(Turkey) size matters.
November 1, 2010 6:16 AM   Subscribe

How large a turkey can I fit into my small apartment oven, and will it feed all of the people coming?

For the first time, I'm hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my family. Yay! I'm planning to order a turkey from our local farm-direct market, which is great and they have all sorts of free-range, organic, and heritage options. Unfortunately, our apartment's oven is a smaller one, with an interior space that's about 16" wide and deep, and I can't look at the bird before it arrives—I just order within a certain weight range and pick it up on November 24th.

I have to feed six people, and the weight categories I can choose from are:
8-12 lbs
12-16 lbs
and on up. I figure I won't need more than that.

So, would the 12-16 pounder fit in an oven that small, or do I need the 8-12, and if the latter, will it feed six people with at least a modicum of leftovers?
posted by The Michael The to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The USDA says to allow one pound of turkey per person. Better stick to one of the smaller turkeys to be sure it will fit in your oven. Do you have a roasting pan that fits in your oven? A lot of turkey roasting pans are longer than sixteen inches.
posted by Ery at 6:27 AM on November 1, 2010

Estimates I've seen are in the range of 0.75 - 1lb per person so an 8-12lb bird should give you some - plenty of leftovers (depending where in the 8-12lb range you get). But IMO, rather no leftovers than buying a turkey that doesn't fit in the oven ;)
posted by missmagenta at 6:29 AM on November 1, 2010

Last Thanksgiving, I got an 8-12 pound bird (I think it was 10 pounds) and we had....way more than six people. Maybe twice that? A couple were vegetarians/vegans, so count them out, but we still had leftovers for days. Because everyone eats, in addition to turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes and green beans and cranberry sauce and salad and four kinds of pie and all the other side dishes.

One year, we had about 20 people, and everyone wanted to bring a dish without which it would not Really Be Thanksgiving (for them), so we had a zillion side dishes (three kinds of dressing, two kinds of mashed potatoes, three kinds of cranberry sauce, etc.). I'd gotten a turkey that was around 15 pounds and oh my god did we have a lot of turkey left over.

So. Go smaller is my advice, if you're having a bunch of sides.
posted by rtha at 6:31 AM on November 1, 2010

If the presentation isn't vital, you could do what years of living in Japan and having only a counter top convection oven have forced me to do: remove the breasts from the carcass, then remove the thighs and legs.

You can bake the turket breasts in the oven (mince basil, rosemary, thyme, and garlic, mix with salt and pepper, then pack under the skin, and coat the skin with melted butter). The other part is more fun. Braise the legs! I sear the thighs and legs in a pan with oil, then braise them in beer for roughly an hour or so. This way, you can get two very different flavors, depending on how you braise the legs. Reduce the braising sauce to make a gravy for the legs, then use the pan juices to make the breast gravy. For the standard turkey gravy, reserve the neck, the liver, and the giblets. Sear them in a pan with olive oil, then add stock (if you have time, cut the turkey apart the day before and make turkey stock from the carcass). Cook for an hour or two, then mince the neck meat and the giblets. You can thicken the sauce by creating a roux, then adding the gravy to it.

best of luck. It's a great feeling being the one who makes Thanksgiving dinner.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:32 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Roasting pans are gigantic. By definition bigger than the turkey. If you go with something other than an aluminum pan + aluminum foil over top, it might be a little obvious but measure your oven and then measure the pan. I borrow my mom's Calphalon monstrosity and I have to take all but one rack out of my (house-sized) oven.

Go to the store and eyeball turkeys in your size range before you order. Measure them - I mean, they're frozen and wrapped, so go crazy. Then you'll know your odds, so to speak. If you're still worried, go with turkey breasts rather than a whole turkey.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:35 AM on November 1, 2010

I agree with everyone else who says to go with the smaller one and also to worry more about the pan than the turkey. A 10-lb turkey should fit in the oven as long as you have a pan for it. Worst case, you cut it up like Ghidorah says.

I have roasted a turkey on a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on it, so get creative. You may have to siphon off the drippings if the pan is shallow, and you will almost definitely need to put foil over it to slow the browning, but no big deal.
posted by cabingirl at 7:19 AM on November 1, 2010

Thanks everyone. I do have a 16" roasting pan that fits well and the oven door comes within a centimeter of closing with the pan in the oven (and I can live with that). I was also considering purchasing an oval graniteware pan that would fit just right on the diagonal of the oven or a rack to fit in the pan I already have.
posted by The Michael The at 8:22 AM on November 1, 2010

Talk to the market, tell them your limitations, and see what they suggest.
posted by galadriel at 8:22 AM on November 1, 2010

the right size turkey for you would be the smallest one. would you consider boning it so there would be less mass to put in the oven?

... of course, i mean 'remove the bones', particularly the breastbone/ribcage. don't actually 'get busy' with your bird...
posted by ChefJoAnna at 8:29 AM on November 1, 2010

Random, but do you have a gas bbq? I roasted a turkey too big for our oven in that instead and it turned out fantastic! Freed up the oven to make stuffing and lots of other side dishes.
posted by like_neon at 8:33 AM on November 1, 2010

Lesson learned decades after doing 18-pound Thanksgiving turkeys in a tiny kitchen: I should've instead been roasting the smallest bird possible--10 lbs or so--and also roasting a boneless turkey breast. Most people choose white meat and lard it on with gravy, cranberry sauce, etc. Easier carving, more room in the oven and kitchen for sides.
posted by Elsie at 9:02 AM on November 1, 2010

Random, but do you have a gas bbq? I roasted a turkey too big for our oven in that instead and it turned out fantastic! Freed up the oven to make stuffing and lots of other side dishes.

On that note: my family has successfully (and deliciously) roasted turkeys in charcoal Weber grills for decades. I haven't been the chef, but if you want details I'm sure I can get them for you.
posted by purpletangerine at 10:02 AM on November 1, 2010

Thanks everyone. I'm going with an 8-12 pounder, and if that's not enough, I'm sure the three pies will placate the unsated.
posted by The Michael The at 12:17 PM on November 1, 2010

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