How Much Does Raw Meat Shrink When Cooked?

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
turkey or chicken legs on a table

Since portion control is an important aspect in maintaining a healthy diet and attaining your weight loss goals, it’s crucial that we know how much meat to consume. But knowing how much meat to cook and eat can be confusing when you consider that most meat shrinks during the cooking process. The amount varies depending on a few factors including type of meat, cooking temperature and protein content but generally speaking, beef, poultry and fish shrink about 25 percent when cooked. And while our Grocery Guide clearly lists meat portions in the PowerFuels section, these measurements detail how much cooked protein constitutes a serving, not how much raw meat you’ll need to yield that amount.

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Here are some basics to keep in mind when purchasing or preparing your meats, poultry and fish:

The Science

Meat shrinks due to its protein content. Consider the protein molecules the glue that holds the meat together, thus allowing it to keep its firm and springy texture. The protein strands work to trap the moisture in, but when heat is introduced during the cooking process, the protein molecules break apart, forcing the water out, and therefore shrinking the size of the meat.

The Variables

A few different factors can play a role in how much your meat shrinks. The cut of meat (think chicken thighs versus chicken wings) may determine how much moisture is lost. Cooking methods play a factor as well. Dry-cooking methods like roasting yield the most shrinkage. And lastly, with heat as the determinate factor in moisture loss, cooking your meat at a high temperature will lead the meat to shrink more quickly than if cooked at a slow, low temperature.

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The Stats

With 25 percent shrinkage as the guideline, a four-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast will yield approximately three ounces of cooked meat. So, if you want to end up with four, four-ounce cooked burgers (16 ounces total), you will need to use 20 ounces (or 1.25 pounds) of raw meat.

Now armed with all the pertinent information, you can flex those mental-math skills on your next trip to the grocery store to get you on the road to a perfectly portioned protein fix.