One of the best tips I feel I can pass on to help streamline meal time preparation is to keep a supply of precooked, 1 pound portions of cooked and shredded chicken in the freezer.
How many times do we begin to prepare dinner and get to that frozen rock of raw chicken and think to ourselves "ugh...that is going to take time and effort to thaw and cook before I even get to the recipe I planned for tonight."
On the other hand....if I open the freezer to a quart sized storage bag of precooked and shredded chicken my thoughts sound more like this: 'yes...a quick defrost in the microwave and I can toss this into the _______ (insert a variety of options here, like soup, casserole, salad, sauce, etc...) and have dinner ready in no time!"
I do this bulk cooking exercise about once a month and prefer to use the stove top method. I also prefer cooking with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. They may be a little more expensive than bone in or whole chickens, but usually efficiency trumps pennies in my daily schedule. Not that I don't need to be conscience of our family budget! On the contrary. However, some of the most expensive chicken in my freezer is the chicken that requires more effort than I have in energy to get it cooked. I've been known to let whole chickens that I got on sale sit in my freezer for months and months. Sure I got a great deal, but the money spent is still being wasted as long as those birds continue to chill in their raw state *grin*.
If you are inclined to bake whole hens in your oven...by all means ~ fill that oven up and bake away! In fact, plan one hen for dinner and the rest can be deboned and shredded after the meal. Don't forget to enlist the other free hands in the house to help with this task so it is done quickly! Heaping 2 cup portions put into quart sized freezer bags = 1 pound portions of shredded chicken to be used as needed.
I, on the other hand, will most likely be steaming my boneless, skinless breasts this month :-)
Here is how:
I start with a spaghetti pot
I fill the bottom portion of the pot with about 1-2 inches of water.
Then insert the steamer pot, cover and bring the water to a boil.
Now it is ready to be filled with my chicken breasts, covered and steamed.
Yep...when I say fill, I really fill it up!
I want to cook as much chicken at one time as I can so I'm set for the month.
These are about done, but they took a bit of time.
During the steaming time, I will remove the lid and use my long handled tongs
to move pieces from the bottom to the top to even out the cooking process.
When these are finished, I let them cool and then shred or chop them into small pieces. Tossing them in the mixer on a lower speed makes this a fast and easy step too:
Now the chicken is ready to be stored in quart sized freezer bags in one pound portions. Two heaping cups = about 1 pound cooked chicken. This makes the frozen portions perfect for most recipes that call for precooked chicken.
And if you have a recipe that calls for canned chicken...this is way better!
I find myself turning to my precooked chicken for all kinds of dishes:
- pasta dishes (cold or hot)
- soups and stews
- chicken salad
- green salads with chicken
For a list of recipes on this blog using precooked chicken, click here.
How do you use precooked chicken in your meal planning? Do you have a tip to share for easy bulk cooking chicken for your freezer? We'd love to hear, so don't forget to leave a comment below!
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