How Much Turkey Is On A Turkey?! I Broke Down A Whole Turkey To Find Out...

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Fire Starter
Original poster
Aug 22, 2018
Saline, MI
So I was doing some reading about how much turkey to buy for Thanksgiving, and a Forbes article I found (the only one that seemed to go into things further than just saying ‘1lb frozen weight per person’) quoted 1/3 to 1/2 of the frozen weight you see at the store will turn into usable cooked meat for the table.

Now I'm assuming they’re saying usable meat is the easily carved meat you're most likely to eat on Thanksgiving Day (seeing as this was an article about how much turkey to buy for your Thanksgiving festivities, and it is Forbes and not a food publication). But on the exact same hand, this is a Forbes article, written by a non-staff contributor, citing what appears to be a cooking blog. Somehow I just felt I need to verify this for myself...

So here we are; me having picked up a test turkey on sale for $0.39/lb (!!!) a few days ago, and it now finally defrosted so I can do the work and the weighing to get us a definitive answer of 'how much turkey is on a turkey'?

NOTE: This was a 'self-basting' bird (a Jenny-O 'Tender & Juicy Young Turkey' to be exact) that was pumped with a broth/salt/sugar solution at 9.5%, so keep that in mind. And of course, all the weights you see below are raw.

Package Weight: 19lb 13oz (19.8125lb/8,986g) - 100%

Breasts (Boneless + Skinless): 5lb 1oz (5.0625lb/2,296g) - 25.55%
Thighs (Boneless w/ Skin): 2lb 5oz (2.3125lb/1,048g) - 11.67%
Drumsticks: 2lb 2oz (2.125lb/963g) - 10.72%
Wings (w/ Tips): 1lb 15oz (1.9375lb/878g) - 9.78%
Typical Cuts: 11lb 7oz (11.4375lb/5,187g) - 57.72%

Neck, Carcass, Bone, and Trim: 4lb 14oz (4.875lb/2,211g) - 24.6%
Water Solution/Blood: 3lb 2oz (3.125lb/1,417g) - 15.77%
Loss/Used For Stock: 8lb (3,628g) 40.37%

Lost to the Ether*: 6oz (.375lb/170g) - 1.89% (*Likley just additional water solution or scrap lost to the block while breaking the bird down)

What about when it's cooked?! Well, someone might have a better figure on what those numbers will equate to when on the dinner table, but a quick web search returned that you can expect a 25% loss from the raw weight once cooked. So should that 25% figure indeed be correct on our ~20lb turkey we're looking at 8.578lb of cooked cuts fit to serve (ok, yeah there are bones in the wings and drums, but still), which equates to 43% or roughly 7/16ths. So it turns out the 1/3 to 1/2 figures quoted in the article I read hold true. Ha, buncha work for nothing I guess - it was fun though, plus bonus turkey for the freezer! :emoji_wink:

Here she is all broken down. The back carcass in the trash already, the neck, trim and stock parts/nice bones in the bowl, and the rest ready to be packaged up.


Thanks for reading and happy Thanksgiving everyone!

PS That Fobes article I mentioned (teacher always said, "cite your sources") -> Hoffman, Beth. “Stop! Buy a Smaller Turkey”, Forbes, 16 Nov. 2012, Accessed 3 Nov. 2019


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Jan 7, 2017
Flint, Michigan
Had the other half cook a bone/rib/skin in/on turkey breast the other night and I found that the yield was almost exactly 42% after roasting the packaged contents in it's entirety.

Hopefully this is useful to your data. I paid 1.49 /lb but the final cost ended up being about 3.54 /lb after cook. So maybe you will end up with a cost multiplyer of roughly 2.34 as I did.

There's a catering calculator out there where this data would be quite useful in fact. It's on a spreadsheet, it's an awesome resource

chef jimmyj

Gone but not forgotten. RIP
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
May 12, 2011
Your numbers look good but I don't see the 12oz or so of Giblets. Here, the Heart and Gizzard go in the Stock, but eaten later. The Liver gets Fried in Butter and SPOG, Chef's treat...JJ


Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
Feb 27, 2018
Knoxville, TN
Very informative thanks for posting! We got turkeys on sale for $.49 a lb this week at a couple different stores. Plan to pick a few up this weekend is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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