When you’re planning your meal, you’ll need to make a general estimate regarding the amount of meat you’ll need. How much does a chicken breast weigh, and how much weight will it lose as it cooks? We’ll address these questions in this guide.
How Many Oz is a Chicken Breast?
When sold with the bone in and the skin on, a split chicken breast weighs between 2 and 3 pounds. After cooking, it should yield 6 to 8 ounces of edible meat. Boneless and skinless breasts usually weigh between 4 and 8 ounces, and offer a total meat yield of around 75 percent.
About Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is a highly sought-after cut, owing to its leanness and versatility. Because of its low fat content, it’s seen as a heart-healthy alternative to beef and pork.
This portion of the chicken, which comes from the chest region, is considered white meat. That means it gets less exercise than dark meat cuts like the drumsticks and thighs, which contributes to its leaner texture and milder flavor.
Chicken breasts are an excellent source of protein, as well as vitamins B, D, A, and C. It also contains essential minerals such as iron and zinc.
Chicken breast can be baked, broiled, fried, sauteed, grilled, smoked, or pan-seared. You can cut it up into small pieces and use it in a stir-fry or casserole. The lean meat will dry out if it cooks for too long, though, so it’s not really suitable for braising.
White Meat vs. Dark Meat: A Primer
The difference between white and dark meat lies in the amount of exercise that the muscles get. Highly exercised muscles require oxygen, and myoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen to the muscles, is what gives raw meat its pink or red color.
The breast doesn’t move around much, whereas the legs are used for walking. This increase in energy means more oxygen is pumped to the area, which turns the meat darker.
How Much Does a Raw Chicken Breast Weigh?
On average, a raw boneless and skinless chicken breast will weigh between 4 and 8 ounces. We would assume that a single chicken breast will weigh 6 ounces, just for the sake of consistency.
When the breast is sold with the bone and skin still intact, that’s a different story. These are most often packaged as “split breasts,” consisting of one half of the whole breast section. A split breast typically weighs between 2-3 pounds, or 32 to 48 ounces.
How Much Does a Cooked Chicken Breast Weigh?
A boneless and skinless chicken breast will lose about 25 percent of its total weight during the cooking process. So if it weighed in at 6 ounces raw, expect it to weigh about 4-1/2 ounces when it’s cooked.
Bone-in breasts will lose roughly the same percentage of their total weight, but the meat yield will be lower, because part of the weight is taken up by the bone portion. So a split breast that weighs 2 to 3 pounds should yield just 6 to 8 ounces of cooked meat.
How Many Chicken Breasts Should I Buy?
That depends on what type you’re buying, as well as the presentation you have in mind.
If you’re serving grilled chicken breasts as your main course, plan on buying 1 per person, then round up by a few. If I were serving a party of 12, I would buy at least 15 chicken breasts, perhaps 20 if I wanted to plan on having plenty of leftovers.
A few things to watch out for: Make sure the chicken breasts are an appropriate size. If they weigh just 3 to 4 ounces apiece, you might want to buy 2 for each person, just in case.
On the other hand, if the breasts are especially large and thick, you might be able to get away with portioning them into cutlets before you grill them. For more information, see What Is a Chicken Cutlet?, below.
What if you’re buying bone-in split breast and roasting it? For bone-in poultry, you should estimate 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds per person. So a single split breast might be sufficient for 2 people.
Keep in mind that if you’re smoking a few bone-in breasts and serving the meat shredded, it will go further than if you’d carved it into slices. You can stretch it even further by serving bulky rolls alongside the meat and encouraging guests to make sandwiches.
How Much Does a Chicken Tenderloin Weigh?
The tenderloin is found on the inner segment of the breast, just alongside the bone. When sold separately, it’s a thin, vaguely oval-shaped cut that may be rounded slightly along one end.
As the name suggests, the tenderloin is the most tender portion of the chicken. There’s usually a white tendon running through the cut, which can toughen up as the meat cooks. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to remove the tendon beforehand.
Each chicken tenderloin weighs about 2 ounces when it’s raw. After cooking, its weight will drop to about 1-1/2 ounces. We would plan on serving at least 2 chicken tenderloins per person, perhaps 3 or 4 for those with heartier appetites.
What is a Chicken Cutlet?
While many people are confused by the distinction between chicken tenderloins and chicken cutlets, the two aren’t the same.
Butchers make chicken cutlets by slicing whole chicken breasts horizontally in half. This makes for a thinner cut that’s easier to handle and cooks through more quickly. Depending on the size of the breast, they might be able to get more than 2 cutlets out of it.
While a cutlet is different from a tenderloin, the two are virtually interchangeable in recipes. The shape of the cutlet makes it a better choice for dishes like chicken Marsala, and the tenderloin is better for chicken fingers. Otherwise, feel free to substitute one for the other.
At What Temperature is Chicken Breast Considered Done?
We’ve talked about how much the chicken might weigh after it’s cooked, but how will you know when that is? The only way to be certain is to test the internal temperature of the meat using an instant-read thermometer.
When chicken breast cooks, it turns from a pale peach-pink color to white. It loses its translucency and turns opaque. Sometimes, a white substance might seep out of the meat when it’s exposed to the heat.
While you can guess when a chicken breast might be finished cooking based on appearance and timing, temperature is the only reliable method. The meat needs to achieve an internal temp of 165 degrees Fahrenheit in order to destroy any potential bacteria.
Here’s where things get interesting: The breast meat is safe to eat at 165, but if it cooks too far past that point, it dries out in a hurry. If you allow it to cook to 170 degrees, it will have a sawdust-like consistency.
To avoid this, take chicken breast off the heat when it’s cooked to 160 degrees. Then let it rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5 to 10 minutes. This resting period should bring the internal temp up to 165 without drying out the meat.
While the weight of a chicken breast may vary, 6 ounces is a decent estimate for the boneless and skinless variety.
Does that sound like a generous portion size? It is—3 to 4 ounces is the standard recommendation. But in this case, it’s fine to round up. We’d rather have too many leftovers on our hands than deal with guests who are still hungry when the food is gone.