How many will a 10lb turkey feed?

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means it’s time to start planning your holiday menu. The centerpiece of most Thanksgiving dinners is a roasted turkey. But if you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, how do you know what size turkey to buy? Buying the right sized bird is important – you want to make sure you have enough to feed all your guests without a lot of leftovers.

A 10 pound turkey is a popular choice for many Thanksgiving hosts. But how many people will a 10lb turkey feed? There are a few factors to consider when determining turkey quantities. In this article, we’ll go over how to estimate how much turkey you need based on the number of guests, appetite levels, and whether you want leftovers. We’ll also provide a chart with estimates for how many a 10lb turkey will serve.

How Much Turkey Per Person?

The general recommendation is to plan for 1 to 1 1⁄2 pounds of uncooked turkey per person. This allows for generous servings with a little extra. Leftover turkey is great for sandwiches, casseroles, soup and other tasty meals later.

Here are some more specific serving size estimates based on appetite levels:

– For light eaters – 3 to 4 oz cooked turkey per person
– For average eaters – 5 to 6 oz cooked turkey per person
– For hearty eaters – 7 to 8 oz cooked turkey per person

On average, a 10lb raw turkey will yield about 40% edible cooked meat. Once the bones, skin, and fat are removed, you’ll get around 4 to 5 pounds of cooked turkey meat from a 10lb raw bird.

So if you have mostly average eaters at your Thanksgiving feast, a 10lb turkey would feed roughly 8 to 10 people. For hearty eaters, plan on 6 to 8 servings. And for those with smaller appetites, a 10lb turkey could potentially serve 12 or more.

Factors That Affect Turkey Servings

Here are some other factors that can influence how far a 10lb turkey will go:

– Turkey preparation method – A whole roasted or smoked turkey will yield less meat than a boneless, skinless turkey breast since you remove the skin, bones, and wings before cooking.

– Leftovers – If you want lots of leftover turkey, get a bird on the larger side. Leftovers can account for 2-3 additional “servings” beyond what guests eat on Thanksgiving day.

– Side dishes – When planning your menu, factor in all the tasty side dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, rolls, etc. If you offer a variety of sides, guests may take smaller portions of turkey.

– Appetizers – Appetizers and snacks will take the edge off hunger. So guests may not be as eager to pile their plates high if you offer appetizers before the main meal.

– Turkey meat thermometer – Be sure to use an accurate meat thermometer to avoid undercooking. Undercooked poultry can mean wasted turkey if guests don’t eat it for safety reasons.

Turkey Servings Estimate Chart

Here is a handy chart with estimates for how many people a 10lb turkey will serve based on appetite levels:

Appetite Level Serving Size Number of Servings from 10lb Turkey
Light eaters 3-4 oz cooked turkey per person 12-16
Average eaters 5-6 oz cooked turkey per person 8-10
Hearty eaters 7-8 oz cooked turkey per person 6-8

As you can see, the number of people a 10lb turkey will feed can vary significantly based on appetites and serving sizes. The best approach is to estimate generously so you have enough food for all your guests.

Turkey Cooking Time

Speaking of cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, let’s quickly cover how long it will take to roast or smoke a 10lb bird.

For a whole 10lb turkey:

– Roast turkey: Approximately 2.5 to 3 hours at 325°F

– Smoked turkey: Approximately 4 to 5 hours at 225°F

Always rely on a food thermometer over cook times to ensure the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F in the thickest part of the breast and thigh. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving for juicy results.

For just a 10lb turkey breast:

– Roast: Approximately 1.5 to 2 hours at 325°F

– Smoke: Approximately 3 hours at 225°F

Should You Buy a Whole Turkey or Just a Breast?

When purchasing your turkey, you can either buy a whole turkey or just buy a turkey breast. Whole turkeys make a beautiful presentation for your Thanksgiving table. But turkey breasts cook more quickly and give you all white meat.

Here are some pros for each option:

Whole turkey pros:
– Classic, full presentation
– More economical
– Provides both white and dark meat
– Yields bone-in wings and drumsticks

Turkey breast pros:
– Cooks more quickly
– Easier to carve
– All white meat
– No wings/drumsticks to save/use later

The right choice often depends on your preferences, how many you’re serving, cook times, and convenience. Both will give you delicious turkey for the holiday.

Ordering Your Turkey

Once you’ve decided how big of a turkey you need, it’s time to order! Here are some tips for ordering your Thanksgiving centerpiece:

– Check with your local grocery store meat department to find out when they start taking turkey orders. Popular sizes can sell out.

– Look for high-quality turkey brands like fresh organic, free-range, pasture-raised, or heritage breed turkeys. These are naturally flavorful.

– Order 1-2 weeks in advance for best selection. You can typically order fresh or frozen.

– If buying frozen, make sure to allow plenty of defrost time in the fridge (24 hrs for every 4-5lbs).

– Specify whether you want a whole turkey or just a breast. Also share if you want it boneless.

– Pick up your turkey 1-2 days before Thanksgiving to allow fridge defrosting time.

Picking Up Your Turkey

When you go to get your pre-ordered turkey, here are some tips for transporting it safely:

– Bring a large cooler or insulated bag to keep the turkey cold during the trip home.

– If the turkey is frozen, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap so it stays frozen solid.

– Place the turkey in the cooler or bag on ice or freezer packs.

– Keep the turkey below 40°F until you are ready to thaw and cook.

– Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. Thaw in the refrigerator allowing 24 hrs per 4-5 lbs.

– Cook fresh or fully thawed turkeys within 2 days. Do not refreeze a thawed turkey.

Thawing Tips for Frozen Turkey

For frozen birds, allow plenty of time for safe thawing. Here are some thawing tips:

– Fridge Thawing: Allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. Place the turkey in a pan to catch drips.

– Cold Water Thawing: Submerge the turkey in its wrapper in cold water. Change water every 30 mins. Allow 30 mins per pound.

– Microwave Thawing: Check manufacturer guidelines. Thaw breast side up, 5 minutes per pound, with frequent changes.

– Never thaw at room temp longer than 2 hours. Bacteria multiply quickly above 40°F.

– Cook immediately after thawing. Do not refreeze a thawed turkey.

Seasoning and Flavoring Your Turkey

A basic turkey is delicious, but seasoning and flavors can take it to the next level! Here are some easy seasoning ideas:

– Herb butter under the skin and in the cavity. Try parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary.

– Seasonings like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.

– Citrus fruits and herbs in the cavity like oranges, lemons, rosemary, sage.

– Compound butter with chopped herbs and spices slathered on top.

– Flavored oils like lemon olive oil brushed on the skin for browning and moisture.

– Salt brine for a super juicy interior (but avoid adding salt to the skin).

– Marinades with olive oil, citrus, and herbs. Let marinate overnight.

Get creative with your favorite flavors! Aromatic seasoning will make your turkey even more mouthwatering.

Trussing and Preparing Your Turkey

Before roasting or smoking, properly prep your turkey:

– Remove giblets from the cavity. Use for gravy or discard.

– Rinse turkey inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels.

– Apply seasoning and insert flavorings into the cavity.

– Tie the legs together with twine or small skewers.

– Tuck wing tips under body to keep compact shape.

– Truss with skewers or twine to draw legs near body. Helps cook evenly.

– Brush skin with oil or rub with butter. This aids browning.

Your turkey is now ready for roasting or smoking!

Cooking Methods for Turkey

Two popular cooking methods for holiday turkeys are roasting and smoking:

Roasting Turkey

This traditional cooking method yields a beautiful golden brown turkey:

– Preheat oven to 325°F. Use a roasting rack in a pan.

– Place turkey breast side up, tent with foil to prevent overcooking.

– Baste occasionally with pan juices or melted butter for moisture and flavor.

– Roast until the thickest part of breast and thigh reaches 165°F.

Smoking Turkey

For tender, juicy turkey with a smoky flavor:

– Prepare smoker with wood chips – try apple, cherry, hickory, or maple.

– Maintain temperature at 225-250°F.

– Place turkey in center of smoker grill, breast up.

– Insert a probe thermometer into thickest section. Smoke until 165°F.

– Finish at higher heat to crisp and brown the skin if desired.

Smoking may take a bit longer, but gives incredible juicy, smoky flavor.

Carving the Turkey

Once your turkey has rested, it’s time to carve. Follow these steps:

– Place turkey on a cutting board, breast side up. Remove any trussing.

– Start by slicing horizontally across the breast to remove the wings and breast meat.

– Angle knife inward to remove the breast halves. Slice into thin pieces.

– Remove the legs and separate thighs from drumsticks.

– Cut along thigh joint and slice meat. Repeat with drumsticks.

– Arrange slices neatly on a platter. Pour over any pan juices for moisture.

Now your perfectly cooked and carved turkey is ready to serve!

Leftover Turkey Storage

Leftover roasted turkey should be eaten within 3-4 days. Follow these storage tips:

– Allow turkey to cool completely, then carve meat from the bones.

– Refrigerate carved turkey meat in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking.

– Use leftovers within 3-4 days. Freeze extra meat for longer storage.

– Reheat thoroughly to 165°F until hot and steaming. Bring gravy to a boil.

– Enjoy leftovers in casseroles, sandwiches, soups, salads, and other creative meals!

Proper storage and reheating are important to prevent bacteria growth. But leftovers make holiday meal prep easy!

Creative Ways to Use Leftover Turkey

Turkey leftovers let you enjoy your holiday centerpiece long after the big meal is over. Here are some delicious ways to repurpose leftovers:

– Turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce and stuffing

– Turkey casserole with vegetables and gravy

– Turkey soup with veggies, noodles, broth, and herbs

– Turkey salad layered on greens or stuffed in a wrap or sandwich

– Turkey tetrazzini with turkey, pasta, creamy mushroom sauce and parmesan

– Turkey enchiladas with green sauce, beans, rice, cheese, etc.

– Turkey pot pie topped with biscuits or pie crust

– Turkey tacos with peppers, onions, cheese, and salsa

Be creative and have fun transforming leftovers into brand new dishes!


A 10lb turkey can feed anywhere from 6 to 16 people depending on appetite levels and side dishes. Plan for 1-1.5 pounds per person, estimating generously to ensure enough food. Factors like leftovers, menu sides, and appetizers also impact servings per turkey. Give yourself plenty of time to safely thaw frozen birds in the fridge or cold water. Season and flavor your turkey for extra flavor. Rest the cooked turkey before slicing. Use leftovers within 3-4 days for delicious meals like casseroles, sandwiches, and soups. With proper planning and cooking, a 10lb turkey will be the star of your Thanksgiving feast!

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