What size turkey for 14 adults?

Quick Answer

For 14 adults, you’ll need a 20-22 pound turkey. This allows for about 1-1.25 pounds per person, accounting for leftovers. A turkey of this size can feed up to 16 people comfortably.

How Much Turkey Per Person?

The general recommendation is to allow 1-1.5 pounds of uncooked turkey per person. This accounts for generous portions with leftover turkey. Here are some turkey serving size guidelines:

  • 1 pound per person – Provides a standard serving with a bit of extra
  • 1.25 pounds per person – Allows for larger servings with leftovers
  • 1.5 pounds per person – Provides very generous portions with lots of leftovers

For a group of 14 adults, planning for 1-1.25 pounds per person is a safe bet. This will provide enough turkey for hearty portions along with leftovers for sandwiches, soup, casseroles, etc.

Calculate Turkey Size for a Group

To determine the size turkey you need, simply multiply the number of people by the recommended pounds per person:

14 people x 1 pound per person = 14 pound turkey

14 people x 1.25 pounds per person = 17.5 pound turkey (round up to 18 pounds)

So for 14 adults, a turkey between 14-18 pounds should be sufficient. However, since whole turkeys are sold in even weights, you’ll need to round up to the next size available.

This means for 14 people, you’ll want a turkey that’s:

  • 16 pounds
  • 18 pounds
  • 20 pounds
  • 22 pounds

A 20-22 pound turkey will be your best fit for serving a crowd of 14 with ample portions.

Turkey Sizes to Buy

Here are the most common turkey sizes sold for holiday meals:

Turkey Size Weight Range Good For
Small 8-12 lbs 4-6 people
Medium 12-16 lbs 10-12 people
Large 16-20 lbs 12-15 people
X-Large 20-24 lbs Up to 18 people

As you can see, a 20-22 pound turkey falls into the x-large size range, which can feed up to 18 people. This makes it perfect for serving 14 adults generously.

Should I Buy a Whole Turkey or Breast?

Whole turkeys and turkey breasts both have their advantages for holiday meals. Here is a comparison:

Whole Turkey

  • Classic, iconic holiday centerpiece
  • Lower cost per pound
  • Provides both white and dark meat
  • Longer cooking time (3-4 hours)

Turkey Breast

  • Easier to find smaller sizes for fewer guests
  • Cooks more quickly (2-3 hours)
  • Provides just white meat
  • Higher cost per pound

For feeding 14 people, a whole turkey is recommended. At 20-22 pounds, it provides enough meat at a lower cost than a breast. The variety of white and dark meat is ideal for a holiday feast. And the long cooking time allows the flavors to fully develop.

If oven space is limited, you could opt for two 10-11 pound turkey breast halves instead. But for the best value and presentation, a single whole 20-22 pound turkey is the better choice.

Should I Buy a Frozen or Fresh Turkey?

Both fresh and frozen whole turkeys are great options for holiday dinners. Here are some differences:

Fresh Turkey

  • Usually more expensive per pound
  • Shorter shelf life – use within a few days
  • No thawing required
  • Can be harder to find around holidays

Frozen Turkey

  • Lower cost per pound
  • Long shelf life – keeps for months in freezer
  • Requires thawing before roasting
  • Readily available around holidays

For the holidays, a frozen turkey is recommended. Frozen varieties are more abundant and affordable. As long as you allot enough thawing time (24 hours for every 4-5 pounds), a frozen turkey will cook up just as moist and delicious as a fresh one. Purchase your turkey at least 1-2 weeks before cooking to give it plenty of time to thaw.

Where to Buy Your Turkey

Here are some of the best places to buy a holiday turkey:

  • Grocery Stores: Look for special discounted turkeys around the holidays. Stores like Kroger, Safeway, Wegmans, and Albertsons will carry a full selection of frozen and fresh turkeys in all sizes.
  • Warehouse Stores: Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s sell high-quality frozen turkeys at competitive prices. Vacuum-sealed turkeys can be kept frozen for up to 2 years.
  • Butcher Shops: Local butcher shops are a great source for humanely-raised, free range, organic, or heritage breed turkeys. They typically cost more but offer premium quality.
  • Online Retailers: Places like FreshDirect, Peapod, ButcherBox, and Schwan’s sell mail-order frozen turkeys you can have conveniently shipped to your door.

Shop early for the best selection. Prices usually drop closer to the holiday as stores try to sell excess inventory. Look for turkey discounts the week of Thanksgiving for the best deals.

Thawing Your Turkey

Allow at least 24 hours of thawing in the refrigerator for every 4-5 pounds of turkey weight. A 20 pound turkey would require 4-5 days in the fridge.

For a quicker thaw, submerge the wrapped turkey in a sink of cold water. Allow 30 minutes of thawing per pound, changing the water every 30 minutes. A 20 pound turkey would need 10-11 hours submerged to thaw completely.

Never thaw a turkey at room temperature or in hot water. This allows bacteria to grow rapidly on the turkey surface. Refrigerator and cold water thaws are the safest methods.

Once thawed, the turkey can be kept in the fridge for 1-2 days before roasting. Cook within 48 hours for food safety.

Cooking Times for Whole Turkey

A whole turkey requires about 13 minutes per pound of oven roasting time. Here are estimated cooking times for different turkey sizes:

Turkey Weight Cooking Time (Unstuffed)
8 pound turkey 1 hour, 45 minutes
12 pound turkey 2 hours, 45 minutes
16 pound turkey 3 hours, 25 minutes
20 pound turkey 4 hours
24 pound turkey 5 hours

For food safety, cook stuffing separately and add it to the turkey cavity towards the end. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey reaches 165F at the thickest part of the thigh and breast. Let rest 20 minutes before carving.

Should I Brine the Turkey?

Brining is a great way to boost turkey moisture and flavor. You soak the turkey in a salt water solution overnight before cooking. This allows the turkey to absorb extra moisture and seasoning.

Use 2-4 cups of kosher salt dissolved in 2-4 gallons of water. You can add sugar, herbs, and spices for more flavor. Keep the turkey submerged in the brine 12-24 hours under refrigeration. Pat dry before roasting.

Brining is an optional but worthwhile step for a more tender, succulent bird that’s seasoned throughout. Just be sure to allot extra time before cooking.

Make-Ahead Turkey Tips

  • Prep side dishes 1-2 days before. Make casseroles, potatoes, salads, or desserts that store well.
  • Cook any pie crusts, cakes, or cookie components a day ahead.
  • Chop and measure out ingredients for stuffing, gravy, and other recipes.
  • Prepare make-ahead breakfast dishes like egg casseroles or baked goods.
  • Clean and decorate your home before guests arrive.

Completing as many tasks ahead of time lets you relax and enjoy your Thanksgiving meal. Focus your time on roasting the turkey and making fresh side dishes that day.

Leftover Turkey Ideas

A 20+ pound bird will leave you with ample leftovers. Store carved turkey meat wrapped tightly in the fridge for 3-4 days. Here are delicious ways to repurpose your leftovers:

  • Turkey sandwiches – Try hot open face turkey melts too.
  • Turkey casseroles – Use up leftover stuffing and veggies.
  • Turkey soup or chowder – Endlessly customizable.
  • Turkey enchiladas or burritos – Mix in beans, rice, cheese, etc.
  • Turkey tetrazzini or pot pie – Comforting pasta dishes.
  • Turkey hash or omelette – Great for brunch.
  • Turkey salad – In sandwiches, wraps, or on salad greens.

With so many easy turkey leftovers recipes, you can enjoy your Thanksgiving bird for a week or more after!


For feeding 14 adults this Thanksgiving, a 20-22 pound whole frozen turkey is recommended. This allows for generous 1-1.25 pound servings with plenty of leftovers at an affordable price. Shop early to get the best deals. Allot several days for thawing and make dishes ahead of time so you can focus on roasting the perfect holiday turkey. With smart planning and the right sized bird, you’ll enjoy a memorable meal with your guests.

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