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News from Mathnasium of Columbus Bradley Park

Thanksgiving Math: How Much To Buy, How Long To Cook, How Many It Feeds

Nov 26, 2019

These tips com from Johnathan L. Wright who is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media, part of the USA Today Network. Join @RGJTaste on TwitterFacebook and Instagram


The rule of Thanksgiving thumb is to allow 1 pound of turkey meat per person. Want leftovers (or serving big appetites)? Allow 1 1/2 pounds. The following guide accounts for meat and bone weight:

For 8 people, buy a 12-pound turkey

For 10 people, buy a 15-pound turkey

For 12 people, buy an 18-pound turkey

For 14 people, buy a 20-pound turkey


If you're not cooking for a crowd, make a bone-in turkey breast. A 5- to 7-pound breast feeds about 4. 



To thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator, as the USDA recommends, allow about 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. You also can submerge the bird in a sink of cold water to thaw, changing the water every 30 minutes and thawing at the rate of 30 minutes per pound.



A brine uses kosher salt and sugar in a 1-to-1 ratio, usually no more than 1 cup of each. Feel free to add other seasonings. Brines typically are made by heating the salt, sugar and seasonings with a bit of water until dissolved.

This mixture then is diluted with additional cold water (volume will vary depending on the size of your bird) and with ice. The brine must be completely cooled before adding the turkey.

Turkeys should be brined for at least 8 to 10 hours, up to 72 hours. The longer you plan to brine the bird, the weaker you should make the brine. So, for a 10-hour soak, use 1 cup each of salt and sugar. For longer, consider reducing to 3/4 cup each.

Always keep the bird refrigerated during brining. If the turkey is too big, an ice-filled cooler works, too. If a turkey is purchased pre-brined, do not separately brine it.


Don't have the time or patience to brine? Try salting instead. In fact, plenty of folks say salting a turkey produces meat with far better flavor than brining.

Set the turkey on a platter, then rub a generous amount of kosher salt on all surfaces. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. When you're ready to roast, rinse the salt from the turkey, pat it dry and place it in the oven.


Roasting times and temperatures vary widely by recipe.

However you roast, it's essential the meat is cooked to a minimum safe internal temperature of 165 F. To measure, insert a digital instant-read thermometer in the inner portion of a turkey thigh without touching bone.

Never rely on the pop-up thermometers that come with some turkeys. Their readings are inaccurate. The following guide is for an unstuffed bird cooked at 325 F in a standard oven.

8- to 12-pound turkey:        2 3/4 to 3 hours

12- to 14-pound turkey:      3 to 3/4 hours

14- to 18-pound turkey:      3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours

18- to 20-pound turkey:      4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours

20- to 24-pound turkey:      4 1/2 to 5 hours

Convection ovens require some heating and timing adjustments. Either reduce the recipe temperature by 25 F and cook as directed, or roast at the recipe temperature and cut cooking time by 25 percent.



After the turkey emerges from the oven, it needs to rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving so the juices redistribute. To keep the bird warm, tent it with foil, then layer on some kitchen towels.



Carrots: A 1-pound bag makes 4 to 5 servings

Cheese: Serve 2 ounces per person as a pre-meal nibble

Cranberry sauce: Make about 1/3 to 1/2 cup cranberry sauce per person

Gravy: Plan for 1/3 cup gravy per person, with 1 extra cup for every 6 people

Green beans: 1 1/2 pounds of beans makes 6 to 8 servings

Mashed potatoes: Make at least 3/4 cup per person

Rolls: Figure on about 2 rolls (or cornbread slices) per person

Pie: A 9-inch pie feeds about 6 to 8

Stuffing: Prepare at least 3/4 cup stuffing per person, plus an extra batch



Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria growth. Store leftovers in shallow containers to decrease cooling time, thus reducing the time food spends in the unsafe range (40 F to 140 F).

Don't eat leftovers that have been refrigerated longer than 3 to 4 days. Freeze food to store it longer.