What weight turkey do I need for 8 adults?

When planning your Thanksgiving meal, one of the most important decisions is determining what size turkey you need to buy to feed all of your guests. For a gathering of 8 adults, you’ll want to make sure you get a turkey that’s big enough so that everyone can enjoy seconds (and maybe even thirds), but not so massive that you’re stuck eating leftovers for weeks. Here’s a quick overview of how much turkey you need for 8 adults:

Quick Answer

For 8 adult guests, you’ll need a 12-14 pound whole turkey.

Calculating Turkey Quantities

The general rule of thumb is to plan for 1-1.5 pounds of uncooked turkey per person. This accounts for plenty of hearty portions, even for those who tend to pile their plates high. Here’s a simple formula:

  • Number of guests x 1.5 pounds per person = Total pounds of turkey needed
  • For 8 adults: 8 x 1.5 = 12 pounds

Using this math, for 8 adult guests you would need about a 12 pound turkey. However, since whole turkeys only come in certain weight increments, you may need to round up slightly to the next available size. The most common sizes for whole turkeys are:

  • 10-12 pounds
  • 12-14 pounds
  • 14-16 pounds
  • 16-18 pounds
  • 18-20 pounds

Given these options, a 12-14 pound turkey would be ideal for serving 8 adults. This provides a little extra as insurance against thin slices or extra-hearty appetites.

Other Turkey Options

While whole roasted turkeys are the traditional centerpiece of Thanksgiving feasts, they’re not your only option for serving a crowd. Here are some other turkey choices to consider:

  • Turkey breast: Turkey breasts are the white meat-only portion of the bird. A 7-8 pound turkey breast could feed 8 people.
  • Boneless turkey roast: These oven-ready roasts have all the white and dark meat with no bones. A 4-5 pound roast would work for 8.
  • Turkey drumsticks: Large drumsticks can be roasted for a unique entree. Plan on 1 drumstick per person.
  • Frozen turkey: Pre-cooked frozen turkeys just need to be thawed and reheated. They come in a variety of convenient sizes.

The benefit of these non-whole turkey options is you can buy a smaller quantity tailored to your exact guest count. However, part of the appeal of whole turkeys is the dramatic presentation, so keep that in mind.

Turkey Cooking Time

One last consideration for choosing your turkey size is cook time. Larger turkeys take longer to roast. Here are some general turkey cooking time guidelines:

Turkey Weight Unstuffed Stuffed
8 – 12 pounds 2.75 – 3 hours 3 – 3.5 hours
12 – 14 pounds 3 – 3.75 hours 3.5 – 4 hours
14 – 18 pounds 3.75 – 4.25 hours 4 – 4.5 hours
18 – 20 pounds 4.25 – 4.5 hours 4.5 – 5 hours
20 – 24 pounds 4.5 – 5 hours 5 – 5.5 hours

As you can see, cooking times can vary significantly depending on the size of your turkey. When planning your Thanksgiving schedule, be sure to leave ample time for your turkey to roast completely before your meal. Nothing is worse than an undercooked bird!

Choosing the Best Turkey

Here are some tips for picking out the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Shop early – Get your turkey a few days or more ahead of time and store it safely in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.
  • Allow 1-2 pounds per person – This provides enough for generous portions with a little extra.
  • Factor in cook time – Bigger birds take longer, so plan accordingly.
  • Consider bone-in vs. boneless – Whole turkeys have bones that take up space, so a boneless roast may allow more meat per pound.
  • Choose fresh or frozen – Make sure frozen turkeys have time to safely thaw in the fridge.
  • Decide on flavors – You can find plain turkeys or ones injected with broths or rubs for more flavor.
  • Check for sales and deals – Grocery stores often discount turkeys around the holidays.

By planning ahead, understanding portion sizes, and allowing enough cook time, you can feel confident buying the perfect turkey to wow your Thanksgiving guests!

Preparing and Cooking Your Turkey

Once you’ve brought home your turkey, here are some tips for getting it holiday table-ready:


  • Thaw frozen turkeys in the refrigerator 1-2 days ahead of time. This prevents bacteria from growing.
  • Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey to thaw.
  • Place the frozen turkey in a container to catch any juices as it thaws.
  • Never thaw at room temperature or in hot water, as this can breed bacteria.


  • Pat the turkey dry and rub the skin with oil or butter. This helps the skin get crispy.
  • Season the turkey liberally inside and out with salt, pepper and your choice of herbs or aromatics.
  • You can also stuff the turkey cavity with onions, celery, lemons or fresh herbs.
  • For stuffed turkeys, season the stuffing as well. Bake extra stuffing outside the bird in a casserole dish.


  • Place turkey breast-side up on a rack in a roasting pan. The rack prevents soggy skin.
  • Tent foil over the turkey for the first 1-2 hours of roasting to prevent over-browning.
  • Baste with pan juices every 30 minutes to keep the turkey moist.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  • Let the turkey rest 20 minutes before carving for juicier meat.

With proper thawing, seasoning, roasting and resting, your turkey will turn out juicy, delicious and golden brown!

Leftovers and Storage

Don’t let your Thanksgiving leftovers go to waste! Here are some tips for storing and enjoying turkey after the big meal:

  • Remove all meat from the bones and refrigerate in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking.
  • Use turkey meat for sandwiches, soups, salads, casseroles, wraps and more in the days following Thanksgiving.
  • Freeze sliced turkey meat for up to 4 months. Place pieces in sealed plastic bags with the air pressed out.
  • Store broth and gravy in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Refrigerate stuffing and mashed potatoes for 3-4 days before discarding. Do not freeze.
  • Wrap and refrigerate whole pie and quick breads for 4-5 days.

Proper leftover storage and creative recipes will help you get the most out of your Thanksgiving turkey!


When hosting Thanksgiving for 8 adults, a 12-14 pound whole turkey is ideal. This provides enough hearty portions of both white and dark meat. Boneless roasts or turkey parts can also feed a group this size. Be sure to factor in thaw and cook times based on the turkey’s weight. Apply seasonings and roast the turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F. Finally, promptly refrigerate or freeze leftovers for enjoyment throughout the following weeks. By following these guidelines, you’ll serve the perfect turkey to satisfy your Thanksgiving crowd.

Leave a Comment