Find out how much ham and turkey per person you need for your holiday dinner with this easy guide. Use it for your next holiday meal planning and it will make hosting easier without the guesswork.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter are often celebrated with ham or turkey as the main dish. Obviously, turkey is a popular choice for Thanksgiving while ham is a popular choice for Christmas and Easter. However, either choice works for any of the holidays mentioned.
For these reasons, grocery stores have great sales on ham and turkey before those holidays. I’ve also gotten great deals on prime rib too.
But, how much do you need to buy? Should you buy a boneless ham or bone-in ham? Should you buy a spiral cut ham? Should you buy a whole turkey or will a bone-in turkey breast suffice? This guide will help you know what is the right size turkey or ham to buy and which option is best for your family.
How Many Guests Will You Have
First, a good starting point is to make out your guest list for your holiday dinner or dinner party. Break it down into kids under twelve and people who are twelve and over. This will give you a good idea of how many servings you need.
Count the kids under twelve as a 1/2 serving. Count any kids who eat like adults, as adults. My eleven year old fits this description! As a matter of fact, I’d have to count him as 1 1/2 servings. If you know people on your guest list fit that category, then plan accordingly.
Therefore, if you have six adults and four kids, count that as eight servings.
Then, decide if you want ham or turkey or both. I’ll discuss how to calculate those servings below.
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Coming from an Italian family, we always have more than enough food. So, it’s always better to have too much food than not enough. It’s embarrassing to run out of the main dish!
Plus, you can buy containers to send food home with your guests if you don’t want leftovers.
But, keep in mind that ham and turkey freeze well for quick weeknight dinners when you can’t cook or don’t want to cook.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission but, the price you pay is the same.
How Much Ham and Turkey Do You Need Per Person for Holiday?
Obviously, how much meat you need will depend upon the number of guests you have and how much they’ll eat. If they’re they’re big eaters who are likely to eat two plates, then factor that into the number of servings you need.
When determining the amount of meat you need, consider how many side dishes you’ll have. If you’ll have a lot of sides, guests may not take as much meat. For example, if you have turkey with only two sides, you can bet they’ll take more turkey because they may not like one of the sides or don’t have many options.
Also, it depends upon how many leftovers you want. Some people want to have leftovers so they don’t have to cook the two days after while others won’t eat Thanksgiving leftovers at all.
How Much Turkey
The general rule of thumb for whole turkey is 1-1/2 pounds per person. That may sound like a generous estimate but, remember that a whole turkey has bones and other parts that get thrown away that’s included in the weight.
Therefore, a 12-pound turkey would be the right size turkey to feed 8-12 people. Personally, I buy a 20-pound turkey to feed our family of thirteen but, that’s because we welcome the leftover turkey and distribute it while cleaning up the kitchen.
Boneless Whole Turkey
If you’re buying a boneless turkey, then the weight drops to 1/3 to 1/2 pound of turkey per person. It always depends on if you have big eaters. Buying a boneless turkey cuts down on the waste and time to carve.
Bone-in Turkey Breast
If you’re buying a bone-in turkey breast, plan on 3/4 of a pound per person.
Here’s a guide for 1 1/2 pounds per person of a whole turkey. You will likely have some leftovers.
8 people: 12 pound turkey
10 people: 15 pound turkey
12 – 15 people: 18 pound turkey
16-20 people: 24 pound turkey
For bigger birds, the meat-to-bone ratio is a bit higher so a little less than 1 1/2 pounds will be sufficient. Remember that this is just a guide.
Speaking of oven space, save lots of room in your oven by cooking your whole turkey in a countertop roasting pan with self-basting lid. It can be used for ham or other meats as well.
Air Fryer Turkey Tenderloin (It’s great if you want extra white meat.)
How much Ham
As mentioned above, a Christmas ham is very popular for Christmas dinner.
Consider spiral cut hams, which have a bone, because they’re much easier to serve and require little carving. As a matter of fact, you can serve it your slow cooker, buffet style and not have to be bothered with cutting it beforehand. Here’s a yummy spiral cut ham recipe.
A boneless ham is a good choice but, you will still spend some time to carve it. Some people just don’t to be bothered with a bone.
The good rule of thumb for a boneless ham is about is about 1/4-1/3 of a pound per person. So consider the size of ham from the guide below.
4 people: 1 to 2 pounds
6 people: 2 to 3 pounds
10 people: 3 to 5 pounds
12 people: 4 to 6 pounds
16 people: 5 to 8 pounds
20 people: 8 to 10 pounds
Bone-in hams take more time to carve but, you’re left with a ham bone that is great to make homemade soup. I always save the ham bone to make my delicious Ham Potato and White Bean Soup!
If you don’t want to carve the ham, a spiral cut ham is the best choice because there’s little carving.
Calculate 1/3 to 1/2 pound of meat per serving. This accounts for the weight of the bone.
4 people: 2 pounds
6 people: 3 pounds
10 people: 4-5 pounds
12 people: 4-6 pounds
16 people: 6-8 pounds
20 people: 8-10 pounds
Turkey and Ham Main Course
How much ham and turkey do you need if you’re serving both? First take the total number of people and cut that number in half. Apply that number to the ham calculator above. Then, apply that same number to the handy guide above for turkey.
Therefore, if your guest list is for 20 people, then you’ll need a 15 lb turkey plus a 3-5 lb boneless ham. Bone-in hams don’t come in small sizes so it isn’t an option unless you get a big bone-in ham.
Of course this estimation, which is not an exact science, is based on about half of your guests eating each meat. It doesn’t always work out that way but, surely you’ll have guests that will eat either of whatever is left.
Side Dishes to Serve with Ham and Turkey
All of the dishes below are perfect for Thanksgiving side dishes but, also for other holiday meals. Also, read How to Keep Side Dishes Warm.
See THANKSGIVING recipes.
Use this handy guide for your next holiday meal or dinner party in which you’re serving ham or turkey or both. See my Thanksgiving Planning for a turkey thawing guide, what to do if you forgot to thaw your turkey, and other great tips for saving oven space and menu ideas!