Monday, May 2, 2011

Kitchen Shortcut: Chicken on the Fast and Cheap

Chicken. That's what I'm talkin' about today!
I make a lot of chicken meals. I don't know about your kids, but mine don't let me prepare a meal in peace. I require meals that are healthy, quick, and support one-handed cooking if needed. I just can't clean and cut up chicken during the week. I just can't. Besides, how gross if when I have to separate fighting children or grab a toddler off of a chair with "chicken yuck" all over my hands!

I used to buy the huge bags of individually frozen chicken breasts, but I have found that they are still quite fatty and I don't know that until they are thawed. And yes, I know I can buy pre-trimmed chicken. I am just too cheap to buy it. So, I have found a way to save money and time when it comes to my chicken.
Want to hear?

You will need:
- Huge pack of fresh chicken, rinsed or rinse as you go (I buy boneless, skinless breasts from Sam's Club or a family-pack at the grocery store)
- Good Sharp knife (my knife)
- Cutting board
- Large container (see below)
- Gallon-size freezer Ziplocs
- Pen or Marker

1. Buy the big big big pack of fresh chicken at the grocery store (or Sam's Club). Don't be afraid. It is cheaper!

2. Line your container with several Ziploc bags. One inside the other.

I have two plastic containers that I use: an old food storage container and an old coffee container.
Goal here is to use something large enough to hold the chicken and wide-mouthed so you can easily get the chicken in the bags without a mess. Turn the openings down over the container.
3. Trim your chicken. Trim the fat. Cut the chicken into sizes that you normally use.
What I do: I start by trimming away just the big parts of fat and then I start cutting my pieces. I remove the rest of the fat as I go. I think this saves a lot of time!

My cut sizes include:
  • Strips- for nuggets, fajitas
  • Medium pieces- for a casserole style dish, stir fry
  • Bits- for stir fry
  • Flats- for baking or grilling (these are cut into single portions and pounded thin so that my cooking time will be short)

**side note: I try to do my trimming when I get home from grocery shopping. But I don't always feel like it. In that case. The pack of poultry goes to the fridge until I have time later in the day, or later in the week, but always before that freeze by date.

As you cut it, put it right into your bag(s). When you accumulate enough for one meal, pull out that chicken bag and fill the next.

4. Label the bags. I write the cut size and the date.

5. Now freeze.

-- Now, when you plan to cook chicken for dinner, you can just pull out one bag from the freezer and thaw, and it's ready to go. No trimming. No cleaning up a cutting board, knife, countertop, etc.
-- But what if you have dinner guests? Just pull out another bag from your freezer!
-- A quick look in your freezer will let you know approximately how much chicken you have on hand. 3 bags is 3 dinners.
-- Don't limit yourself on the number of breasts per bag. One chicken breast per person is not always a "portion". Just cut and fill and when you feel like you have enough to make one meal then move on to the next bag. You will be surprised how many meals you get!

Doing this prep in advance will you save money and time. I know it seems like a lot to do ahead of time, but I think it is easier to cut all the chicken at once and clean up. I think you will thank yourself later.

So if you noticed the December dates on my bags...I took these pictures in January. That chicken has all been eaten up.

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