When you buy boneless chicken, you’re paying for convenience. It can be a real pain to deal with bones and ski when preparing poultry. Bone-in chicken might have more flavor and moisture, but many home chefs prefer not to deal with it.
You might even assume that you’re getting more bang for your buck when buying boneless as opposed to bone-in. After all, the bone does take up weight, and you’ll probably end up discarding it when you’re done.
However, that may not be the end of the story. Read on to learn more about bone in vs boneless chicken weight—and the rivalry in general.
Bone in vs Boneless Chicken Weight
When you purchase bone-in chicken, roughly 20 to 25 percent of the weight is taken up by bone. Since you usually throw the bones away, that might sound like a rip-off. However, boneless chicken is set at a higher per-pound price, so it often ends up costing a lot more.
About Boneless Chicken
Boneless chicken parts are often (but not always) sold skinless as well. Chicken breasts are popular due to the low fat content and ease of preparation. Boneless chicken thighs hold their moisture better and have a richer flavor, although they do contain more fat.
Boneless and skinless chicken breasts are ideal for quick-cooking applications like pan-searing and stir-frying. If you need pieces of chicken to top a green salad or toss into a pasta dish, boneless breasts are just the ticket.
Since the meat is lean and cooks quickly, boneless skinless breasts aren’t great for stews and braises. You can grill them if you take care not to overcook the meat, but this can be tricky. They’re prone to charring on the outside while remaining undercooked toward the center.
Because it’s easier to deal with meat that’s had the bones and skin removed, boneless chicken parts are pricier than bone-in cuts. If the meat is free-range and organic, you can expect to pay even more.
About Bone-in Chicken
If it’s variety you’re after, bone-in chicken is your best bet. You’ll find a lot more options than you would if you limited yourself to boneless cuts.
In addition to being cheaper, bone-in chicken parts (and whole birds) are more moist and succulent than their boneless brethren. Because the bone aids in heat distribution, they’re more forgiving when it comes to the cooking process as well.
While chicken wings and bone-in breasts will still be dry and chalky when overcooked, dark meat chicken fares much better. In fact, I think thighs and drumsticks are more appealing when they’ve cooked to 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bone in vs Boneless Chicken Weight
Since boneless drumsticks don’t exist, we’ll stick to chicken breasts and thighs for the purposes of this exercise. “Boneless wings” might be a popular bar snack, but this is a misnomer—the “wings” are actually breaded chunks of breast meat.
When you’re shopping for bone-in chicken breasts, look for the term “split chicken breasts.” This means that the cut has been split along the breastbone, but the bones and skin remain intact.
If you find boneless chicken breasts too bland, you’re sure to appreciate what the bone-in ones have to offer. They’ll retain more moisture during longer cooking processes, making them ideal for Southern fried chicken or baked dishes.
A whole bone-in chicken breast half weighs anywhere between 10 ounces to 1 pound on average. Remember that a “whole chicken breast” consists of the entire breast region, so a chicken breast “half” is actually one breast.
The bones make up roughly 20 percent of the weight in split chicken breasts. That might sound like a lot, but to be fair, they’re typically priced much lower than the boneless ones.
Taking this into consideration, a bone-in chicken breast half that weighs 15 ounces will weigh 12 ounces without the bone. That’s still a sizable portion of meat, even once you take shrinkage into account (which I’ll discuss in more detail later on).
By contrast, the average boneless chicken breast weighs 6 to 8 ounces. There are smaller and larger ones available, but it’s more common to find ones that fit within this range.
Since you’re paying more per pound for boneless breasts and getting less meat in the bargain, it would be difficult to argue against the bone-in breasts being a better deal. However, which ones you buy should depend in part on how you plan to prepare them.
On average, a chicken thigh with the bone in and skin on weighs 4 to 5 ounces. Again, this can vary depending on the size of the chicken it came from, but that’s a solid estimate.
Once the bone and skin are removed, the weight of the raw thigh drops to about 3 to 3-1/2 ounces. That means it loses about 25 percent of its total weight in order to become a boneless and skinless thigh.
Can you buy boneless skin-on chicken thighs? Perhaps, but you’ll have to shop around. Most of the time, the butcher will go ahead and remove the skin as well as the bone. If you want to lose the bone but keep the skin, you might have to do the job yourself.
Bone in vs Boneless Chicken Weight After Cooking
Whether the chicken is boneless or bone-in, the weight will decrease during cooking. Much of the water and fat in the meat will evaporate when exposed to heat.
Expect a raw chicken breast to lose about 25 percent of its precooked weight once you take it off the heat. An 8-ounce chicken breast, then, would weigh about 6 ounces after cooking.
Bear in mind that dry-heat cooking applications like grilling will result in more shrinkage than braising or stewing. When you cook the meat in liquid, it will naturally retain more moisture than it would if it came into contact with direct heat.
Thawed Chicken vs Frozen Chicken
Similarly, bone-in and boneless chicken will both weigh more when they’re frozen than they did when they were raw.
When meat is frozen, its natural moisture hardens into ice crystals, which increase the weigh. A frozen chicken breast will weigh anywhere from 15 to 30 percent more than a fresh one.
There might be a slight variance in the ratio when dealing with boneless and bone-in meat. The bone isn’t going to undergo the same chemical changes as the meat itself, so the weight difference might be a bit less pronounced.
That said, it probably won’t be enough to make a difference. A bone-in chicken breast will still be noticeably heavier once it’s frozen.
Here’s an interesting caveat: If you’ve purchased a package of pre-frozen chicken parts, they’ll probably contain a coating that prevents them from getting stuck together. This can artificially boost the weight, so it’s best to weigh them after defrosting if you want an accurate reading.
Do boneless chicken parts weigh less than their bone-in counterparts? Yes, but you might end up spending just as much money on them, if not more.
If you’re looking for a bargain, buying bone-in is the way to go. That said, many recipes won’t work with that type of chicken. In the end, it all comes down to what you’re planning to do with the chicken once you’ve brought it home.
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!