Alex Guarnaschelli's Top Tip For Buying The Right Size Thanksgiving Turkey

Of all the challenges of getting the Thanksgiving meal on the table, cooking the turkey might be the most difficult task. If you've ever been responsible for the bird, you know that ending up with juicy meat, crispy skin, and luscious flavor — all in one package — is quite the tall order. So many questions come up when cooking the turkey, like how and when to defrost it, and to stuff or not to stuff. There's also questions about which and how much seasonings to use and what temperature the oven should be set to and how long the bird should be cooked.

Another factor that confounds home cooks? What size turkey they'll need to buy in order to provide plenty of poultry for their guests. During a recent "Ask Me Anything" on chef and Food Network host Alex Guarnaschelli's TikTok page, a fan asked how big of a turkey she would need to feed 21 people and Guarnaschelli's answer might surprise you.

Alex Guarnaschelli suggests two smaller birds

Of all the confusing elements of preparing a turkey, choosing the right sized bird might be the most challenging. If you're hosting a lot of guests, you'll need a big turkey, which runs the risk of unevenly cooked meat. An average Thanksgiving turkey will weigh in at 15 pounds (via University of Illinois), and, using the common rubric of 13 minutes in the oven per pound of turkey (via Epicurious), that means a cook time of more than three hours. By the time the dark meat comes to temperature, the white meat might very well be bone-dry (via howstuffworks). The bigger the bird, the longer the cook time, and the bigger the risk of messing up that tasty turkey.

Recently, on Alex Guarnaschelli's TikTok page, the chef and "Chopped" judge answered fans' questions about cooking for the big day and she suggested a novel solution for preparing turkey for a big crowd. When a fan asked the chef what size bird she would need for 21 guests, Guarnaschelli suggested one pound of turkey per guest, but divided between two smaller birds, instead one huge one.

"I vote for two 14-pounders," she said, suggesting that cooking smaller birds is a bit easier. "That way you have two chances to get it right." Another benefit to cooking two birds? Plenty of leftover meat. "A lot left over, and a lot more wings and drums," Guarnaschelli said.