How Many Oz of Chicken is a Serving? Why Size Matters

Last update:
how many oz of chicken is a serving

When you’re planning on how much chicken to serve, it helps to know what the standard serving size is. How many ounces of chicken are in a single serving? And should you plan on having more on hand, just in case? Let’s take a closer look.

How Many Oz of Chicken is a Serving?

A standard serving of cooked poultry weighs in at 3 to 4 ounces. That means the raw product should weigh roughly 5 to 6 ounces. Bear in mind that many people would consider this to be a small portion, while others might not even consume that much.

Why Size Matters

When cooking for a crowd, the last thing you want is to come up short. Sending guests home hungry is the first cardinal sin of entertaining. It’s far better to have tons of leftovers than to run out of food during the party.

That said, you don’t want to estimate too high, especially if you’re shopping on a budget. Understanding portion sizes can help you make an educated guess as to how much meat you’ll need to buy.

How Many Oz of Chicken is a Serving?

The American Heart Association recommends a portion size of 3 to 4 ounces when it comes to meat and poultry.

In practical terms, a 3 to 4 ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards. Some folks measure their servings by using the palm of their hand as a guideline, but that’s obviously not a one-size-fits-all solution.

how many oz of chicken is a serving

Speaking of which, there are plenty of people who would scoff at a 3-ounce portion, considering it skimpy. Americans in particular are conditioned to expect huge steaks and plump chicken breasts on their plates.

Since it can be difficult to tell who might consume two or three standard servings, it’s a good idea to round up on the amount of meat that you buy.

Variables to Consider

Although rounding up is a good rule to follow, there are some other factors that might affect your total.

For one thing, you won’t need as much meat if there are a lot of vegetables and other side dishes on offer. Similarly, parties that begin with a table full of appetizers tend to yield plenty of leftovers.

Younger guests won’t eat as much as fully grown adults. For very young children, aim for a serving size of 1 ounce per person. Children aged 7 to 12 are likely to consume 2 to 3 ounces apiece.

Finally, think about what type of party you’re having, as well as what time of day you’ll be serving the food. People don’t eat as much at casual afternoon cookouts as they do at formal sit-down dinners held after dark.

Do Serving Sizes Refer to Raw or Cooked Meat?

Since all meat shrinks down as it cooks, this is an excellent question. Do these guidelines refer to the weight of the raw product, or do they assume that you’ll be weighing the meat after it’s cooked?

Though you don’t have to break out the scale just before serving, standard portion sizes typically refer to cooked meat. Fortunately, chicken is so lean that shrinkage isn’t much of an issue, especially with boneless cuts.

A Guide To Chicken Parts

Obviously, the size of chicken pieces may vary, depending on the size of the bird and what cut you’re dealing with. This guide should help you figure out how much of each cut you’ll need to buy.

Split Chicken Breasts

Since a whole chicken breast consists of two breasts, the cut is often sold in this form. A split chicken breast with the bone and skin attached should weigh 2-1/2 to 3 pounds, yielding about 8 ounces of meat.

Since we prefer to go with an estimate of 4 ounces per person, we would assume that a single split chicken breast is sufficient for 2 people. So if you’re planning on serving a dozen guests, try to buy at least 6 split chicken breasts.

Boneless Chicken Breasts

When sold boneless and skinless, chicken breasts yield about 3 to 4 ounces of cooked meat. Some of the larger and plumper ones might need to be split in half horizontally before cooking in order to make two appropriately-sized cutlets.

Chicken Thighs

Bone-in chicken thighs weigh 5 to 6 ounces apiece, meaning a package of 4 should weigh roughly 1-1/2 pounds. When cooked, their yield falls roughly in line with the American Heart Association’s recommended serving size of 3 to 4 ounces.

Boneless, skinless thighs might weigh less raw, but they also yield less waste. Their cooked weight should still come in at 3 to 4 ounces.

For children and light eaters, a single thigh per person should be sufficient. But if you suspect that there will be a lot of hungry meat-loving guests in attendance, buy 2 chicken thighs per person.


The average chicken drumstick weighs in at around 4 ounces. However, these aren’t as meaty as the thighs. Once they’re cooked, they’ll yield only about 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of meat apiece.

how many oz of chicken is a serving

Again, one drumstick should be sufficient for children 6 or younger, or anyone with a light appetite. In general, though, we prefer to allow for 2 drumsticks per person, especially when they’re the only meat product on the table.

Whole Chicken Legs

Whole chicken legs, or chicken leg quarters, yield about 5 ounces of cooked meat once the bones and skin are removed. These consist of both the thigh and the drumstick, so you can separate them before or after cooking—or leave them whole, depending on your plans.

Although 5 ounces is a generous serving, we wouldn’t attempt to cut corners by planning on less than one whole chicken leg per person. One exception would be if you were hosting a lot of families with young kids, who might split a whole leg between parent and child.


A pound of chicken wings consists of about 6 or 8, give or take. Since wings don’t yield a ton of edible meat, try to plan on 6 wings or 1 pound per person if they’re considered the main course. If they’re an appetizer, 2 to 3 per person should be enough.

Whole Chickens

A whole chicken should weigh between 3 and 6 pounds. Since there’s a lot of inedible bone and skin involved here, plan on about 1-1/2 pounds of raw product per person. Therefore, a single chicken should be enough for 2 to 4 people, depending on weight.

When buying Cornish game hens, plan on one small hen per person, or half of one larger one. The smaller ones weigh just over a pound, while large specimens might tip the scales at 2 pounds.

Final Thoughts

In addition to providing useful health information, knowing standard serving sizes can help you determine how much meat to buy. That comes in handy whether you’re serving a family of four or a larger crowd.

Happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar


Leave a Comment