11. Calculate how large a bird you’ll need
There’s plenty of guidance for this task online, but as a general rule, once you know more or less how many guests you’ll have, figure about 1½ pounds per person if you want leftovers (and who doesn’t want Thanksgiving leftovers?). If you’re serving eight, for instance, a 12-pound turkey would be perfect. If you don’t care about leftovers, about a pound per person should be sufficient (remember that a lot of the weight is bone), though for birds weighing more than 16 pounds, a little less would be okay, as larger turkeys tend to have a higher meat-to-bone ratio.
12. Pre-order your bird
This is essential if you want to serve a specialty turkey — a free-range organic one or a wild turkey, or some other fowl that you won’t find at the local supermarket. But even at the supermarket, it’s a good idea to put your name in ahead of time, especially if you want a turkey that hasn’t been frozen.
13. Make sure your roasting pan is big enough for your turkey
When you pre-order your bird, ask for its approximate dimensions. If you’re buying a frozen supermarket one, ask someone at the meat counter for its length, width, and height — or don’t be shy about taking a tape measure into the market and figuring it out yourself. Once you know how big it is, make sure that you have a roasting pan large enough to hold it comfortably. Trust us: This is important.
14. Make sure your roasting pan fits in your oven with a turkey in it
If you’ve bought or borrowed a large roasting pan for the occasion, make sure you can fit it into the oven and close the door, paying attention to the height of the bird as well as its other dimensions. Roasting a turkey with the oven door ajar will propel the expected cooking time into unknown territory.
15. Make sure you have the right pots, pans, and baking dishes
It’s not just the roasting pan. You’ll want a pot big enough to boil all those spuds for the mashed potatoes, and enough large skillets, casserole dishes, and other vessels, too.