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Serving Six with a 4 lb Chicken?

I was planning to roast a 4 lb organic free-range chicken to serve 6 people total for dinner, along with substantial sides (balsamic braised brussel sprouts w/ breadcrumbs and carmelized corn with thyme) and desert. I'm worried about whether that is a big enough chicken or whether I need to make two. I was hoping to make just one (using the Thomas Keller method) just because it seems from reading the boards that making two will result in less crispy skin. Am I being unrealistic to think a 4 lb chicken will feed 6? Any yay or nay votes from experienced dinner party hosts would be appreciated!

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  1. I'm afraid that's going to result in some very skimpy portions. Your menu sounds great, but it would be a shame to not have enough chicken, especially for company.

    1. Do you plan on slicing/carving it or cutting it into pieces - as in whole thighs, breasts, wings etc.? I don't think the latter would work with 6 people. You might get away with it if you slice it and serve apps and a soup (I'm thinking along the lines of squash or carrot - some kind of root veg). But you're going to be worried about it the whole time. Have you already bought it? Can you buy a larger chicken?

      1. i think you should be alright if you do indeed have multiple sides/salads to accompany.....

        1. I would roast two and hope it was enough!!! Why embarrass/stress yourself....and your guest?


          1 Reply
          1. re: Uncle Bob

            I agree. Two good sized chickens so each person can have at least a quarter.

          2. I'm not even sure two 4 lb. chickens would be enough for 6 people. If, for instance, everyone turned out to be white meat eaters, you'd have a problem.

            I was tempted to recommend a meat starter to supplement the lack of main course protein, but with the amount of meat you'd need, it would end up being more like a second main course that's served first.

            I'm a pretty hearty eater, but I can easily sit down and eat half a 4 lb. chicken- and that's if I'm forced to eat both white and dark meat. If I'm cooking for myself, I can go through 2/3 of the breast portion.

            1. Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'm going to carve the chicken, but I'll get another one - I do think two will be enough!

              3 Replies
              1. re: KARAal03

                FWIW I do think that that was the right decision. But I was also thinking you could serve a light pasta course.

                1. re: KARAal03

                  Kara - I just watched a tv cook take two chickens out of the oven in the same large, square roasting pan and they look really crispy and brown. They'll come out fine!

                  1. re: KARAal03

                    FWIW, on Thanksgiving I roasted 3 5 1/2 pound chickens for what I thought was to be 10 eaters... Turned out to be 8 mouths on the chicken with both dark and light eaters. We didn't even get into the third chicken. We had a bit of leftovers from the second chicken. Then again, this was Thanksgiving, so there were plenty of other side dishes to go with it, but anyone who had chicken had a significant piece, i.e. no one said, "Oh just give me a sliver of that." Don't know if that means anything to you, but that was my experience. That said, I'd rather have leftovers than people feeling like they should be careful how much they take... I went to a wedding once where they served bagged lettuce, and when I was going through the buffet line, I asked for a little more lettuce, and the person (the bride's aunt, I believe) said, "No."

                  2. It will be enough. Cut up the chicken Asian style.

                    4 Replies
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Given a choice between Chinese Fried Chicken or Soy Sauce Chicken.....with the caveat my life depended on my decision......I do not think I could choose just one as my favorite ....they are both that good.

                        2. re: fourunder

                          We were served chicken that way in China everywhere. My dad called it "lawnmower chicken" We were so happy not to see it again.

                      1. We recently served eight with a six pound chicken. It was plenty; I think there was some left over, and everyone ate to bursting. We also had a squash soup, salad, bread, brussel sprouts, and potatoes/sweet potatoes. And dessert. So a few more sides than you have planned--I think the potatoes make a difference in filling folks up. Also, I think it depends on your guests: our group enjoys the veg and sides as much as the meat (we love chicken, but none of us would ever sit down and eat half a chicken in a sitting).

                        1. I think you can feed 4 fine. I slice the breast off the bone like I would a turkey, seperate the thighs from the legs and find plenty of meat along the back. I make a terrific gravy /sauce, and serve lots of mashed potatoes. The brussel sprouts and corn will help, but knowing my family, I'd need the mashed potatoes. The wings when roasted crisp up beautifully, and are my favorite piece. The only time I'd make two is if I know one of or more of my guests are big eaters. So depending on my guests, that's when I'd go to two.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            I just realized you said 6, sorry. I would go for two in that case,

                          2. Absolutely two chickens unless your group are simply non-eaters OR you are going to substantially increase your sides.

                            Salad course
                            1 Chicken
                            Your 2 vegetables
                            Add 2 starches

                            Then 1 chicken MIGHT work, but I wouldn’t want to try it.

                            I would suggest 2 chickens (possibly 3 if the group has some big eaters) and I think you would be wise to have a starter of some sort App/soup/salad + Bread service + a starch to go along with the meal.

                            1. You don't say if some of the guests are children but why do you think by cooking two, you'll have a less crispier bird? You can roast two at a time and still be crispy... Also, one is definitely not enough for six people even if you did have substantial sides and especially if you have all adults, unless you're planning on giving each person one thin slice. Keep in mind that the bird will shrink when cooking so your total weight after cooking won't be 4 lbs....JMO

                              1. I see that most posters find a 4 lb chicken insufficient for six people. My thinking that it was sufficient probably stems from my Asian upbringing, and my having lived in Asia and Latin America over the past 35+ years. As a side note and not being "snarky", there are relatively few obese people where I've lived for the past few decades.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  I'm American and I agree with you, Sam. A 4-lb chicken should yield roughly 2 pounds of meat. 1/3 pound per person is a perfectly adequate serving size with all the sides mentioned. I guess it's true if everyone wants white meat it could be a problem.

                                  1. re: visciole

                                    I agree with Sam on principle, and if this were for my family on a weeknight I'd go with one, but since it's a dinner party you never want to seem skimpy. When we were treated to dinner in China I'll tell you there was no lack of food-- when entertaining it's about making more than what will suffice. It's a gesture of generosity. I was recently at a dinner party where the hostess clearly had made *just* enough meat for everyone. It was plenty, from a satiety perspective, but that empty bowl with no offers of seconds (though I surely wouldn't have taken them) seemed cheap.

                                2. One 4-pounder is not enough. Go for 2 birds. Then cut into 10 pieces each (The breasts are cut in 2 after wing removal). Guaranteed those 20 pieces are gone, even with substantial sides.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: jfood

                                    I'm glad to see you mention cutting the (half) breast in half. It's a disproportionate size to the other parts. We do that when we grill also. And you then get four pieces of breast from each chicken rather than just two.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      and if we leave on the counter next to the lasagne overnight it can serve 20, 10 who will and 10 who won't. :-))

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          Looks like you and I would be able to share ALOT of food. No food waste :)

                                    2. I see you decided to go with a pair of chickens... that's a wise decision! We used to stretch a 4 pound chicken to feed 5 people when my uncle came to dinner, but there wasn't a scrap left over, and one person (ie. me because I'm not a big meat-eater!) basically got the carcass for their serve! It's always better to have left-overs from a dinner party than to have to skimp to try to feed everyone.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Kajikit

                                        I agree with the two chickens. The first rule of hospitality in my book is generosity. I know someone who would serve one chicken to six people and have some left over. Everyone could see there was not enough so they would be afraid to take anything but the tiniest portion.

                                      2. I'm surprised nobody has really gotten into *why* one roasted chicken is not enough. Most people seem to think that 2 or 3 pieces are a serving of chicken regardless of the weight of the chicken. Chickens come in 8 pieces (10 if you cut the breast in half). That's 2 each of wing, breast, leg and thigh. 8-10 pieces between 6 people means that some people mean that some people will only get one piece. That's too small of a portion for dinner guests.

                                        The other thing is the weight of the chicken. 4lbs is the precooked weight with bones. After you cook the chicken and once you take into account the weight of the bones, you're dealing with a lot smaller amount of meat to divide among 6 people.

                                        One chicken per 4 people max.

                                        1. Thinking about this, it all depends on the chicken. I have had some 4lb commercially grown chickens that look scrawny. And some chickens that were lighter in weight and had more meat. If this is nice plump chicken, I would do as jfood says (which is an excellent idea ) cut the breast in half. I don't like a meal where the focus is all meat, I want the other stuff. If this is such a problem where money is tight, do the fhe 4lb chicken if its meaty, and do sides that are knockouts. Honestly, if were a guest, I'd love the wing, and I'd be so happy to get that piece! My husband a big eater, is fully satisfied with the sides too.. In fact we jjust had a roast chicken the other night and I don't think it was larger than 4lbs.
                                          I cut the meat off the breast in slices. I sliced that one breast for us, and he had the leg.
                                          We refrigerated the rest and a few nights later I made chicken pot pie. There was a huge amount of meat for that, so we had sandwiches for lunch. Then yesterday I took the carcass and made broth. Today with a little meat left, I made an excellent matzo ball soup. That bird really gave us its all.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            That's the perfect kind of post for "Home Cookin'."

                                            1. re: yayadave

                                              What's "Home Cookin'"? sorry never heard of it...am I missing out on something?

                                              I was just amazed that one roasted chicken was able to do provide so much food for us. And unfortunately I didn't realize it until this thread and I remembered what we did with it. Praise to the roasted chicken! Is there a better bargain for your dollars these days? Hardly. By the way, I just took some of the matzo ball soup to my neighbor for her lunch tomorrow...and after we made lunch with it today, I still have a huge container left for us. I think I can freeze it???

                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                Uhhh, Chowhound Home Cooking board. Your discussion of what all you did with one little chicken seems to me like the kind of worthwhile general information that's good to see and helpful on the Home Cooking board.

                                            2. re: chef chicklet

                                              Reverse order for jfood.

                                              a 4# bird for chicken soup. then jfood pulled off the chicken meat and a chicken pot pie awaits all of us (me included)

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                Gosh we love chicken pot pie, talk about the ultimate comfort food. I don't know what you use for your pastry, but if you'd ever like to try a different one, I have a wonderful never fail pate brisee recipe. I put all the ingredients in my food processor, pulse it a few times then add the eggs and ice water, then run it til the dough forms a ball ( about 1 minute). Then I dump it out and pat it into a disk and its off to the fridge for an hour (min). This particular recipe which includs butter of course, calls for 2 eggs and it's just wonderful. Actually I use it for all my pies.

                                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                                  I'm dough-phobic and would love your recipe. At my advanced age, I'm trying to put fears behind me :)

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    i think you'll be pleasantly surprised, you can not overwork this dough and it has the lovliest texture. Just flaky flakey buttery goodness... oh the recipe. sorry.
                                                    Into the food processor
                                                    1 1/2 cups flour-ap
                                                    1/4 tsp kosher salt
                                                    1/2 cup plus 2 T butter
                                                    pulse quikly till it looks like sand
                                                    add 1 egg, and pulse and run til it forms a ball (sometimes I add a little ice water) just drops.
                                                    then dump out and pat into a disk shape and refrigerate. You can let it come to room temperature, but I use it right away and it works nicely. Work on a floured top roll out the pastry.
                                                    Line your quiche,or pie pan, or to use for the top of a pot pie. makes enough for 1 10inch quiche or pie pan.
                                                    flute the edges and or top, paint with cream or beaten egg.

                                                  2. re: chef chicklet

                                                    thank you for the kind offer, jfood would love to have a quick brisee recipe.

                                                    for the CPP, jfood uses Phyllo most of the time. he grabs a few sheets, places on top of the filling and spreads some melted butter on top. Much less trans fats in the phyllo versus the puff pastry he normally uses and with 6-8T in jfood's filling recipe it seems a good trade.

                                                    Happy holidays.

                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                      oh yes, phyllo works well too. I posted the recipe for c.oliver, if you ever run out this is a great back up!

                                                      Happy Holidays!

                                              2. While I agree that you need 2 chickens for 6 people, it's worth mentioning another method of carving: rather than removing the wing at the joint, cut a curved swath of breast meat off the ribs and leave it attached to the wing. This equalizes the breast serving sizes with the legs and thighs. But unless it's a 6 pound or larger chicken, those 8 pieces aren't generous portions.