How Many People Does a 20 lb Turkey Feed?


If you organize a dinner with your friends and family, you must consider the food you need for all your guests.

And for Thanksgiving dinners but also for other occasions, cooking one turkey can be the best treatment for your guests. But if you have a 20 lbs turkey, how many guests can you serve? 

A 20 lbs turkey should feed around 16 people on average. However, there are aspects to consider in terms of the edible quantities and parts of the turkey. Keep reading to find out what size of turkey you need for your dinner and also, how to enjoy the leftovers best! 

20 lbs Turkey  Dishes  Number of servings 
Thanksgiving stuffed turkey  12-16 servings of 7 ounces to 9 ounces of meat each
Leftover Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers 5-7 servings of one stuffed pepper each
Turkey Potato Chowder 4-5 servings of 7 ounces of soup
Leftover Turkey Fried Rice 5-6 servings
Buffalo turkey wraps 6-8 servings 

How to choose the size of the Turkey-based on the number of guests

Choosing the size of the turkey is crucial to ensure your dinner is perfect and everyone gets to enjoy it.

But it might not be so obvious for everyone, and some people choose to estimate the bird size about the number of guests.

Brine a Turkey

This strategy could be risky as you might end up with a too-small turkey. On the other hand, if the bird is too big, you will have more leftovers. 

The general rule says you should assign around three-quarters of a pound to one pound of turkey per person.

You have to consider, however, that there will be parts of the turkey that are not edible such as the bones, which can add to the bird’s total weight significantly.

If you are planning on having leftovers, you want to plan for 1 1/2 lbs of turkey per person. 

So, if you are planning a dinner with 4 to 6 people, you will need a small turkey of 4 lbs to 9 lbs and if you want to have leftovers, get a larger turkey.

Thanksgiving dinners with few guests are the most difficult to plan, but if you know how to cook your turkey and store it to eat several meals out of it, a bigger bird will be worth it. 

For a dinner of 8 to 10 people, you will need as a turkey of 14 lbs to 16 lbs.

Consequently, for 12 to 16 people, you will need a turkey of 16 lbs to 22 lbs, and if you have 18 to 20 guests or more, you want to look at turkeys of 22 lbs to 30 lbs. 

As a recommendation, it is always an excellent choice to get a slightly bigger turkey than you estimate you need because you never know if you have extra guests or if your turkey is so delicious that some of your guests ask for seconds. 


How many people does a 22lb turkey feed?

If you have a 22 lbs turkey, know that this could feed between 16 and 20 people. Out of each pound of turkey, you should obtain about 7-9 ounces of cooked meat, the only part of the turkey that will be consumed. 

Turkey weight  Number of guests 
14 lbs to 16 lbs  8-10
16 lbs to 22 lbs  12-16
22 lbs to 27 lbs  16-20
27 lbs to 30 lbs 20+

Will a 20-pound turkey feed 12 people?

For 12 people, you will need a turkey of weight between 16 lbs to 22 lbs. A 16 lbs turkey will likely give you just enough meat to cover a tasty Thanksgiving dinner. The bigger your bird is past this weight, the more leftovers you will have.

So, a 20 lbs turkey will give you an excellent dinner for your friends and family and some delicious leftovers to look forward to in the following days.

But if your turkey tastes good and your guests will be hungry, don’t count on having so many leftovers after all! 

Plus, you might want to offer your guests some of the leftovers to take home with them, which is a great possibility if they enjoyed your cooking a lot! 

How long does a 20 lb turkey take to cook?

A 20 lbs turkey is the most common size, as it is enough to feed between 12 and 16 people.

But it will need patience to cook correctly and plenty of knowledge to get that juicy and tender meat that your friends and family will love.

If you plan to prepare a 20 lb turkey, you must give it between 4.5 and 5 hours to cook thoroughly.

Depending on your cooking equipment, getting your turkey ready might take less or more time. The rule says that the bigger the turkey is, the longer it will take to cook. 


How to store your turkey leftovers correctly.

If you end up with an enormous bird, most likely, you will not be able to devour it entirely, even if you prepare it most deliciously.

Some people prefer to have leftovers to enjoy the turkey dishes longer, even after Thanksgiving.

But the way you store your turkey leftovers is the most crucial part if you want to enjoy them for future meals. Here are some aspects to consider to make the most out of your turkey! 

Store them as soon as your dinner is over 

It is not recommended to wait long until you prepare your leftovers to be stored. Ideally, you will want to keep the extra turkey within two hours after the cooking process is over.

This should give you time to enjoy your dinner and see what is left for future meals. Stretching this time window more will only alter the texture of your turkey, making it drier and reducing its flavor. 

Split the leftovers into small portions 

Before you put your leftovers in the store, you want to divide them into smaller portions.

Cooling significant parts of your turkey will take a longer time, and the qualities of the meat, such as its taste and texture, will not conserve in the best manner either.

So, split your turkey leftovers into servings sizes so you can take out of the fridge or freezer precisely the amount you want to consume. 

When it comes to the containers you use, make sure you have containers to accommodate the size of each portion you store.

Use containers with lids, and don’t wrap your turkey in foil. Place the meat in the container and put it in the fridge or freezer. 

Store your turkey leftovers in the fridge or freezer 

You can store your turkey leftovers in the refrigerator and the freezer, depending on how long you aim to preserve them.

If you choose to store your food in the fridge, it will be suitable for three or even four days.

After four days in the refrigerator, meat can become unsafe due to bacteria that will alter its smell and taste. 

However, if you don’t think you can finish the leftovers in the next four days, you can store them in the freezer.

If stored correctly, frozen turkey leftovers will be good for two to six months. When you choose to keep the meat in the freezer, don’t defrost it unless you want to eat it.

Defrosting and freezing the food will alter its taste and dry it out more. 

How to use turkey leftovers in other recipes

Turkey leftovers are tasty by themselves too, but they can also be a valuable ingredient in more complex recipes.

If you want to get creative with your turkey meat, know that you can incorporate it into almost any recipe that calls for meat. 

Leftover Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers are some of the most popular dishes that can be made with turkey leftovers.

You will stuff the peppers with the meat mixed with veggies and rice. There are different recipes online to get inspiration, but you can also use your unique ideas when you put this dish together.

Buffalo turkey wraps that require turkey meat, veggies, and a tortilla can also be an excellent option to make the most of your turkey leftovers.

And if you want a soup or stew dish, make a Turkey Potato Chowder that will taste as delicious as it sounds and might become one of your favorite dishes.

Turkey Sandwich

Final thoughts 

Now that you know everything about the size of the turkey you need and how to use it for your thanksgiving dinner and make the most out of the leftovers, you are all set for a great evening with your loved ones.

Despite the standards and recommendations, make sure you use your creativity and personal cooking talent to make the dinner that everyone will talk about with gratitude! 

A turkey cooked and stored correctly, could feed a family for more than one dinner.

And the information in this guide will help you get the most out of such a dinner, without having to waste any of that delicious and tender meat. 

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