How many people does a whole chicken feed? Obviously, the answer will depend on how big the bird is, among other factors. That’s what we’ve come here to discuss.
How Many People Does a Whole Chicken Feed?
If you plan on one pound of raw chicken per person, you can expect a whole 6-pound bird to feed 6 people. That said, the total yield can vary, as can your estimated serving sizes. On average, a whole chicken should be sufficient for 4 to 8 people.
How Much Does a Whole Chicken Weigh?
When commercially raised chickens are still alive, they typically weigh between 5 and 10 pounds. But once they’ve been processed for sale, that weight has dropped by a significant degree.
The weight of a chicken is determined by its breed, access to food, muscle mass, and bone weight. The plumage also plays a role, but that doesn’t come into play after processing, as the feathers are removed during this step.
By the time the chicken makes it to the butcher counter, it usually weighs between 3 and 6 pounds. You might come across specimens that are either smaller or larger—these numbers simply represent the average range.
How Much Meat Will I Get From a Whole Chicken?
For whole bone-in poultry, expect a total meat yield of 45 to 50 percent. Therefore, a 3-pound chicken should yield about 1-1/2 pounds of edible meat.
Just to be on the safe side, we would round down on this estimate when cooking for large groups. Expect each pound of raw product to yield around 6 ounces of cooked chicken. If you end up with more, that’s great, but you don’t want to be caught short-handed.
How Much Raw Chicken Should I Buy Per Person?
When dealing with large cuts of bone-in poultry like whole chickens, 1 pound per person is a decent estimate. This should yield about 5 to 6 ounces of cooked meat for each guest.
If you’re hoping to secure a hearty supply of leftovers, it’s better to round up to 1-1/2 pounds per person. There are other factors to keep in mind as well, which we’ll talk about in more detail later on.
How Many People Does a Whole Chicken Feed?
As a rule, you can expect a whole chicken to feed between 4 and 8 people.
You won’t get as much meat off a smaller specimen as you would from a chicken that weighs in above average. And your total estimate should depend on a number of other considerations, as we’ll discuss below. Still, 4 to 8 people is a good rule of thumb.
If there are more than 4 people on your guest list, consider buying more than one whole chicken. It’s better to have too much food than to leave guests hungry. Besides, the more chickens you have, the less fighting there will be over the drumsticks.
What To Consider
Type of Gathering
Are you planning a tailgating party or a holiday dinner? People will typically eat more at formal gatherings than at informal events. When guests are milling around with drinks in their hands, they don’t concentrate as much on the food.
On the other hand, partygoers who have had a lot to drink tend to put more food away than sober guests. Keep that in mind if you’re serving alcohol at your soiree.
Time of Day
The time of the gathering plays just as much of a role as the type of event that it is. Since people usually save their main meal for the evening, you can expect them to indulge in larger portions when your party is held after dark.
Conversely, afternoon barbecues may yield a lot of leftovers. Parties that are held during the day offer more distractions—there might be lawn games, music, swimming, or any other number of activities happening. That translates into less focus on the food table.
Age of Guests
Although older children and teenagers might come armed with ferocious appetites, young kids don’t consume as much as adults. You should take that into account when you’re making plans.
If you’re expecting a lot of kids under the age of 10, scale back your estimated portion sizes. Those guests will probably only consume 2 to 3 ounces of cooked chicken apiece, if that. Plan on 1/2 to 3/4 pounds of raw product for each child on the list.
Number of Sides
What else are you planning to serve at your cookout? Chances are, the chicken isn’t the only item on your menu.
Do you plan on smoking a batch of ribs to accompany the chicken? Or will there be pulled pork or beef brisket on the table? Another meat item will serve as a useful pressure valve, since guests will want to try a bit of everything.
Take a look at your side dishes as well. Cole slaw and green salad will offset the richness of the grilled meat, but they aren’t very filling. If you have plenty of mac and cheese, corn bread, and potato salad on hand, the meat won’t go as quickly.
Ideas For Leftovers
Leftover smoked or grilled chicken is a highly versatile ingredient. That’s one of the reasons why we prefer to buy more meat than we think we’ll need. Here are a few of our go-to techniques for using up the surplus.
Make a Salad
This is one of the easiest ways to use up leftover meat. Just toss your favorite greens with a simple vinaigrette made of lemon juice and olive oil, then top with shredded or chopped chicken.
If you want to get creative, you can add other ingredients to the mix. Try tossing mandarin oranges, chopped peanuts, edamame, and crispy chow mein noodles with the greens. Substitute fresh orange or tangerine juice for the lemon juice in the dressing.
Stuff a Potato
Baked potatoes, when filled with a protein and other savory ingredients, make an impressive and simple main course.
After baking the potatoes, cut them in half and scrape out the flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges. Mix with shredded chicken, chopped broccoli, minced scallions, shredded Cheddar cheese, plenty of butter, salt, and pepper. Reheat until hot.
Have a Taco Night
Making your own homemade tortillas will elevate this dish to the next level, but store-bought ones will also work.
Reheat leftover chicken until it’s warm. Meanwhile, heat corn or flour tortillas in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for about 30 seconds per side, or until brown spots appear.
Fill the tortillas with the chicken and top with chopped cilantro, diced onion, and the salsa of your choice. Add a squeeze of lime before enjoying.
Fill a Sandwich
There’s no need to wait until you have leftovers—feel free to make this the centerpiece of your cookout.
Toast bulky rolls until golden brown and set aside. After pulling the cooked chicken into shreds, mix it with the barbecue sauce of your choice. Serve it on the toasted buns, topped with cole slaw if desired.
The Bottom Line
You can use the “one pound per person” template as a guideline, but we typically recommend buying more raw meat than you think you’ll need. If you take the other factors we’ve mentioned into account, you should end up with a decent estimate.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!