Is it just me or do turkeys seem to get bigger every year? Here's the thing: bigger isn't always better. In fact, if you're feeding a crowd at Thanksgiving, my advice is to buy a second turkey rather than one of those mammoth ones, and here's why.
With a big turkey, you start running into some big problems. It takes longer to thaw if it's frozen and then exponentially longer to cook. Plus, it tends to cook less evenly, leaving you with a platter of dry meat. These turkeys are also harder to maneuver, flip, carry, carve, and just about everything else.
All these problems are solved with a second, smaller turkey. You can usually cook them side-by-side in the oven without changing the cooking time for either bird (or even cook one of them the day before!). If you can't borrow a second roasting pan, these smaller turkeys cook just as well in a baking pan or even a large cast-iron skillet.
Another bonus: buying smaller turkeys opens up a whole world of local, humanely-raised, heritage, and organic turkeys that you can buy. These turkeys aren't likely to be more than ten or twelve pounds, and two of them will be much tastier and more environmentally-friendly than one of those huge guys.
When buying turkey, figure on about a pound of meat per person. Two ten-pound turkeys for a crowd of 15 would feed everyone with plenty left for meals over the long weekend.
What kind of turkey are you roasting this year?
This post has been updated. Originally published November 9, 2011.