Poultry Serving Sizes: How Much Chicken or Turkey to Buy

Turkey breast with fixings.
Diana Rattray

It's easy to cook too much or too little chicken or turkey, especially if you are feeding guests and you don't know their eating habits. You might also have difficulty calculating amounts if you're cooking for many more—or fewer—people than usual. A wide variety of vegetables and side dishes can also make a difference in how much protein you serve.

According to the American Heart Association, a serving size of meat or poultry is 3 to 4 ounces for adults—or a portion that is about the size of a computer mouse or deck of cards. Some people are heavier meat-eaters than others, so if you aren't sure, you should err on the side of more. Also, consider whether or not you want leftovers for sandwiches, snacking, or subsequent casseroles and meals.

If you are feeding children, allow about 1 ounce of cooked poultry for children ages 1 to 6, and about 2 to 3 ounces for children ages 7 to 10. For an average family of four, plan on about 1 pound of chicken or turkey (without bone or skin). 

Following are some averages for specific chicken and turkey pieces, but keep in mind that the size of chicken parts can vary greatly. For instance, some boneless chicken breast halves can weigh as much as 12 ounces! If you can't find smaller chicken breasts—4 to 5 ounces—you might have to slice the large ones horizontally to make two serving-size cutlets. Or cut the larger chicken breasts into smaller strips. Stuffed chicken breasts, such as chicken cordon bleu, are best made with 6-ounce chicken breast halves.

illustration that depicts poultry serving size for one adult
Illustration: Bailey Mariner. © The Spruce, 2019

Cooked Boneless Chicken

For each adult, count on having about 4 to 5 ounces of cooked chicken, 10 ounces of uncooked boneless chicken breasts will yield approximately 6 1/2 ounces cooked, while 10 ounces of uncooked boneless chicken thighs will yield about 5 ounces cooked. 

Split Chicken Breasts

A package of four split chicken breasts (with bone and skin) weighs about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, and each will yield about 6 to 8 ounces of meat.

Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs on the bone can vary quite a bit in weight. The average package of four chicken thighs will weigh approximately 1 1/2 pounds. One chicken thigh will yield about 3 ounces of meat (without skin or bone), so for big meat eaters, count on two thighs per person. For kids and lighter eaters, one chicken thigh per person should be enough.

Chicken Drumsticks

An average drumstick weighs about 4 ounces, with roughly 1 1/2 ounces of meat (without skin or bone). Plan on two drumsticks per person or more for big eaters. One drumstick should be enough for children under 6.

Whole Chicken Legs

A whole chicken leg is essentially a drumstick and a thigh. One whole chicken leg will yield approximately 4 to 5 ounces of meat (without skin). Four whole chicken legs should be more than enough for an average family of four.

Chicken Wings 

If chicken wings are the main appetizer or main dish, you should plan on about 4 to 6 whole wings (8 to 12 pieces) for each person. 6 whole wings, on average, weigh approximately 1 to 1 1/4 pounds. If you are serving many more appetizers along with the wings, 2 to 3 whole wings should be enough for each person.

Whole Chickens and Cornish Game Hens

A whole 3 to 4-pound chicken will feed 4 to 6 people, depending on ages and appetite. For Cornish game hens, which are very small chickens, count on one small (1.25 pounds) game hen per person or half of a larger (2-pound) game hen.

Whole Turkeys

When choosing a whole turkey for your holiday meal for 8 or more people, plan on about 1 1/2 pounds per person to ensure there is enough meat for the heavy eaters and leftovers. Keep in mind; a smaller bird will have lower meat to bone ratio. For a smaller gathering of 4 to 6 people, plan on about 2 pounds per person.

Turkey Breast

Plan on 1 1/4 pounds per person when choosing a bone-in turkey breast. When buying a boneless turkey breast, plan on three-quarters of a pound per person.

Safe Cooking

There are many things that can affect poultry roasting time, from oven accuracy issues and a foil tent to the color of the roasting pan you're using. Learn tips for cooking a whole turkey or turkey breast along with some basic safety guidelines for stuffing and food handling.

A whole chicken is smaller than a whole turkey and takes less time to roast, but the temperature guidelines are similar. It's important to familiarize yourself with the times and temperatures for roasting chicken as well as other safety tips. These tips also vary with different types of meats and side dishes, as well as if you're working with leftovers.