Determining the right amount of meat for a recipe can be difficult. Some recipes call for the amount in pounds, ounces, or even cups.
Chicken is a big one, because there are so many recipes that use it. How can you determine how much chicken you need?
The quick answer: There are generally 3 cups of cooked and shredded chicken in one pound of chicken.
This post will go in detail on what kind of chicken works best, and how to figure out how much meat you actually need for recipes.
What’s the difference between the cuts of chicken?
You can buy a whole chicken, or as different cuts. Here are some of the differences.
- Whole chicken: Can buy uncooked or already roasted. Costco sells cooked rotisserie chicken at a cheap price. Some people usually pull the meat off the bone to use as easy shredded chicken for a recipe.
- Breast: Typically all white meat. The most common type of chicken meat used in recipes. Can be bone-in breast or boneless breast.
- Thigh: Typically dark meat, with a higher fat content. Can be used just like chicken breast, and can be bone-in or boneless.
- Drumstick: A cheaper cut, mostly dark meat. Usually baked in a sauce or glazed and eaten as-is.
- Wings: Typically white meat, and usually eaten as-is.
Which is the best cut of chicken for recipes?
I usually use chicken breasts because of the lower fat content, and the breast meat is easy to shred. It’s also said to be the healthiest part of the chicken because of the lower calories and fat. But chicken thighs are just as easy and can sometimes be cheaper.
A 4-oz chicken breast contains about 35 grams of protein and 4 grams of fat. And 4 oz of chicken thigh contains 27 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat. Either way, chicken has a lot of protein and will help keep you full no matter what cut you use!
How big is an average chicken breast?
The size of most boneless chicken breasts vary. They’re all different weights and sizes. Smaller ones tend to be 8 to 12 ounces, whereas a large one can be up to 1.5 pounds. I’d say the average weight of a chicken breast is 7-8 ounces.
One of the easiest things to do is buy a family pack from your local grocery stores. That way you can see the number of pounds of chicken breasts. And you can then determine how much you actually need.
You can always use a food scale to be absolutely certain. But in general, I’d consider 2 small chicken breasts to be about one full pound of meat.
1 pound of chicken equals how many cups?
When making certain recipes, you’ll see that the ingredient list calls for already cooked and shredded chicken. But it doesn’t tell you exactly how much meat you need to buy to get that much chicken.
In general: One pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts equals 3 cups of chicken. That makes around 4 servings, as an average serving is 3/4 cup of chicken per person.
You can always increase or decrease the number of cups. But I’ve generally seen that a 4-serving dinner uses 3 cups!
What’s the easiest way to cook and shred chicken?
You can cook chicken in a variety of ways! I’m a huge fan of my slow cooker. It’s perfect for lean meat like chicken or tougher cuts of meat like certain beef roast.
To cook chicken in the slow cooker, place the chicken (Fresh or frozen) on the bottom and add one cup of water. Let the chicken cook for 6-7 hours on LOW. Any number of breasts will work- but if you have a lot in there, just make sure the cooking time is a bit longer.
I also use my Instant Pot/ pressure cooker when I have frozen chicken and don’t have a lot of time. Place the chicken on the bottom and add at least one cup of water. Cook for 10-14 minutes, depending on the thickness and size of the chicken.
One pound of boneless chicken may take only 10 minutes, whereas 3 pounds that are thicker may take closer to 13 or 14 minutes. Whatever the case, make sure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
Let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then release the rest manually.
To shred, you can use two forks, or even a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. This is the best way to me because it only takes about 30 seconds.
What is a serving size of chicken per person?
A standard single serving size is 3-4 ounces of meat, or about the size of the palm of their hand. It can also be compared to the size of a deck of cards.
So one pound of raw chicken breasts equals 3-4 servings.
What can I do with extra chicken?
If you used a whole chicken and have the chicken bones leftover, you can turn them into chicken broth. My favorite method is cooking them in a slow cooker with water, some seasonings, and random scraps of onions, carrots, and whatever vegetables I can find.
If you have leftover cooked chicken, you can freeze it. I usually put 3 cups of shredded chicken in a quart-sized freezer bag. And that’s enough for one dinner.
If you still have raw meat, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the freezer. Then you can transfer it to a freezer bag.
Chicken recipes that use cooked shredded chicken
- Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
- Chicken Broccoli and Rice Casserole
- Cream Cheese Chicken Chimichangas
- Santa Fe Chicken Frozen Lunches
So just to recap:
- One pound of raw chicken breast is about 4 servings.
- Cooked and shredded, that one pound will equal about 3 cups.
- The average serving size per person is 3/4 cup.
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.