How Many Pounds of Turkey Do I Need for Thanksgiving? Here Are the Equations

Give your in-laws one less thing to complain about.

Flickr / theBlackBrian

It’s any Thanksgiving host’s worst nightmare. You spent hours preparing and thawing and measuring the temperature of your turkey, and then there’s not enough food. Not to mention, this also rules out any leftovers for Friends-sized turkey sandwiches.

Sure, there might be enough sides to make up for a small turkey, but do you really want to give your hard-to-please in-laws something else to complain about? Fortunately, turkey extraordinaire Butterball is here to help. The company is the biggest processor of turkey in the U.S. each year, the National Turkey Federation says, and has taken Thanksgiving by storm with its “Turkey Talk-Line” that more than 100,000 people call each year for turkey-related cooking help. Here are the numbers to keep in mind for this Thanksgiving feast:

How Big of a Turkey Should I Buy?

One of Butterball’s great features is its turkey servings calculator to ensure you have enough turkey for your guests. The calculator is customizable as well, so you specify the adults-kids breakdown, whether you want leftovers, and whether your guests are big eaters or light eaters. However, the basic equation, to account for leftovers, is this:

Number of people x 1.5 = How many pounds of turkey

It’s as simple as that. If you know you have some heavy hitters at your table this Thanksgiving, you may want to up the serving to 2 pounds of turkey per person. The Butterball calculator will also estimate how many cups of stuffing you’ll need for your table. If you want to know how much you’ll need of gravy, cranberry sauce, your side dishes, and pumpkin pie, food site Delish has some recommendations.

How Long Do I Thaw a Turkey?

The other mathematical equation you’ll need to pay attention to is thaw time. Butterball has a calculator for that, too. Basically, the safest way to thaw a turkey is in its original wrapper in the refrigerator, but you’ll need to do some planning because you’ll need 24 hours in the fridge for every four pounds of turkey. Also, once your bird is thawed you should use within four days.

How Long to Cook a Turkey?

There are many factors that will determine your roasting time including whether you stuffed your turkey, whether you have a convection oven, and how many pounds it is. We recommend you consult the chart on Butterball’s website to find your ideal cook time.

What Temperature to Cook a Turkey?

Your bird is done when the meat thermometer reads 180°F in the thigh, 170°F in the breast, and 165°F in the stuffing. Be careful to not overcook!

Turkey math may be a bit tricky, but if you do it right, you will only have to worry about the heated political “conversation” with your uncle or your mother’s incessant questions about if you’ve met anyone, which we all know is enough to worry about on its own.

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