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. Size matters 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. Most Thanksgivings, I just get all the meat separated into bags in the fridge, and the big guys are dropping into the kitchen for halftime turkey sandwiches. You might as well stock up on some heavy-duty paper plates, sliced bread, mayonnaise and leafy lettuce. If your house is like ours over Thanksgiving, these supplies are required if you want to spend more time with family and friends. Consider appliance space The other big consideration for determining the bird's size is practicality. How is your oven and refrigerator space? How long will it take to thaw (if you are buying a frozen bird) in the refrigerator or cold water? Lifting a 22-pounder in and out of the oven just may not be one of your options this year. Availability and price is a huge consideration in deciding on the bird. Do you have a pan that will hold the biggest bird safely? Holding out for that pre-Thanksgiving frozen turkey sale? Be sure to get a size that will thaw in time to roast properly. Keep in mind how long it will take to cook the bird. Brown-in bags reduce the time and may need to be figured into your pre-Thanksgiving grocery list. Get the size appropriate to the bird, and get them early to avoid last-minute availability issues. Warning: When steam is released from the bag, the heat can cause injury. I hope I haven't scared Thanksgiving first-timers. I will pass on some encouragement: Planning and preparing the Thanksgiving meal is one of the most satisfying of cooking experiences. It is an opportunity I treasure. So, get out there and hunt down that bird.