Whole Chicken vs. Chicken Breast Experiment Results

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This post is a follow up to my “Frugal or not – Whole Chicken Experiment” so if you haven’t read the original post you’ll want to do that first.  Basically I cooked a whole chicken in a crockpot and was shocked to find such little meat at the end of my 6 hour investment.  I began to question whether the long time assumption that cooking a whole chicken was in fact cheaper than simply buying chicken breast.  So that led to this part of the experiment.

I took an empty plate and zeroed out the scale before I placed the 5lbs worth of raw (gross!) chicken breast on the plate.  I cut down the last breast until I could get the scale exactly to zero.

My question was whether or not the boneless/skinless chicken breast would cook down at the same rate as a whole chicken and in the end which would be cheaper.   I’ve learned there are many other factors, such as…

  1. The price of the whole chicken
  2. Where you purchased the whole chicken (infused with water?)
  3. How much stock you get or don’t get
  4. Personal preference (dark meat/light meat)
  5. Time factor

In the end of course I learned that it’s likely the best option is to buy chicken thighs which often go on sale for $0.99/lb.  They leave you with quite a bit of meat for a lot less than the $1.99/lb chicken breast.  Really it all boils down (haha, funny pun not intended) to your own personal preference.  My house sure smelled delicious with that whole chicken cooking away, the stock I was able to get made for a giant pot of delicious chicken noodle soup.  Enough to have the neighbors over for dinner and lunch 2 days in a row.  Still though, personally I won’t be cooking a whole chicken as my regular method of getting at the meat.  I’ll just buy the meat and stock up on cheap organic broth from Whole Foods.  You can also get all natural boneless/skinless chicken breast on sale at Raley’s for $1.99/lb this week.

Here is the final cost breakdown/comparison:

  • 5lb Whole Chicken at $0.99/lb yielded 1.78lbs worth of meat = $2.78 per pound
  • 5lb Chicken Breast (no rib meat or water added) $1.99/lb yielded 3.82lbs worth of meat = $2.60 per pound

So while it was a little cheaper to buy and cook the chicken breast, they are so many other factors.  Still a very interesting experiment and we have lots of cooked chicken in the freezer which is really nice!


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  1. Kelly Jane via Facebook says:

    Thanks. Now i’m thinking of an experiment of my own after reading the comments on the original post about buying the bone in chicken breasts. I only like the white breast meat so thinking that may be something to look into

  2. Kasee Falkowski via Facebook says:

    I prefer thighs but I love cooking whole chickens

    • D.L. Kurson says:

      same here- I LOVE the smell of the house when I roast a whole one but really love using the boneless skinless thighs in all my recipes.

  3. Stephanie Acosta via Facebook says:

    I had been waiting on the verdict! :) Thanks for taking the time to do this. That seemed kinda time consuming!

  4. Kasee, I want to try thighs next for sure!

  5. Stephanie it was very, but at least we have chicken to show for it! :)

  6. Holly Chapman via Facebook says:

    Those are interesting result…very informative! Thanks for sharing your verdict : )

  7. Deanna Sychr-Ponce via Facebook says:

    I figured the whole chicken would bbe more but thanks for proving it! I buy chicken thighs all the time and take off the fat, skin & bones myself. Thighs are definately cheaper & so much more tender.

  8. I think what you may be missing is that you didn’t subtrack the uneatable parts of the whole chicken. If you do it agian maybe find somone who can debone a whole chicken for you then cook up both in the same manor and then do the math. Or send the question to mythbusters and maybe they can make a whole show out of budget myths.

  9. Thanks for the results…but your calculations are off. You 7.8 oz is not .78 lbs. There are 16oz in a pound, so it’s about .5 lbs.

  10. Whole chickens are on sale in our town for. 68¢ pound this week

  11. Also, did you cook the breasts with no oil, no water, with a lid on the pan? That would be the fairest comparison. Covering the pan and cooking on low heat (in waterless cookware preferably) will maintain almost all of the weight of the breasts and provide you with much juicier chicken :)

  12. Crystal Kulesza Deville via Facebook says:

    Okay, so I always felt lazy for not getting the whole chicken and this makes me feel a little better- so thanks for making my day.

  13. Thanks for doing the math on this. I’ve always wondered!

  14. You can actually stretch that whole chicken even farther. After deboning the chicken and straining out the original broth, put the bones and skin back into the pot with plain water. Add onions, garlic, carrots . . . anything you want. Add a couple tablespoons of vinegar (pulls calcium out of the bones) and boil this for several hours. Strain out the contents and you now have double the broth . . . delicious broth at that!

    • Denise, that is exactly what I did. I got quite a bit, but in the end it was only about 32oz. It gelled up really well though and was delicious!

  15. Thanks, now I can buy the breasts without feeling guilty anymore!

  16. This was neat, but I’m just grossed out now.

  17. hahaha me too Kacy. It took me a good day to even get to where I could upload these pictures, lol.

  18. Michael, I actually opted to bake the breast because everything I read about cooking them in the crockpot warned me that they’d be ruined. I wasn’t willing to waste the $10 I spent for the experiment. I realize the experiment is not perfect and likely flawed, but it was a fun “home-made” attempt :)

  19. Dione Schwarz via Facebook says:

    I’m an advanced home cook, with extensive food knowledge on how to utilize a whole chicken. Would it be ok to post some recipes, and ways to use the whole chicken that would save money? Buying just the breast meat, or with rib meat separately in the store will save you money if you are mostly after the white meat, but there are tricks to cooking the whole chicken, not in a crock pot that will save you more, and offer healthy choices. I find that the crock pot actually destroys some of the meat, but can be great for making soup…

  20. Dione I’d love it if you could email me these ideas, I’d like to consider posting them to TFF. You can email me at thefrugalfind@gmail.com

    • PLUS there are A LOT of added health benefits to “bone-in” chicken and homemade “stock”. And, of course, there is also a difference between purchasing the cheapest chicken possible vs. organic, free-range chickens :)

      Frugal doesn’t necessarily have to mean “cheapest” money wise ~ but whether or not something is a good “value” for you/your family and that is personal preference. — Please do share the chicken recipes.

  21. Dione Schwarz via Facebook says:

    Awesome! I’ll do that! :)

  22. Gabrielle says:

    This is why I only pay $.69/lb for whole chickens at VONS or Stater Bros. down here in Southern CA when they go on sale. I always stock up on the $.69 sales and it is less expensive than breasts according to your experiment.

  23. If I am making soup, I usually use a whole chicken, I think you get more flavor from the whole chix, then just boneless skinless chix breast. I cook it with lots of veggies, then strain soup, shred/debone chix, add new veggies & keep the boiled veggies for lunch.

    I prefer to buy bnls sknls chix thighs. I like that flavor.

    I used to buy chix w/bones & debone it myself, but since I work, I buy bnls sknls. I stock up when it is on sale. :~)

  24. Marcia Wessels says:

    My math shows that you paid $2.78 per pound for the edible portion of the whole chicken and $1.30 per pound of meat on the boneless skinless. Something is wrong on one of the numbers. Ask Mr Frugal, he’s the math whiz.

    • Hi Marcia! (everyone welcome my Mother-In-Law)

      I paid $1.99/lb for the boneless/skinless and used exactly 5lbs = $9.95. From that 5lbs of chicken, we ended up with 3.82lbs of “edible” chicken.

      $9.95/3.82 =$2.60 per pound

      I think that’s right….

  25. Michelle Mrotek via Facebook says:

    What nobody (on this thread) is considering is how much the broth and stock cost to buy and their value when homemade. That is the reason I have heard that makes the whole chicken an overall better buy.

  26. My question is regarding whether you cleaned/cut the chicken breast before measuring. When I buy boneless/skinless, there are always gobs of skin and unusable bits of meat that I cut off before cooking. Your photo looks like you had cut those gobs off. So if I buy a 5lb package of chicken breast, a significant amount goes in the trash before cooking. So that waste is the same as the waste on a whole chicken. I once weighed my chicken after cutting off the gobs, but I can’t remember the results and what that left me as cost per pound. So if your photo was after cutting off those gobs, then the price per pound would be skewed.

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