HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


1 20lb or 2 10lb turkeys?

i have 10 people coming for tgiving and i have always made a larger dry-brined turkey. but the butcher convinced me that i should go with two smaller birds. i now have a large oven (a bluestar) and could probably fit them side by side.
but then i got cold feet. has anyone done 2 smaller turkeys vs. 1 big? and if i roast them both in the same oven (with convection) do i need to add some time in to compensate for the amount of stuff in the oven??

some advice would be appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I vote for 2 turkeys. You get 4 pieces of oysters 0:-)

    And it's probably better to stick a temperature probe into the turkeys than to check on time.

    1. being a dark meat fan, i also vote for 2 birds.

      pound for pound, it's the same weight, but you may actually need a bit less time cooking with smaller birds, since both heat and air will circulate more around them.

      1. Go with 2.

        It's easier to cook smaller birds without drying them out (or overcooking).

        1. Another vote for two birds but for a different reason. I have already posted this, so forgive me for repeating .........
          I cook one bird on Wednesday. Cool, slice and package the meat. I make the gravy from the pan drippings also. On Thanksgiving, I cook the second bird. The house smells like it should and clean-up has been taken care of the day before - no last minute fussing. Re-heat the foil packets of light & dark meat. Put the freshly roasted bird in the center of a warm platter, surrounded by (warm) sliced meat. Pass the (warm) gravy and you're set.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sherri

            Sherri, that's exactly what I do. It takes a lot of the pressure off, knowing that I have half the meal already done! The backup gravy, especially, seals the deal.

          2. A no brainer - pair of 10's. More surface area for seasoning, more crisper skin, less cooking time, and old fashioned stuffing becomes a practical option.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Veggo

              thanks everyone. you put me at ease about it. i think i need to pick up another vrack...don't think they two birds will fit on the one i have. i also thought: 4 drumsticks! i never get a drumstick but maybe this time i will!!!

            2. I have but one question. Where do you find 10 pound turkeys? I've been looking and finally settled on a 13 pound bird today. I know. I still had shopping time, but the stores are getting crowded. If I liked white meat, I might have bought a breast, but... Maybe next year I'll spring for a wild turkey. They're flat chested!

              Oh, and no. You shouldn't have to compensate for quantity in a convection oven. But an instant read thermometer is a good thing!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Caroline1

                I raise heritage breed Royal Palm turkeys. They dress out at about 9 pounds each. However, you get a lot more to eat from my turkeys than a similar weight of supermarket bird. The meat isn't puffed up with fluids that cook out. The meat is denser due to the fact that the turkey free ranges on pasture and is more filling as well as tastier. If you used two of my birds compared to an 18-20 pound Butterball, you could feed many more people. And -- the cooking time would be considerably less.

              2. I am going to go against the grain. The amount of meat on 2-10 lb turkeys will be quite a bit less than one 20lb turkey. I am frugal and would go for more overall meat for my purchasing dollars.

                8 Replies
                1. re: smtucker

                  True, that the meat-dollar ratio favors the 20lb over the 10lbs turkeys.

                  But, if you look at the flavor-dollar ratio, I think going with the 2 10 lbs turkeys is the way to go.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Not to mention how much roasting time 2 smaller birds will cut from Big Bird's time in the oven.

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      And way better soup later from the 2 lil' fellas. Less meat at the start means more bones at the finish, n'est-ce pas?

                      1. re: Veggo

                        And more stuffing, if you're into that. I love stuffing that's been cooked inside the turkey. Two birds would give me more of that! ;)

                        1. re: Jen76

                          Oh, yeah, with chestnuts and oysters. Counting the days!

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Me too! Yum! My mom used to make a great oyster dressing until she developed a shellfish allergy. Sigh...

                  2. re: smtucker

                    I'll stand on your side too. I once read that a 16# bird has reached the maximum turkey skeleton size. Above that, the meat to bone ratio improves steadily. And the workload is about the same regardless of size. If I'm going to go to the trouble of making stuffing/dressing, and later deboning, making stock, and scouring a roasting pan, I'm making the largest bird I can lift. Alternatively, I would buy breasts and thighs and roast the parts, since I have no interest in the wings and drumsticks, which usually wind up in the stockpot. Roasting parts is faster than doing a whole bird and you can mix and match the size of the parts to reflect preferences for light and dark meat.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      I'm on the side of one large bird. More meat/pound with no less work.

                  3. I was just reading this article yesterday- it's pretty entertaining, but it talks about the bird size as well:


                    1. I would opt for seven 2.8571 lb turkeys.

                      But that's me.

                      1. You could always borrow an electric roaster oven and use two ovens or I like to use a weber kettle with my turkeys. It's easy and you can have your husband watch the weber. You can only put 1 bird in a weber, though.

                        1. I say go with the larger bird. Last time I got a small turkey it was mostly bone.

                          1. You can add my voice to the “two birds is better than one” chorus. But, if it’s alright, I may try to hit, another note. . . .

                            I admit that I am impressed with the vision of a large oven filled with two birds roasting in unison. For the past few years, however, our Thanksgiving has involved two birds due to the fact that I can cook them in different ways resulting in different tastes. Typically, one bird gets fried and one gets roasted. The fried turkey gets some peppery spice in it’s preparation while the roasted bird is seasoned with herbs.

                            Another combination I’ve done, as suggested above, is one in the oven and one on the grill. Again, two preps – two tastes, one great afternoon feast! Someday, I’m gonna try for the hat trick (fry, roast, ‘cue). We just need more eaters.

                            1. well is it time you're concerned about or the quality of the turkey/meal?
                              if it was me, I'd do one. I feel like you'd have better control of the bird if you did just the one. two could be daunting to get just right, what if one is done while the other isn't do you want to be going from table to kitchen to check it a few times? I wouldn't. Just my thoughts hope it works out for you whatever you decide.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: iL Divo

                                i really went back and forth for a while and almost defaulted to my big one bird but decided that it's time to try something different. so i adjusted by going for 2 12-14 pound turkeys instead of the two 10-12 pound ones i originally ordered. i think that will help compensate for the bones/carcass and, as always, lots of sides! wish me luck!

                              2. NO question in my mind for several reasons... the main being bone to meat ratio... the butcher sold you a lot more bone in two birds then meat. around 17 pounds the ratio changes drastically if you buy a single bird will give you 30% More meat.
                                Cooking one bird is much simpler, I live by the meat thermometer and pull it at 160' let it rest for a half an hour. I found Brine is a game changer too. There will be much more dark meat and white meat in a 20 pound bird vs two ten pound birds... ask any honest butcher