If you’ve ever cooked chicken, you might have noticed that the end result often looks a little bit smaller than what originally went into the pan or on the grill.
This is because chicken actually does shrink a bit when it’s cooked, and the weight change can make a difference if you’re counting calories, dieting, or planning a specific meal.
Knowing how much chicken shrinks when it’s cooked can help you better plan your menu.
What is the weight difference between raw and cooked chicken?
In general, when chicken is cooked, it shrinks by about 25%. This is true for all meats or fish when they’re cooked. This means that, for example, if you start with a 20-ounce piece of chicken, it’ll weigh closer to 16 ounces after it has been cooked.
If you’re counting calories or you want to figure out the specific nutrients in your meal, count using the weight of the chicken after it has been cooked.
Subtracting 25% of the weight from the raw chicken might not always be exact, but it will generally get you very close.
Why does cooked chicken weigh less?
Cooked chicken weighs less than raw chicken because some of the liquids are cooked out of the meat. Water evaporates as the chicken cooks, and even if the chicken is cooked under a lid, some of that water ends up in the pan.
The loss of water also causes the meat fibers to contract, which makes the chicken look that little bit smaller after it’s cooked.
Fat in the chicken melts, too, and although some of this stays in the meat, making it juicy, some of it drips out.
Both of these factors are the biggest cause of weight change when cooking chicken.
Although 25% is a very good average for how much chicken will shrink, there are a few factors that go into exactly how much the meat will change in weight.
Most importantly, how much shrinkage occurs depends on how the chicken is cooked.
For example, if you cook the chicken until it’s just done, it might weigh a bit more, whereas chicken that’s been cooked to a drier consistency will weigh less.
If you cook your chicken until it’s well-done, you’ll have cooked out more moisture and fat.
In general, cooking a chicken at a hotter temperature for a longer period of time yields drier meat and, therefore, leads to a bigger change in weight.
However, you can also slow cook your chicken for a long time at a lower temperature, and this often leads to moister meat, and, because of this, the chicken will weigh only slightly less.
If you cook chicken in a soup, stew, or sauce, or if you marinate or brine the chicken before it’s cooked, the chicken might retain more of its juices, which means it might not lose 25%.
Basting during cooking can also help the chicken retain moisture.
How much chicken is a good amount for a serving?
How much chicken is the correct amount for a serving depends on what your diet is like and what dish you’re making.
If the chicken is going to be served with several sides or it’s only an addition to a dish, such as an addition to pasta, you’ll want to aim for between 4 and 5 ounces of cooked chicken per person.
This means you’ll want to start with between about 5 and 7 ounces of raw chicken.
If chicken is the main dish, however, you’ll most likely want to aim for about 8 ounces per person. If you’re having a dinner party or you want to make sure that everyone can have seconds or go home with leftovers, it’s best to plan on serving up to 12 ounces per person.
This means that, for one person, you’ll need between about 10 and 16 ounces of raw chicken.
What’s the difference between white meat and dark meat?
When it comes to chicken, some people prefer dark meat and some prefer white meat, and this is because there are big differences in these meats. White meat, such as breast meat, is made up of white muscle or slow-twitch muscle fibers.
Dark meat, such as thigh or drumstick meat, is made up of fast-twitch or red muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are rich in myoglobin. It’s the myoglobin that gives dark meat its strong flavor and color.
Dark meat also contains up to eight times more fat than white meat, which means it’s often juicier or more tender after it’s cooked.
Dark meat also contains more essential nutrients, such as zinc and iron.
If you’re cooking dark meat, remember that the meat has more fat to start with, which means it has more fat to lose.
Dark meat can sometimes shrink by even more than 25%, but it will most likely stay moist.