Is 12 lb turkey a good size?

Quick Answer

A 12 lb turkey is generally considered a good size for most households. It provides enough meat to feed 8-12 people comfortably with some leftovers. The exact number served will depend on the side dishes, appetizers, and how much people take. Overall, a 12 lb turkey is a versatile size that works well for small to medium gatherings.

How Many People Will a 12 lb Turkey Feed?

A 12 lb turkey will provide roughly 9-12 pounds of cooked meat after accounting for bone weight and cooking loss. As a general rule of thumb, plan on about 1 pound of turkey meat per person.

So a 12 lb raw turkey should provide enough cooked meat to feed:

– 8-10 people comfortably
– 10-12 people if side dishes are also served
– Up to 15 smaller portions for an appetizer spread

The actual amount will vary based on how much meat you carve off and how generous the portions are. Leftovers are very likely with a 12 lb bird unless it’s a large gathering.

Serving Suggestions

– For 8 people, plan on 1-1.5 lbs meat per person
– For 10 people, plan on 10-12 oz meat per person
– For 12 people, plan on 8-10 oz meat per person

Reduce portions if there are plenty of sides and appetizers. With lighter eaters or smaller appetizer plates, a 12 lb turkey can stretch to serve 15-20.

Is a 12 lb Turkey Too Small?

A 12 lb turkey is on the smaller side for large gatherings like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Here are some scenarios where you may want to consider a larger turkey:

– Holiday meals with 12+ guests
– Events where turkey is the main feature dish
– Groups with hearty appetites
– You want ample leftovers

If you’re expecting a large hungry crowd or want lots of leftovers, opt for a 15+ lb turkey. The extra size ensures you have enough even if portions run generous.

Is a 12 lb Turkey Too Large?

A 12 lb turkey may be more than needed for small gatherings or if you want a simple dinner with leftovers for a few days. Here are some cases where a smaller bird may be preferable:

– Weeknight dinners for 4-6 people
– Intimate holiday meals for 6-8 guests
– Events with turkey as an entree option, not the main dish
– Situations where fridge space is limited for leftovers

For smaller parties or meals, an 8-10 lb turkey should provide sufficient meat without too many leftovers going to waste. The smaller size also cooks faster.

What if I’m Unsure of Exact Attendance?

It’s hard to predict exact attendance for large events or holiday dinners weeks in advance. If the RSVP list isn’t finalized, a 12 lb turkey provides flexibility:

If More Guests Can Come

– Supplement with more side dishes and appetizers
– Bake an additional turkey breast or ham
– Pick up prepared entree platters from a grocery store

If Less Guests Can Come

– Enjoy ample leftovers for sandwiches, casseroles, soup stock
– Send guests home with turkey portions to enjoy another meal

The moderate 12 lb size gives a cushion in either direction. Get a small 8 lb turkey in addition if numbers are very uncertain.

Tips for Calculating Turkey Size

Here are some tips for deciding if a 12 lb turkey is right for your gathering:

– Estimate 1-1.5 lbs cooked turkey per person
– Choose a smaller turkey for intimate groups under 8
– Choose a larger turkey over 15 lbs for crowds over 12
– Factor in how many side dishes and appetizers will be served
– Consider how much fridge space you have for leftovers
– Leave a cushion if attendance is uncertain until the last minute
– Get a backup turkey breast or ham if numbers are unclear
– Remember it’s better to have extra than run out!

Cooking Times for a 12 lb Turkey

A 12 lb turkey needs adequate cooking time in the oven to reach a safe internal temperature. Here are estimated roasting times:


– 325°F oven: Approximately 3-3.5 hours
– 350°F oven: Approximately 2.5-3 hours


– 325°F oven: Approximately 4-4.5 hours
– 350°F oven: Approximately 3.5-4 hours

Always use a meat thermometer to confirm the turkey reaches 165°F at the thickest part of the breast and thigh. Let rest 30 minutes before carving.

If pressed for time, a turkey breast cooks more quickly, or cut the whole bird in half. Deep frying or spatchcocking also reduces roasting time.

Benefits of a 12 lb Turkey

Here are some of the best things about choosing a 12 lb turkey:

Feeds a Typical Gathering

A 12 lb turkey will feed 8-12 guests comfortably. This covers everything from a smaller holiday dinner to a large friendly gathering. The size hits the sweet spot for many households.

Provides Leftovers

With a 12 lb turkey, you can look forward to yummy leftover meals for a few days. This gives you a head start on sandwiches, soups, casseroles, and more. Just right for smaller households.

Fits Most Ovens

A 12 lb turkey fits easily in most standard ovens. You’re unlikely to have issues with size or needing specialty pans. Takes the hassle out of roasting.

Easy to Store and Thaw

A moderately sized 12 lb bird is simpler to store in the fridge and quicker to thaw than an 18+ lb giant. You can even thaw in the fridge overnight.

Good Value for Money

You get ample meat at a budget-friendly price point. A 12 lb turkey hits the sweet spot of maximizing value per pound compared to smaller or larger birds.

Adaptable Size

At 12 lbs, you have the flexibility to add a few more guests or cut back the portions. It also gives you options to carve, cook additional sides, or split the turkey.

Downsides of a 12 lb Turkey

The drawbacks of choosing a 12 lb turkey are minimal, but a few things to keep in mind are:

May Be Too Small for Large Gatherings

You’ll need to upgrade to a 15 lb or larger turkey if hosting over 12 hungry guests. Plan accordingly for big holiday crowds.

Requires Attention While Roasting

A 12 lb turkey needs periodic basting, tenting, and temperature checking over its 3-4 hour cooking time. You can’t just pop it in and forget it.

Can Be Tricky to Cook Evenly

The thicker thighs and drumsticks sometimes undercook compared to the breast meat. Use a thermometer and tent with foil to address this.

Requires Carving Skills

Carving a whole 12 lb bird can be challenging for novice cooks. Have sharp knives, carving tools, and watch tutorial videos to get tidy slices.

May Limit Oven Space

A 12 lb turkey monopolizes the oven for hours. You may need to get creative with stovetop or slow cookers for sides.

Whole 12 lb Turkey vs Other Options

Here’s how a whole 12 lb turkey compares to other alternatives if you’re unsure about size:

Option Pros Cons
Whole 12 lb turkey
  • Feeds 8-12 people
  • Gives leftovers
  • Classic holiday meal
  • Long roasting time
  • Oven space for sides limited
2 x 6 lb turkeys
  • Cooks faster
  • More oven space
  • Backup turkey available
  • More expensive
  • Less leftovers
  • Double the work
Turkey breast
  • Shorter cook time
  • White meat only
  • Good for smaller groups
  • No leftovers
  • Less flavor
  • No drumsticks or wings

The Verdict?

A whole 12 lb turkey is tough to beat for full flavor, classic presentation, and leftovers. Go for it if you have 8-12 people with some wiggle room in either direction.

In Conclusion

A 12 lb turkey is a versatile middle-of-the-road choice suitable for many gatherings. It provides enough meat to feed 8-12 people comfortably with some leftovers. The size adapts well if a few extra guests join or fewer show up than expected.

Compared to larger birds, a 12 lb turkey cooks quickly, fits in standard ovens, simplifies carving, and lets you thaw within a day. The reasonable size makes it a smart budget buy too.

For special event dinners, smaller weeknight meals, or crowds over 12, adjusting up or down a few pounds may be better. But for the average holiday feast or dinner party, you can feel confident a 12 lb turkey will be a delicious and practical centerpiece.

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