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My Turkey Looks Soooooooooo Small!

I picked up my organic, humanely raised, music soothing it as it roamed around a huge, grassy field with blue skies overhead until time came for the axe.... I told the butcher that it was for 9 people. The turkey is not quite 12 lbs. I told them I wanted leftovers. Should I buy another small turkey or a turkey breast and leg? Help.

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  1. I would (sorry to have to say). With as popular as leftovers are in my family, I'd want two 12 lb turkeys for 9 persons. Maybe that is a bit much but it always seems like other people want to take home some of the leftovers also...

    5 Replies
    1. re: susancinsf

      I have successfully cooked a 12lb bird and a separate turkey breast if the crowd has a mostly white meat preference. Turkey legs are cheap and quite plentiful.

      I doubt that FDA regs would allow a meat market to accept a piece of meat that has already been sold. It may still be in the wrapping, but food safety regulations regarding uncooked poultry are very strict.

      1. re: Kelli2006

        Even if they can't resell it, they should accept it back and exchange it since they sold a turkey that was too small for the request. Perhaps next time they will tell the customer to open the box and check the bird before leaving the store. Despite the people who seem to feel a few slices of turkey is enough, for many people this is not an adequate size.

        And with a large group, who knows which of your guests is going to go home and talk about how stingy the turkey servings were. Ya think most people are going to tell you that to your face?

        I've bought those boxed Diestal turkeys before and in the holiday frenzy you don't think to open the box ... and I don't remember if you can even do that. Most people buy a turkey once a year where the butcher is dealing with hundreds of customers. They should open the box and show you the actual bird.

        1. re: rworange

          rworange, I work in food service and it is extremely rare that a meat supplier will take back a piece of meat unless it is spoiled. The customer assumes the responsibility of knowing the size, and oakjoan would be expected to check the turkey weight before they left the premises.
          I would suggest that she call her meat purveyor before she goes to make sure, but its doubtful that he could exchange it. He doesn't know the temps that it was held at, he could not re-sell it.
          He might be able to donate it to a free meal program, but with the liability and USDA regs as strict as they are with poultry he would be placing his business at a large risk if he tried to resell it.

          It is also very unlikely that he would have a larger (fresh/free range) bird at this late of date. I am not trying to be arrogant or rude, but unless she has a long relationship with this butcher, it is unlikely that he will exchange it gratis.


          1. re: Kelli2006

            This is always a case of pennies wise and pound foolish. Even for a first time customer, the good will ... especially during the holidays ... would go a LONG way, at least for me, in terms of future purchases.

            New to the shop ... I'd never go back and bad mouth them to my friends ... for YEARS. Regular customer ... they would REALLY have to be special. This isn't like buying a steak for dinner. It is a major holiday. I would not need yet another thing to keep me on edge ... enough food or not enough food.

            You have to figure this is not everyone is bringing back the bird.

            Handling something like this badly, from my perspective, would cost the store not only my business for years, but perhaps others. Some businesses never see the larger picture. If they have to feed the turkey to the cat.

            If they don't have a turkey, then an attempt to work with me by suggesting adding turkey parts to bake along with the bird would work for me. They would have to at least seem like they gave a damn. And as a good business person, I'd make sure all future customers checked the bird before leaving the meat counter.

            ... in my rarely humble opinion ... happy turkey day

            1. re: rworange

              I think they should attempt to work with the customer, and try to obtain a turkey breast,thighs or legs to add to the original turkey, but because of the possibility of sanitation and cross contamination they cannot let the OP return it. The customer has the responsibility to check the weight when they gave it to her, and next time I would specify for a certain weight of bird instead of just saying that you need to feed a certain number of people.

              The health dept is very strict about sanitation of commercial food purveyors and they are extremely watchful when it involves any fresh poultry. There have been many instances of poultry causing outbreaks, and they must be extremely careful not to let it happen again. Oakjohn could donate the bird to a free meal program and buy a larger bird if they doesn't want to add a breast, etc.

              Good communication on both sides is the key to avoiding this problem in the future. I would hope that they can work this out amicably and not try to assign blame to either party.

    2. i am told you should have about 1.5 lbs of turkey for each person you are serving (to ensure plenty and potential leftovers). going by that rule, you should have about 13.5 lbs of turkey. so, to cover for 1.5 lbs of missing turkey, i don't believe that's really worth getting an extra small turkey for?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Linda

        Yes, but the smaller the turkey, the more bone to meat ratio. I'd buy another turkey.

      2. I'm seriously thinking about taking it back to the butcher shop (a fancy one in a local tres chic market hall (hint hint)) and telling them to exchange it for another bigger one. I told them there'd be 9 people and that I wanted leftovers. The bird was in a big cardboard box so I couldn't really see how small it was until I got it home.

        If I decide to get another turkey instead, will there be room for both of them in the Weber? One large turkey doesn't seem to take up as much room as 2 smaller ones.

        2 Replies
        1. re: oakjoan

          Get up early and bring that Diestel turkey back. Can't tell you about the weber though.

          1. Or I could always mail you my leftovers: I have a 21 lb turkey for FOUR PEOPLE.

            3 Replies
            1. re: krissywats

              Me too, 20 lbs for us will feed 4 people and two cats with only enough leftovers for the weekend if we're lucky.

              1. re: krissywats


                I'm standing by the mailbox as I write this!

                1. re: krissywats

                  Ugh... read my thanksgiving horror story with my father, Turkey Lover Extraordinare getting the 25lb for four people, one of which HATES turkey...


                2. I think they are all insane. I serve a 5-6 chicken for four. How much turkey meat do you really need to serve people?

                  I understand the erring in favor of extra, and wanting to have leftovers thing, but you really don't need a turkey bigger than around 14 lbs., especially if it's cooked properly.

                  I just don't get the wanting the giant turkey thing. Family members of mine have gone there, so I've been there, done that. I don't get why, though. How can they eat all that leftover turkey? Unless you are serving like 1 person per pound of turkey, i.e. like 20 for a 20 lb. bird, how much leftover does one family need? In our family unit of around 10, the 20 lb. bird provides ample, generous leftovers.

                  Bigger is not necessarily better, nor even needed.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: DanaB

                    I agree- We are having 18 people ( which includes two little ones, and one non turkey eater) and we have a 24 pounder. Will be enough for dinner,a few sandwiches and soup. Next year we are cooking 2 smaller birds, as some of us love the dark meat.

                    1. re: DanaB

                      no, I don't think bigger is better either, which is why I think Joan should buy a second bird, not try and take it back for a bigger bird. Might be an interesting experiment to get something other than a deistal to compare...

                      I LOVE leftovers: not just sandwhiches and soup: but I like to repeat the turkey dinner the next night! :-) and actually, leftovers freeze pretty well too. Not that I ever have enough to freeze: My family takes my turkey home with them! One year I was so annoyed I had to bite my tongue not to tell one of my relatives to go home and cook her own turkey! (Don't worry Janet, I don't mean you, since I know you are reading :-))

                      Then there are all those college students that look so skinny....

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        I'm just worried that we're not going to have enough leftovers for us to enjoy Friday night!! I have a 16 pound turkey for 9 or 10 of us!!!! And that number includes several skinny college students, as you well know!!! lol!!

                        I did order a Diestel (free-range) or however you spell it.....at least it should be tasty.....

                      2. re: DanaB

                        Well in my case

                        A) it isn't 20lbs of pure meat. Depending on the type of turkey, there is an awful lot of bone involved and bone is heavy.


                        B) 20lbs was an accident. Many more people were supposed to come and I couldn't change my turkey order.


                        C) who cares? Maybe all four people are going to take home a large helping of leftovers and feed themselves for a week. Maybe we're goign to give it to the neighbors (college kids).

                        If I were the OP I'd probably pick up another small breast just to be safe and make sure I could make loads of turkey salad the next day.

                        1. re: DanaB

                          Well, my fear is always the number of people who insist on white meat. That can really ruin the 1 to 1.5 lb per person guideline.... And, I have to admit, I don't want to tell people "you have to eat dark meat!" when I'm hosting them for a holiday dinner.

                        2. Is it wrong that I have a 14 pound turkey for 2 of us?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tallullah

                            No, I just picked up a 14 pounder for the two of us and we are going out to friends for the actual Thanksgiving dinner! This is to insure that we have plenty of turkey and the stuffing Mr. Deedee's father invented, cooked the way we like it.

                          2. Think you need a bigger boyd. No way a 12-pounder gonna serve nine. I would have gone to an 18 pounder for nine people. Rememenr that most people like white meat (leaves all the really good dark meat for Jfood) at T so you're gonna need a pretty big guy to serve this crowd and if you want leftovers as well, that would be my suggestion.

                            1. We always get a 20 pound turkey. This year it's just for 2 of us which is fine. We'll eat a fair amount over the weekend, and cut up and freeze the rest.

                              1. I usually cook a turkey for four of us. I buy a 10 - 12 pound turkey and it feeds us all dinner and there are a few (a FEW) leftovers to send home with my husband's parents. But I usually only have enough left to maybe reheat one small repeat thanksgiving leftover meal and then some for a soup. This year my husband's sister and her son are coming, so there will be six of us, and I got a 20 pound turkey. I would get another small bird for that many. I've seen my mother-in-law try to stretch a goose every Christmas for seven people and it's kind of sad. Everyone feels like they have to really skimp as there's barely enough to go around.

                                1. Do you want quantity or quality? If you want quality... you have enough turkey... just make some great pairings for it.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    I think you are right. We always have enough for dinner, with manageable leftovers. We do have lots and lots of sides, and start the day with cheese, crackers ( etc), appetizers and a soup course. No one goes home hungry- and we usually have to wait until early evening before we attempt dessert!

                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      true enough, but who said you had to have one or the other? I vote for both! :-)

                                    2. I just took a look at my 10lb Empire Turkey and said "Hmm that looks a little small" There are just 2 of us.

                                      1. Know they audience - we have a 10lber for 15 people.

                                        1. Looking at the different points of view, I am reminded that there is a lesson re-learned here; tell the purveyor how many pounds you want, not just how many you want to feed. Obviously, some of us like turkey more than others.... And this thread also reminded me (again, too late for you, Joan, sorry....) that I have had a problem with Enzo's in the past (which I think is where you bought it), of them not giving me as big as I asked for (this was a few years ago, maybe under old management).....That is one problem with the boxed packaging.

                                          1. How about this? Buy a more comfortable sized bird for that many people to eat and have left overs. Cook it for T-Day. Cook the bird you now have on Sat for your own leftovers and make soup on Sun with all the carcasses.

                                            1. Well, I went out this morning and, wonder of all wonders, the market I went to wasn't crowded at 8:30. I decided to just buy and additional turkey, cook half and freeze the other half. So I got a Martinelli (Happy Dan - the brand they sell at Berkeley Bowl) because the Diestels were all way too big. I got a 9.9 lb. turkey and some other stuff I'd realized I didn't have last night - like ONIONS fgdsake!

                                              I spoke to a friend that gets most of her meat from Enzo's. She says that they hired some temps (who've worked there at various periods over the years) for the holiday. The owner was actually there when I picked up the turkey last night but, since I didn't realize I had a problem, I didn't say anything to him. He looked quite frazzled.

                                              I'm going to complain to Enzo's when things quiet down after Thanksgibbon (our darling pet name invented by a friend aeons ago).

                                              An interesting side fact is that Enzo, the original owner, is now working as a chimney sweep!
                                              He had a restaurant off Broadway Terrace in Oakland for a while after he sold the meat market.

                                              So my final word on this subject is that everybody should do what he or she wants about turkey. Buy 30lb birds for 2 people or 10 lb. birds for 15! Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

                                              That turned out to be my semi-final word....final word is OPEN THE BOX whenever you can to check what's inside!

                                              HAPPY THANKSGIBBON TO ALL! Can't wait until Crispness. Murky Crispness from Sanity Clause!

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                Well...I was just going to reply that you should keep your turkey and then get a ham to supplement the meal. But, you've solved the problem. I guess I was an hour too late with my advice. :)

                                                Well done. Happy Thanksgiving.

                                                EDIT: I mean, Happy Thanksgibbon. :)


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I was about to say the same! There would probably be a # of people quite happy with a good ham. Plus, it's easy.

                                                2. re: oakjoan

                                                  Crispness! I LOVE Crispness! Crisp snow underfoot, crunchy peppermint cookies, crackly fires and roast beef fat.... Merry Crispness it is!

                                                3. I have 15 lbs for 12 adults and 4 kids. My mother, who has done this many, many times, swears we'll have leftovers.