Calories in meat: raw vs. cooked

SisterSueGetsFit
SisterSueGetsFit Posts: 1,201 Member
edited March 2020 in Health and Weight Loss
I’m sure this has been discussed to death, but I’m seriously confused about weighing my meat (specifically chicken) raw vs cooked. There is an astonishing difference. I just grilled about 13 ounces of chicken (raw weight) for my next two lunches. After grilling I weighed it again and it came in at 8 ounces. It’s worth noting the chicken was just a bit frozen, so perhaps the water affected things?!. I’m pretty confused. I’m not “new” to weight loss, but this throws me. It also makes me think about every time I weigh 6 ounces of chicken at a salad bar. Am I actually eating way more? I understand that USDA lists calorie counts as “raw,” but does that change that calories in cooked chicken? Thoughts explained dummy style appreciated.

Replies

  • Pipsqueak1965
    Pipsqueak1965 Posts: 397 Member
    Just weigh itvtaw at home and use cooked measurements for meat you buy ready cooked.
  • lynn_glenmont
    lynn_glenmont Posts: 9,479 Member
    The calories that were in the raw chicken are still mostly there in the cooked chicken. Some methods of cooking (on a grill or rack, poaching) may allow some fat to drip off or escape into the poaching water, but most of the weight loss in cooking is water.

    So you can either weigh raw then weigh it cooked, and figure out what percentage of the total amount you ate.

    Or you could find an MFP entry that matches the USDA database for an entry for chicken cooked in the way you cooked and ate it. e.g. roasted, flesh only, white meat, and use the cooked weight of your portion. Contrary to your belief, not all USDA entries are for raw weights.
  • PAV8888
    PAV8888 Posts: 11,045 Member
    I’m sure this has been discussed to death, but I’m seriously confused about weighing my meat (specifically chicken) raw vs cooked. There is an astonishing difference. I just grilled about 13 ounces of chicken (raw weight) for my next two lunches. After grilling I weighed it again and it came in at 8 ounces. It’s worth noting the chicken was just a bit frozen, so perhaps the water affected things?!. I’m pretty confused. I’m not “new” to weight loss, but this throws me. It also makes me think about every time I weigh 6 ounces of chicken at a salad bar. Am I actually eating way more? I understand that USDA lists calorie counts as “raw,” but does that change that calories in cooked chicken? Thoughts explained dummy style appreciated.

    As you're discovering not all chickens are exactly the same!

    Was your chicken from a frozen pack of, for example, boneless-skinless-chicken breasts? If that I would check on the box because some of these chickens have slightly different nutritional information due to the inclusion of solution in the manufacturing process.

    You would count your total calories based on the uncooked weight. You would then measure the weight of your finished product and assign the calories proportionately.

    Example starting with RAW data!

    5lbs uncooked frozen chicken breasts = 2268g = 2449 Cal (look for an entry that says: chicken, broilers or fyers, breast, skinless, boneless, meat only, with added solution, raw)

    You added 5g of spray oil (or you didn't, but in my example I am adding it) for 45 Cal and you added 5g of black pepper for another 20 Cal.

    So the total calories you put in the oven were 2514.

    And using the 61.54% factor your 8/13 oz indicate, you ended up with 1396g of usable food!

    2514 Cal / 1396 g = 1.8 Cal per edible gram of food... which you can now log with good confidence!

    But let's pretend that you weren't the one cooking! You went out and someone served you one of the ubiquitous skinless, boneless, chicken breasts! Grilled (because if it was cooked in moist heat we would be using the braised entry instead since the food would lose less moisture during the cooking process).

    Being well prepared you had your trusty scale with you!

    And it came back with... 192g! (which coincidentally looks like a 9oz pre-cooked frozen breast that lost a bit less weight than what your own did during cooking, and coincidentally is also the "piece" size the USDA Food Central Database is using!)

    Well, you would use the entry for "Chicken, broiler or fryers, breast, skinless, boness, meat only, with added solution, cooked, grilled" and a weight of 192g, giving you 284 Cal.

    You would then eyeball any oils or spices the restaurant might have used, and would add another 5-10g of oil because let's face it, most restaurants won't just lightly Pam your food! So your chicken would come in at around 330 to 370Cal. Let's call it 350 Cal which is in the middle and unlikely to be too far off.

    Even though your chicken shrunk a bit more and has more calories per gram since it is more nutrient dense, due to your use of less oil than the restaurant your 192g at the higher 1.8Cal per gram rate would come in at 345Cal.

    Not too far off the cooked entry either way, but not identical either.

    For most meats the food central database lists both raw and cooked entries.

    Generally speaking your raw entry with full chain of custody from start to finish will lead to more accurate estimates than assuming that you cooked everything the exact same way the USDA did!

    But using either types of entries is still better than most other guesses!
  • SisterSueGetsFit
    SisterSueGetsFit Posts: 1,201 Member
    PAV8888 wrote: »
    I’m sure this has been discussed to death, but I’m seriously confused about weighing my meat (specifically chicken) raw vs cooked. There is an astonishing difference. I just grilled about 13 ounces of chicken (raw weight) for my next two lunches. After grilling I weighed it again and it came in at 8 ounces. It’s worth noting the chicken was just a bit frozen, so perhaps the water affected things?!. I’m pretty confused. I’m not “new” to weight loss, but this throws me. It also makes me think about every time I weigh 6 ounces of chicken at a salad bar. Am I actually eating way more? I understand that USDA lists calorie counts as “raw,” but does that change that calories in cooked chicken? Thoughts explained dummy style appreciated.

    As you're discovering not all chickens are exactly the same!

    Was your chicken from a frozen pack of, for example, boneless-skinless-chicken breasts? If that I would check on the box because some of these chickens have slightly different nutritional information due to the inclusion of solution in the manufacturing process.

    You would count your total calories based on the uncooked weight. You would then measure the weight of your finished product and assign the calories proportionately.

    Example starting with RAW data!

    5lbs uncooked frozen chicken breasts = 2268g = 2449 Cal (look for an entry that says: chicken, broilers or fyers, breast, skinless, boneless, meat only, with added solution, raw)

    You added 5g of spray oil (or you didn't, but in my example I am adding it) for 45 Cal and you added 5g of black pepper for another 20 Cal.

    So the total calories you put in the oven were 2514.

    And using the 61.54% factor your 8/13 oz indicate, you ended up with 1396g of usable food!

    2514 Cal / 1396 g = 1.8 Cal per edible gram of food... which you can now log with good confidence!

    But let's pretend that you weren't the one cooking! You went out and someone served you one of the ubiquitous skinless, boneless, chicken breasts! Grilled (because if it was cooked in moist heat we would be using the braised entry instead since the food would lose less moisture during the cooking process).

    Being well prepared you had your trusty scale with you!

    And it came back with... 192g! (which coincidentally looks like a 9oz pre-cooked frozen breast that lost a bit less weight than what your own did during cooking, and coincidentally is also the "piece" size the USDA Food Central Database is using!)

    Well, you would use the entry for "Chicken, broiler or fryers, breast, skinless, boness, meat only, with added solution, cooked, grilled" and a weight of 192g, giving you 284 Cal.

    You would then eyeball any oils or spices the restaurant might have used, and would add another 5-10g of oil because let's face it, most restaurants won't just lightly Pam your food! So your chicken would come in at around 330 to 370Cal. Let's call it 350 Cal which is in the middle and unlikely to be too far off.

    Even though your chicken shrunk a bit more and has more calories per gram since it is more nutrient dense, due to your use of less oil than the restaurant your 192g at the higher 1.8Cal per gram rate would come in at 345Cal.

    Not too far off the cooked entry either way, but not identical either.

    For most meats the food central database lists both raw and cooked entries.

    Generally speaking your raw entry with full chain of custody from start to finish will lead to more accurate estimates than assuming that you cooked everything the exact same way the USDA did!

    But using either types of entries is still better than most other guesses!
    PAV8888 wrote: »
    I’m sure this has been discussed to death, but I’m seriously confused about weighing my meat (specifically chicken) raw vs cooked. There is an astonishing difference. I just grilled about 13 ounces of chicken (raw weight) for my next two lunches. After grilling I weighed it again and it came in at 8 ounces. It’s worth noting the chicken was just a bit frozen, so perhaps the water affected things?!. I’m pretty confused. I’m not “new” to weight loss, but this throws me. It also makes me think about every time I weigh 6 ounces of chicken at a salad bar. Am I actually eating way more? I understand that USDA lists calorie counts as “raw,” but does that change that calories in cooked chicken? Thoughts explained dummy style appreciated.

    As you're discovering not all chickens are exactly the same!

    Was your chicken from a frozen pack of, for example, boneless-skinless-chicken breasts? If that I would check on the box because some of these chickens have slightly different nutritional information due to the inclusion of solution in the manufacturing process.

    You would count your total calories based on the uncooked weight. You would then measure the weight of your finished product and assign the calories proportionately.

    Example starting with RAW data!

    5lbs uncooked frozen chicken breasts = 2268g = 2449 Cal (look for an entry that says: chicken, broilers or fyers, breast, skinless, boneless, meat only, with added solution, raw)

    You added 5g of spray oil (or you didn't, but in my example I am adding it) for 45 Cal and you added 5g of black pepper for another 20 Cal.

    So the total calories you put in the oven were 2514.

    And using the 61.54% factor your 8/13 oz indicate, you ended up with 1396g of usable food!

    2514 Cal / 1396 g = 1.8 Cal per edible gram of food... which you can now log with good confidence!

    But let's pretend that you weren't the one cooking! You went out and someone served you one of the ubiquitous skinless, boneless, chicken breasts! Grilled (because if it was cooked in moist heat we would be using the braised entry instead since the food would lose less moisture during the cooking process).

    Being well prepared you had your trusty scale with you!

    And it came back with... 192g! (which coincidentally looks like a 9oz pre-cooked frozen breast that lost a bit less weight than what your own did during cooking, and coincidentally is also the "piece" size the USDA Food Central Database is using!)

    Well, you would use the entry for "Chicken, broiler or fryers, breast, skinless, boness, meat only, with added solution, cooked, grilled" and a weight of 192g, giving you 284 Cal.

    You would then eyeball any oils or spices the restaurant might have used, and would add another 5-10g of oil because let's face it, most restaurants won't just lightly Pam your food! So your chicken would come in at around 330 to 370Cal. Let's call it 350 Cal which is in the middle and unlikely to be too far off.

    Even though your chicken shrunk a bit more and has more calories per gram since it is more nutrient dense, due to your use of less oil than the restaurant your 192g at the higher 1.8Cal per gram rate would come in at 345Cal.

    Not too far off the cooked entry either way, but not identical either.

    For most meats the food central database lists both raw and cooked entries.

    Generally speaking your raw entry with full chain of custody from start to finish will lead to more accurate estimates than assuming that you cooked everything the exact same way the USDA did!

    But using either types of entries is still better than most other guesses!

    As always, PAV, great advice; thank you. The trend keeps going down, so I’m not stressing too much, just one of those Sunday thoughts I suppose. 😉
  • lgfrie
    lgfrie Posts: 1,450 Member
    I do a lot of meat prep/cooking, like almost everyday. Here's my 2 cents on this thorny and interesting question.

    tl;dr: There are two ways to figure the raw/cooked meat calories out - accurate but complex, or ballpark/simple.

    1. The most accurate way to do it is first to figure out the TOTAL calories in the raw meat (usually right on the package, in the form of X number of calories per some unit of weight, and a total package weight), then cook it, then weigh it, then divide the pre-cooked (raw) total calories by the post-cooked # of ounces for a 100 % accurate cooked calories-per-ounce.

    Example:

    You buy a package of chicken breasts. The package says, let's say, 31 calories/ounce. There are, let's say, 3 pounds of chicken, or 48 ounces.

    So with a trusty calculator you determine that the total calories in the package = 48 x 31 = 1,488

    Then you cook the chicken in the oven or grill, weigh it, and the final weight is, let's say, 39 ounces.

    So you grab the calculator. 1,488 / 39 = 38.15 calories per ounce.

    Now you are free to slice and plate the cooked meat, at 38.15 per ounce.

    (Notice that the calories per ounce have gone up, going from raw to cooked. This is because water boils/evaporates/cooks off during cooking, and has no calories. Thus cooked meat is more calorically dense because you have removed something that has no calories and was therefore pulling the average calories of the food down.)

    Final step: depending on the piece of meat, and how it's cooked, some of the fat may cook off. There is no way to measure this precisely. I normally don't adjust the numbers with lean protein like chicken. However, if I'm cooking a rib eye or chuck roast or something, I will sometimes deduct 10 % off the calories-per-ounce for assumed fat burn-off. But unless you are eating like 3 pounds of fatty chuck, it's a trivial difference, so this step is not really necessary.

    2. Simple method: Ascertain the calories per ounce of a raw piece of meat, add 20 % per ounce, and enjoy.

    Final note, your piece of chicken went from 13 to 8 ounces so that is more than a 20 % difference. But I think that is somewhat unusual. Normally for me it's around 20 %. It's possible you will end up eating an extra 100 calories if you use this "back of the napkin" ballparking method, but it's certainly less time consuming than standing there with a calculator while the food gets cold. That said, I almost always figure out the exact calories with a calculator, using method # 1.


  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,894 Member
    Any good entry should specify whether the meat is raw or cooked and the cooking method.

    Depending on the type of meat and what I'm preparing, I may weigh raw (for example, boneless meat where I know the piece I am having), and then I choose the raw entry. Or I may weigh cooked (for example, bone-in chicken), and then I use the cooked entry for my cooking method.

    Either is perfectly fine to use, it's just important to choose an entry that specifies since of course it the cooked weighs less than the raw, so if you were to use a raw entry but weigh cooked you'd be underestimating the cals.
  • whmscll
    whmscll Posts: 2,254 Member
    edited March 2020
    I don’t understand why you should use raw weight for chicken if what “cooks out” is mostly water. Wouldn’t you want to use the weight without the extra water? And weigh only what is actually going into your mouth? Inother words, weighing it after cooking. Adding any oil or other ingredients used separately, of course.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,082 Member
    I’m sure this has been discussed to death, but I’m seriously confused about weighing my meat (specifically chicken) raw vs cooked. There is an astonishing difference. I just grilled about 13 ounces of chicken (raw weight) for my next two lunches. After grilling I weighed it again and it came in at 8 ounces. It’s worth noting the chicken was just a bit frozen, so perhaps the water affected things?!. I’m pretty confused. I’m not “new” to weight loss, but this throws me. It also makes me think about every time I weigh 6 ounces of chicken at a salad bar. Am I actually eating way more? I understand that USDA lists calorie counts as “raw,” but does that change that calories in cooked chicken? Thoughts explained dummy style appreciated.

    The calories when weighed raw are still there...the chicken just weighs less because it's lost water. If you weigh it raw (preferred) select a raw entry...if you weigh it cooked, select a cooked entry.
  • Danp
    Danp Posts: 1,561 Member
    whmscll wrote: »
    I don’t understand why you should use raw weight for chicken if what “cooks out” is mostly water. Wouldn’t you want to use the weight without the extra water? And weigh only what is actually going into your mouth? Inother words, weighing it after cooking. Adding any oil or other ingredients used separately, of course.

    Food when raw will contain a consistent calories/grams.

    Once cooked that food can lose a differing amount of weight during the process. So when you weigh it after cooking you don't know how much is lost so that "90g cooked" might contain the calories of 100g raw and lost 10% weight through cooking or it could contain the calories of 150g and lost 40% through the cooking process.

    So not knowing the starting weight one "90g cooked" serving could have 50% more calories than another "90g cooked" serving.

    To compensate for that you'll find varying entries for cooked food some close to the raw calories (which would work for the 10% lost) and others that are drastically higher (appropriate for the 40% lost). So now you're not only introducing inaccuracy because you don't know the starting weight you're adding inaccuracy because you have to guess at which 'cooked' calorie estimate is correct.
  • Psychgrrl
    Psychgrrl Posts: 3,170 Member
    I was seriously startled between the raw weight of my chicken and the weight of the chicken post Insta-pot. 1420 grams before 860 after. :unamused:
  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,894 Member
    Danp wrote: »
    So not knowing the starting weight one "90g cooked" serving could have 50% more calories than another "90g cooked" serving.

    Extremely unlikely unless you use a bad entry or are a truly terrible cook.

    And if you overcook your meat to a char the raw entry is probably wrong too, because you've reduced the fat in it, which is why it's dry and awful.

    There are other differences between one cut and another, grass fed or not, how you identify the cut, what the fat amount is, that are going to make entries for meat more of a guess/estimate than picking a cooked vs raw entry.

    It really doesn't matter if you weight cooked or raw if you pick a good entry (the USDA entries are good).
  • Danp
    Danp Posts: 1,561 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    Danp wrote: »
    So not knowing the starting weight one "90g cooked" serving could have 50% more calories than another "90g cooked" serving.

    Extremely unlikely unless you use a bad entry or are a truly terrible cook.

    And if you overcook your meat to a char the raw entry is probably wrong too, because you've reduced the fat in it, which is why it's dry and awful.

    There are other differences between one cut and another, grass fed or not, how you identify the cut, what the fat amount is, that are going to make entries for meat more of a guess/estimate than picking a cooked vs raw entry.

    It really doesn't matter if you weight cooked or raw if you pick a good entry (the USDA entries are good).

    Extreme example used to illustrate the point doesn't make the point any less valid. A raw food will have a more reliable calorie to weight when logging for accuracy.

    The weight of a food will change during cooking and the fact that you don't know how much it has changed means you can't as accurately estimate the calories.

    Take rice as an example. Rice will have a predictable weight to calories when raw however when cooked the weight can vary significantly while the calorie content will remain the same.
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,513 Member
    just_Tomek wrote: »
    I’m sure this has been discussed to death, but I’m seriously confused about weighing my meat (specifically chicken) raw vs cooked. There is an astonishing difference. I just grilled about 13 ounces of chicken (raw weight) for my next two lunches. After grilling I weighed it again and it came in at 8 ounces. It’s worth noting the chicken was just a bit frozen, so perhaps the water affected things?!. I’m pretty confused. I’m not “new” to weight loss, but this throws me. It also makes me think about every time I weigh 6 ounces of chicken at a salad bar. Am I actually eating way more? I understand that USDA lists calorie counts as “raw,” but does that change that calories in cooked chicken? Thoughts explained dummy style appreciated.

    I just roasted a skinless, boneless turkey breast 400g.
    After it was roasted (with just spices) it came to be 340g cooked.

    It does not matter which way you go. Its still ~400cal

    But for which amount though? No chicken breast has the same size, thus simply stating that a chicken breast has 400cal doesn't help. Also keep in mind that this is a very international forum. Chicken breasts might be small in some countries, and rather big in others, differ across supermarkets, or might be pumped full of water, which vanishes at cooking (Netherlands, I look at you! :s )
  • paperpudding
    paperpudding Posts: 7,760 Member
    Yes but for most people the difference is not significant.

    The balance as usual between accuracy and convenience - and where your 'close enough point' is.

    A correct cooked chicken entry is close enough for cooked chicken to me - so I agree with lemurcat: it really doesn't matter if you weigh raw or cooked if you pick a good entry.
  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,894 Member
    Danp wrote: »
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    Danp wrote: »
    So not knowing the starting weight one "90g cooked" serving could have 50% more calories than another "90g cooked" serving.

    Extremely unlikely unless you use a bad entry or are a truly terrible cook.

    And if you overcook your meat to a char the raw entry is probably wrong too, because you've reduced the fat in it, which is why it's dry and awful.

    There are other differences between one cut and another, grass fed or not, how you identify the cut, what the fat amount is, that are going to make entries for meat more of a guess/estimate than picking a cooked vs raw entry.

    It really doesn't matter if you weight cooked or raw if you pick a good entry (the USDA entries are good).

    Extreme example used to illustrate the point doesn't make the point any less valid. A raw food will have a more reliable calorie to weight when logging for accuracy.

    The weight of a food will change during cooking and the fact that you don't know how much it has changed means you can't as accurately estimate the calories.

    Again, you can use the cooked entry. It's good enough. If you can use raw and want to use raw, great, but there are reasons raw doesn't always work -- for example, cooking a whole chicken or other bone-in meat -- and people shouldn't stress about how to deal with that. A cooked entry works fine.
    Take rice as an example. Rice will have a predictable weight to calories when raw however when cooked the weight can vary significantly while the calorie content will remain the same.

    I think there's more variation here than with chicken, but even so if you have to use a cooked weight for some reason that's fine. I find rice easier to weigh raw nearly always but if there's a reason it's not, the cooked entries are okay too.
  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,894 Member
    yirara wrote: »
    just_Tomek wrote: »
    I’m sure this has been discussed to death, but I’m seriously confused about weighing my meat (specifically chicken) raw vs cooked. There is an astonishing difference. I just grilled about 13 ounces of chicken (raw weight) for my next two lunches. After grilling I weighed it again and it came in at 8 ounces. It’s worth noting the chicken was just a bit frozen, so perhaps the water affected things?!. I’m pretty confused. I’m not “new” to weight loss, but this throws me. It also makes me think about every time I weigh 6 ounces of chicken at a salad bar. Am I actually eating way more? I understand that USDA lists calorie counts as “raw,” but does that change that calories in cooked chicken? Thoughts explained dummy style appreciated.

    I just roasted a skinless, boneless turkey breast 400g.
    After it was roasted (with just spices) it came to be 340g cooked.

    It does not matter which way you go. Its still ~400cal

    But for which amount though? No chicken breast has the same size, thus simply stating that a chicken breast has 400cal doesn't help. Also keep in mind that this is a very international forum. Chicken breasts might be small in some countries, and rather big in others, differ across supermarkets, or might be pumped full of water, which vanishes at cooking (Netherlands, I look at you! :s )

    He was talking about a specific chicken breast with a specific cooked and raw weight.
  • andrewjlindquist
    andrewjlindquist Posts: 1 Member
    I am with you lemurcat2. The entire raw/cooked calorie count drives me crazy and I can't find a clear answer and the extended version of the question is the percentage of the fat cooked off.

    If you bake a chicken in your oven, what is in the bottom of the pan is not just water. Water is not going to sit in a pan at 375 degrees. There is definately fat and fat is a high calorie component, so while the statement "calories that were in the raw chicken are still mostly there" might have some truth, a portion of the less desirable fat calories definitely are not.

  • conniewilkins56
    conniewilkins56 Posts: 3,325 Member
    I weigh all of my meat after it is cooked and I have lost 105 pounds….if I get an extra ounce of protein, so be it!
  • SezxyStef
    SezxyStef Posts: 15,270 Member
    I could never weight meat raw for calorie logging as I cooked for at least 3 people every night so I got used to logging it as cooked and the method it was cooked with.

    I would double check my entry against USDA website to confirm the calories and protein were correct and saved that entry for myself...

    the rest is all noise.

    tl;dr just make sure you log it correctly and check it if it's too good to be true.