Entertaining and cooking for a bunch of guests is stressful enough as it is without having to worry about whether or not you have enough food to go around.
Figuring out how many pounds of chicken per person to purchase and prepare is especially stressful, given how many different chicken part in chicken cut options you have to pick and choose from.
A pound of chicken wings is an entirely different animal (no pun intended) than a pound of boneless chicken thighs when it comes to figuring out your portions.
How many pounds of chicken per person? As long as you stick to this golden rule – about 5 ounces of cooked chicken for adults, and 2 to 3 ounces of cooked chicken for children – you should be good to go! Of course, because of the way chicken is sold, it’s not a bad idea to think about how many chicken parts you want to serve each individual guest, either.
Chicken Portions are Better Broken Down by Parts, Not Weight
Because chicken parts can vary so widely in size and weight, it’s a little bit challenging to get that 5 or 6 ounces of cooked chicken per person dialed in perfectly.
Instead, a better approach is to think of how many pieces of chicken you want to serve everyone – and that’s going to be dictated by the parts themselves and their average size.
Boneless chicken (boneless chicken thighs or boneless chicken breasts), generally yield anywhere between 6.5 ounces of cooked chicken and 10 ounces of cooked chicken.
This usually means that you can get away with giving each guest a single boneless chicken breast or boneless chicken thigh, though it might not be a bad idea to have a little bit extra on hand.
Some guests are going to be bigger eaters than others and you want to be sure that you have seconds for anyone that would like some.
Split Chicken Breasts
Split chicken breasts usually come in packs of four and average around 2.5 to 3 pounds of uncooked meat or so.
That’s going to cut down and yield anywhere between 6 and 8 ounces of meat per breast, letting you feed about four adults (and six children) with just a pair of split breasts.
When shopping for any chicken that includes bone you need to anticipate about a 15% “loss” off the top of the package weight.
Chicken thigh sizes and weights can be all over the place, from tiny chicken thighs that weigh next to nothing (even with bones in them) to gigantic chicken thighs that look like they could feed a small army without any trouble at all.
If you average things out, though, most chicken thigh “four packs” are going to come in at anywhere between one and 1.5 pounds, with each side yielding about four or 5 ounces of cooked meat by the time you are done.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to expect your guests to be able to eat two chicken thighs of average size, understanding that some folks are probably only going to eat one and others are maybe going to want a little more than the two they’ve been given.
Chicken drumsticks also come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes, but the average chicken drum is going to weigh about 4 ounces. The yield here is going to be about half that when everything is said and done.
Shoot for two drumsticks for every adult eater (and one for every child) and you’ll almost always be in the clear.
Chicken legs are made up of the drumstick and the thigh, with whole legs usually yielding anywhere between 6 and 7 ounces of cooked meat.
One whole leg is usually plenty enough for each adult eater (even for those that are bigger eaters than others). If you’re not going to break them down into component parts – drums and thighs – you’ll want to stick with one leg per person.
Four whole chicken legs will almost always feed a family of four without any trouble at all!
There isn’t a person under the sun that doesn’t love to dig into really good chicken wings, which is why you usually want to go a little overboard when estimating how many wings per person you want to have on hand.
Between four and six whole wings will usually do the trick, with whole wings comprising the drum as well as the flat. If you are buying wings that have already been split it’s not a bad idea to double up, making sure everyone has between eight and 12 wings to dive into.
Roast Chickens and Cornish Game Hens
Your average roaster chicken is going to come in tipping the scales at between 3 and 4 pounds, and that’s usually enough to feed 4 to 6 people pretty comfortably. Smaller roaster chickens and larger roaster chickens are available, but that 3 to 4 pounds sweet spot is the ideal.
Cornish game hens are significantly smaller than your average roaster chicken, usually weighing no more than between 1.5 pounds and 2 pounds. Smaller Cornish game hens will usually feed one person with the larger birds feeding two.
To Eyeball Chicken Portions, Use a Closed Fist
If you need a quick method to eyeball whether or not you have enough chicken on hand to feed everyone, simply hold a balled fist up to each individual piece of chicken – with each fist sized portion representing one adult eater.
Your closed fist is going to represent about how much space an average portion of chicken should take up on a plate.
This is little “cheat code” can help you purchase just the right amount of chicken at the grocery store, too. Just hold up your fist to the package, moving from one piece of chicken to the next, double confirming that you’re going to have many of chicken for the dishes you are preparing and the people that you are going to be serving.
Go a little bit “overboard” to account for yield after the cooking is done and you’ll be good to go!