How Much Does The Average Thanksgiving Turkey Weigh

How Much Does the Average Thanksgiving Turkey Weigh? Solved

Last Updated on April 25, 2024 by Kimberlee Johnson

As Thanksgiving draws near in November, families across America eagerly anticipate the delicious meal they will share.

Last year, when preparing for this special holiday, I faced a dilemma at the grocery store – choosing the perfect turkey and wondering, “How much does the average Thanksgiving turkey weigh?”

Well, let me share my experience and some simple facts to help you make that delicious decision without any trouble.

How Much Does An Average Turkey Weigh On Thanksgiving?


On Thanksgiving, the average turkey weight purchased is typically around 15 pounds. 

This size works well because it’s good for a medium-sized group of people, and there’s plenty of tasty meat to share. 

A 15-pound turkey has about 70% white meat, which is lean and mild in taste, and 30% dark meat [1], richer and more flavorful. 

“Turkeys come in all sizes, just like our blessings. Thanksgiving is a reminder to appreciate the ‘weighty’ goodness in our lives.”

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This white and dark meat mix is great because it caters to different tastes at the Thanksgiving dinner table. 

So, when considering what size turkey to get for Thanksgiving, 15 pounds is a good choice to ensure a delicious and satisfying meal.

But what breed of turkey do most people eat on Thanksgiving?

What’s The Weight Of A Cooked Turkey?

Cooked turkeys, whether store-bought or prepared at home, come in sizes, typically weighing between 7 and 30 pounds. 

“Turkeys, quails, and small birds, are here to be seen; but birds are not numerous in desart forests; they draw near to the habitations of men, as I have constantly observed in all my travels.”

William Bartram, American Botanist and Ornithologist

This means you have options when you’re having Thanksgiving dinner. A small turkey weighing around 7 pounds is perfect if it’s just your family eating. 

But if you have many people coming over, a big turkey weighing around 30 pounds will ensure everyone gets enough to eat.

How Many People Can A 20-Pound Turkey Feed On Thanksgiving?

If you plan to serve a 20-pound turkey for Thanksgiving, you can expect it to feed a party of sixteen people generously. 

This calculation is based on allocating 1.25 pounds of turkey per person. 

But if you’re a fan of those delicious turkey leftovers, you should be more generous and allocate 1.5 pounds per person. 

As such, whether you’re hosting a large gathering or aiming for post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches, a 20-pound turkey has you covered for a satisfying feast.

Find out how much gravy per person will need on Thanksgiving here.

How Long Will It Take To Cook A 20-Pound Turkey?

A 20-pound turkey for Thanksgiving can be cooked for about 4 1/4 to 5 hours. Monitoring the turkey’s internal temperature is important to ensure it’s safe to eat. 

After the first 4 1/4 hours, check the turkey’s internal temperature with a meat thermometer.

It ensures that your turkey is not only cooked through but also safe to enjoy. 

How Long Does It Take For A 20-Pound Turkey To Thaw In The Fridge?

When you have a hefty 20-pound turkey, and it’s frozen, you’ll need some patience to prepare it. Plan on giving it 24 hours of fridge time for every 5 pounds of frozen turkey. 

So, for a 20-pounder, you’ll need to budget four days of thawing in the fridge. 

Remember to keep the turkey all wrapped up to prevent any mess, and check occasionally to see if any liquid needs to be drained from the pan underneath. 

This slow and steady thawing process ensures your turkey is safe to cook and delicious when the big day arrives.

What’s The Smallest Turkey You Can Purchase?

Foster Farms Turkey

If you’re looking for the smallest turkey for your Thanksgiving feast, you can generally find turkeys as small as 6 pounds. 

These smaller birds provide a great option for smaller gatherings or when you want a taste of turkey without having many leftovers. 

But remember that while 6-pound turkeys are available, most “small turkeys” in the market usually range in size from 10 to 14 pounds.

Do Frozen Turkeys Cost Less Than Fresh Ones?

Frozen turkeys usually cost less money than fresh ones. You can buy frozen turkeys at good prices, and the best part is you can get them any time of the year, not just around Thanksgiving. 

This means you can plan your Thanksgiving meal without worrying about finding a turkey or being too expensive. 

Also Read: What Percent Of Americans Don’t Eat Turkey On Thanksgiving?


How long will it take to cook a 16-pound turkey?

The general guideline for cooking a turkey is about 13 minutes per pound. A 16-pound turkey is estimated to cook in approximately 3 1/2 hours.

Can a frozen turkey be left out all night to thaw?

The short answer is no; it’s not recommended to thaw [2] a turkey on a counter overnight. 

Although many of us have done it, modern food scientists advise against this practice for safety reasons. 

You might also like to read about the reasons why you shouldn’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving here.

Why do you change the water on a frozen turkey every 30 minutes?

Changing the water every 30 minutes while thawing a turkey in cold water is essential for maintaining a safe temperature. 

It helps prevent the water from becoming too warm and entering the “danger zone,” where bacteria multiply rapidly.

Bottom Line

As I stood in the busy aisles of the grocery store last Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but wonder about the weight of the average turkey. 

After some research, I learned that the typical Thanksgiving turkey weighs around 15 pounds. 

That’s a good size because it can work well for different-sized groups of people and has white and dark meat. 

If you want to serve a big Thanksgiving meal to 16 people, you can get a 20-pound turkey. That’s about 1.25 pounds of turkey for each person, and you might even have some leftovers. 

With this information, I made the perfect choice and enjoyed a memorable Thanksgiving dinner with loved ones.


Kimberlee Johnson
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