Need help figuring out how much turkey I need
Hey Hounds, I need some help. I'm an avid cook, but this is the first time I'll be hosting Thanksgiving. So, for 13 people, how large of a turkey do I need? I think turkey will be the only meat (I was going to also do a duck or salmon, but between an already ambitious menu, hosting duties, and a four month old baby I think it's too much). I just have no clue. Also, I've been thinking about different cooking techniques, but have not yet decided. If you're strongly pro or anti brine, or have strong opinions on types of birds or cooking techniques, I'd love to hear. Thanks guys!
My solution has always been: How big a turkey will my oven accommodate? It's just as much trouble to cook a big one as a little one, everybody loves turkey sandwiches the next day so I send a Care package home with everybody, and have leftovers for my family. That carcass gives us a big pot of turkey gumbo, meaning some meals in the freezer for the upcoming crazy season. Like money in the bank!
I've had kids and visiting relatives and zoo-like conditions for several Thanksgivings. I was always exhausted at the end of most of them until I learned better. I could give you Martha Stewart-like advice but I will tell you that, realistically, as the new mom of a four-month old, hosting T'giving for the first time, there ain't a soul who will fault you for sticking a big no-brainer Butterball in your oven, buying a few great pies at a bakery, asking some of your guests to pitch in with some of the running around, and calling it a great day to be grateful. Concentrate on some fabulous side dishes and shine as the avid cook that you are. Don't burn yourself out!
Your original idea of the salmon was a very lovely one and you might consider doing something like gravalax or a cold poached salmon as an appetizer. A nice do-ahead that won't wear you out and that everyone can enjoy while they play with that new baby who will get more attention than that turkey anyway.
We want lots of leftover turkey for us and to send home with guests. I go with roughly 2 pounds per person, but that doesn't mean you need a 26 pound bird for 13 people, if you consider meat to bone ratio. In general, the larger the bird after about a 12 pounder, the more meat you get to bone.
I've heard meat to bone ratio in most meats is 75/25.
I always get a 24 or 25 lb turkey for the four of us, so it will last the weekend. I used to have 20 or so people and always got one over 30 lbs, which was just barely enough for everyone to take some home. Once there wasn't even any left for us, boy was hubby mad!
Whole Foods recommends 3/4 lb. per person if you don't want leftovers, and if you do (who wouldn't want leftovers on Thanksgiving?) then they recommend 1 1/2 lbs. per person. I'm a huge fan of the high heat cooking method (Gourmet Magazine Nov. 2005), and haven't had the best luck brining but I'm sure you'll find opinions across the board on that!