Know your food. The answer, as it turns out, is less than you think, especially after you’re done cooking it.
How much does a chicken breast weigh, really?
It would be so easy to say: this much, and then get on with it. But when it comes to chicken breasts (and chickens, and poultry, and meat in general), the answer is never quite that simple.
Now, some of you may be wondering, “Hey, wait a minute… You’re saying there’s no average weight for the typical supermarket chicken breast?”
Why, yes, there is!
It just depends on a number of things. So, if you want to get to the real average weight of your chicken, which is what you will be able to do by the time you’ve read through this article, you gotta know what those things are.
But first, the numbers.
The Average Weight of a Chicken Breast
According to FoodData Central, the USDA’s treasure trove of food facts, the typical chicken breast weighs 174 grams, or 6.1 ounces. It is 65% water, 31% protein, and the remaining 4% is a combination of fats, minerals, and vitamins. This figure, according to the database, is for a boneless, skinless chicken breast when cooked.
Depending on how big you like your servings, this is enough for 1 or ½ servings. For example, if you live in the United States, chances are you eat two chicken breasts per meal and only your youngest children eat one chicken breast. (At least that’s the case with the moms in this Netmums forum thread.)
Of course, you shouldn’t forget that this is the typical chicken breast. And if there’s one thing that chickens don’t do, it’s grow to strict specifications.
I guess that’s why, as Liam McMillan writes on Greatist, the exact weight of a chicken breast can vary significantly from super-small, or about 113 grams / 4 ounces, to super-large, or as much as 283 grams / 10 ounces, maybe more.
To put it simply, it depends. So let’s talk about what it depends on.
The Factors That Affect It
The weight of a chicken breast is affected by whether it’s a whole breast or a breast filet, boneless or bone-in, and refrigerated or frozen.
Are They Whole Breasts or Breast Filets?
A whole chicken breast consists of two fillets, with the skin on, joined by a breastbone.
A breast filet, which is what most people refer to when they say “chicken breast,” consists of a single filet after the breastbone has been removed and the two fillets have been separated, skin-on or skinless.
If we keep to the FoodData Central definition (as we should), this means that a chicken filet weighs 174 grams / 6.1 ounces on average, and a whole chicken breast weighs twice that, or 348 grams / 12.2 ounces, give or take the weight of the breastbone and skin.
Are the Chicken Breasts Boneless or Bone-In?
In the good old days, people used to keep and slaughter their own chickens. Not surprisingly, all chicken breasts were whole, skin-on, and bone-in! Depending on the recipe, one had to debone, deskin, and cut the chicken breasts in halves oneself.
These days, most of us live in cities, and we’re all about convenience. Consumer demand for bone-in chicken breast is so low that some supermarkets no longer carry it at all. So, yes, the breastbone and the meat around it add weight, but you probably buy your chicken breast boneless in the first place.
But if you’re a traditionalist—and you prefer to cook like they did in the good old days—then buy your chicken breasts whole, with bones and skin. Debone them, cut them in half yourself, and do with the skin as you please. The bones, simmered with vegetable scraps, make for a formidable chicken broth.
Are the Chicken Breasts Refrigerated or Frozen?
When you buy your chicken breasts refrigerated, the weight you pay for is more like the actual weight you get. In contrast, approximately one-tenth of the weight of frozen chicken is water that seeps out during thawing.
At the poultry processing plant, the plucked and eviscerated chickens are immersed in cooling tubs of cold circulating water to lower their temperature and prepare them for freezing. During this process, the chickens absorb between 8 and 12% of their weight in water—an amount that must be listed on the label as “retained water.”
In other words, if you buy your chicken breasts from the frozen food aisle at the supermarket and defrost them yourself at home, you can expect them to lose 8 to 12% of their weight during defrosting.
How Will You Cook the Chicken Breasts?
Last but not least: the cooking method.
Whether you use dry heat (grilling, frying, roasting, broiling) or wet heat (boiling, poaching, braising) and how high you crank up the heat on your grill or stove largely determines how tender and juicy your chicken breasts turn out.
For example, if you slapped the chicken breasts on the grill or slid them under the broiler, they would naturally lose more moisture and weight than if you braised them in your Dutch oven or shallow-poached them in a saucepan.
As a general rule of thumb, you can expect the chicken breasts to lose 15 to 25% of their moisture (and weight) during cooking.
Summing It Up
Suppose you’ve bought big-sized chicken breasts that weigh 200 grams / 7 ounces each. The chicken breasts are frozen and they have 10% retained moisture. So, by the time they’ve thawed out, each will weigh 180 grams / 6.3 ounces.
It’s summer, so you put them on the grill and cook them over the direct, high heat of the hot embers. As they cook, they shrink by another 20%. By the time they come off the heat, each of the chicken breasts weighs 144 grams / 5.07 ounces.
As you can see, there is quite a difference between the weight you paid for in the supermarket and the weight you have on your plate—and almost all of it can be attributed to the loss of water.