The numbers behind Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is coming: Just relax and embrace the horror.

For turkeys less than 16 pounds, estimate 1 pound per serving (this accounts for bone weight). For larger birds, a bit less is fine; they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
For turkeys less than 16 pounds, estimate 1 pound per serving (this accounts for bone weight). For larger birds, a bit less is fine; they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio.

Accept the fact that you’ll get at least something wrong. The turkey will be too big. Or too small. Or too frozen. There won’t be enough mashed potatoes, or maybe you’ll forget to salt them. Maybe you’ll have rivers of gravy, but only enough stuffing for two people. Which is just as well, because you probably won’t remember what temperature the stuffing is supposed to be cooked to anyway.

We can’t solve all of those problems for you, but we can give you a cheat sheet to help you avoid at least a few blunders. We’ve done some of the most common Thanksgiving math for you. Now you can focus on more important things, such as who will sit next to your obnoxious uncle or how to deflect your mother-in-law’s unwanted housekeeping advice.

Because this is Thanksgiving, all serving estimates are generous to allow for plenty of seconds and leftovers.

HOW BIG’S YOUR BIRD? For turkeys less than 16 pounds, estimate 1 pound per serving (this accounts for bone weight). For larger birds, a bit less is fine; they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio. But if your goal is to have very ample leftovers, aim for 1 ½ pounds per person.

14 people = 20 pounds = 5-6 hours at 325 degrees

12 people = 18 pounds = 4 ½-5 hours at 325 degrees

10 people = 15 pounds = 4-4 ½ hours at 325 degrees

8 people = 12 pounds = 3-4 hours at 325 degrees

Use an instant thermometer inserted at the innermost part of the thigh (without touching bone) to determine when your turkey is done. The meat needs to hit 165 degrees for safe eating, though some people say thigh meat tastes better at 170.

BEYOND THE TURKEY

CARROTS

A 1-pound bag makes four to five servings.

CRANBERRY SAUCE

A 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries makes about 2 ¼ cups of sauce; a 16-ounce can has six servings.

GRAVY

Plan for 1/3 cup of gravy per person.

GREEN BEANS

For 6 to 8 servings, use 1 ½ pounds of beans.

MASHED POTATOES

A 5-pound bag of potatoes makes 10 to 12 servings.

STUFFING

A 14-ounce bag of stuffing makes about 11 servings.

PIE

A 9-inch pie can be cut into 8 modest slices.


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