Planning on a big bird this year? The early birds get the big birds. Early birds are the ones who plan what size turkey they need and place an order now. If it is important to you to have the biggest, freshest, perfect bird, you are going to need to do some scouting and advance work.
What size turkey or how much turkey you are going to need depends on how many folks are showing up for Thanksgiving dinner. If you are the host this year, it is good to get the count as soon as possible. The size turkey to get also depends on how fond you are of leftovers. We happen to love turkey sandwiches, and I like to have a great dish of turkey tetrazzini tucked in the freezer to thaw and bake for one of those busy-day dinners later.
If you love leftovers then plan on the max: 1Â½ pounds of turkey per person. Sounds gargantuan, but you have to figure all those bones and parts of the turkey that don't make it to the plate for Thanksgiving dinner. Of course you can use much of that in making stock for winter soup. But those parts such as the neck, bones and giblets figure into the size.
For a moderate amount of leftovers, figure a pound per person. That still doesn't exactly sound like the Weight Watchers recommendation of meat portions the size of a deck of cards, but there will be those never-plated turkey parts to figure into your needs.
Looking to waste not in order to want not? Do you think guests will be fine with a mix of white and dark meat? Then you can get by with a mere three-fourths of a pound per person. You could really skim that down to half a pound per person if half the diners are children or include several skinny aunts who eat like birds. This three-fourths-pound rule seems a bit risky for most families, as the big eaters have a way of balancing out the needs. If you have a lot of white-meat people around the table, consider supplementing the bird with a turkey breast or even a spiral-sliced ham.