 a pound of cooked turkey per adult and 1/3 a pound of turkey per child. Turkey is going to lose about 50% of its weight with the cooking process and the added weight of the bones. That equals one pound of raw, uncooked turkey per adult and 2/3rds of a pound per child.

Turkey shrinkage is real. Just like most cuts of meat, turkey is going to lose roughly 50% of the weight through the cooking process (and slicing meat off the bone). So you have to figure that shrinkage into your calculations in order to end up at that 1/2 a pound of turkey per adult and 1/3 of a pound per child you want. Our turkey calculator does it all for you. Just enter in the number of adults and kids that will be eating and we will take care of the calculations.


Now remember, that is a combination of light meat and dark meat from a whole turkey. If you’re serving guests who prefer white meat, you’ll need to get a bigger turkey or you could purchase extra turkey breasts. If you’ve got fans of dark meat, you can get a bigger turkey or get some turkey legs. And if you’re lucky to be serving people who will eat both light or dark meat, you’re good to go.

How Much Turkey?

The end goal is 1/2 a pound of turkey per adult and 1/3 of a pound per child at the dinner table.

So if you’re serving a holiday dinner of 10 adults, you need five pounds of cooked turkey in total. We know we’re going to lose roughly 50% of the weight of a whole bird through cooking and the bones. So you’ll want a 10-pound turkey.

Now, if you know that you’re serving some big eaters or want leftovers, you might want to consider purchasing a larger turkey. You can adjust it from this baseline calculation. I know I like to have plenty of left over turkey, so I always go a bit bigger.

How Much Turkey Per Person Calculator

I can give you the formula, but let’s be honest here: If you’re serving turkey, you don’t want to have to add too much math to the prep, right? Let our calculator here do the work for you.

How To Make Your Turkey Stretch Further

If you’re unable to find a great deal on turkey or you know that you’re serving turkey simply because it’s a tradition, you’ll want to surround it with some great side dishes. We all know the traditional Thanksgiving sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing, dressing, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and tossed salad. And you better not forget the rolls, either!

But I’m a barbecue guy. Why stick with the standard when I can put a smoky twist on it? For instance, I like mashed potatoes, but I love my smoked mashed potato recipe that adds smoky flavors and amps up the garlic.

Homemade Mac and Cheese

If you want something a bit different, you can also check out our smoked mac and cheese recipe. It’s a wonderful combination of creamy comfort food and barbecue. It pairs perfectly with smoked turkey.


Question: What If Guests Prefer White Meat?

Answer: You can either purchase a bigger turkey or consider just getting turkey breasts to serve. Either way, I would heavily recommend that you brine (and/or inject) your turkey to ensure it’s flavorful and doesn’t dry out.

Question: What If Guests Prefer Dark Meat?

Answer: First, you’ll have an easier time cooking your turkey. Dark meat will stay juicier throughout the cooking process than white meat. Secondly, you can simply purchase some extra legs from the grocery store to accommodate the extra demand.

Question: Is It Better To Get One Larger Or Two Smaller Birds?

Answer: Oven space can be at a premium while preparing for a big holiday dinner. That can make it harder to accommodate multiple roasting pans. Perhaps that’s one reason to utilize your smoker, by the way. That being said, I would tend toward recommending getting two turkeys versus one really big turkey if you’re serving a big crowd. The potential for issues during the cooking process increases if you’ve got a super large turkey. It’ll be harder to cook it all the way through without drying out parts of it (or even burning some of the skin).

Question: What Should I Do With Leftover Turkey?

Answer: We’ve all been there the week after Thanksgiving, right? You can do cold turkey sandwiches with mayonnaise and cheddar cheese. I’ve definitely done similar. But if you’ve got a lot of leftover turkey, that gets old pretty quickly.

But what about using that turkey to make a homemade turkey pot pie? Use your favorite chicken pot pie recipe and simply substitute turkey. You could also use the bones to make homemade turkey broth for turkey noodle soup. Perfect for a cold meal with people under the weather.

Final Thoughts

I’d stick with 1/2 a pound of turkey per adult and 1/3 of a pound per child. That equals one pound of raw turkey per adult and 2/3 of a pound per child. If you’re concerned that’s not enough or you want to ensure there will be plenty of leftovers to go around, consider purchasing 1 1/2 pounds of raw turkey per person attending. That will ensure you’ve got plenty for sandwiches, turkey pot pies, or for all the big eaters among your guests.

Regardless of how much turkey you’re cooking, I always recommend brining your turkey. It helps keep the light meat moist and juicy throughout the cooking process and can impart some flavor to the meat as well. For even more flavor and juiciness, I even take time to inject my turkey. If you’re looking to get into that but don’t know where to start, check out some of my favorite turkey injection recipes.

Do you have a favorite turkey injection or brine recipe? Or do you have the best way to use leftover turkey ever? Let us know in the comments!

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