One of the ways I save money at the grocery store is to purchase large packages of chicken. Whether it be breasts, thighs, or whole birds it is always cheaper for me to buy in bulk. Mostly, I shop at the wholesale store BJs. They offer a nice selection of organic and hormone free options at reasonable prices.
The only problem with purchasing a lot of chicken at once is what to do with it after you get home. In the past, I would just throw the whole bulk package in the freezer only to have to chisel out a piece when I would need it. This was not a very efficient way of doing things and would always result in me wasting huge amounts of time or having to defrost and cook up all the chicken anyway.
Nowadays, I am much wiser when in comes to purchasing chicken in bulk. Instead of throwing it in the freezer I make it a priority to prep all the chicken ahead of time so it is recipe ready. What’s the point of having all that meat if it is not going to be ready to eat when I need it. The last thing I want to do – or have time for – is to take frozen chicken out, try to thaw, and get it prepared in time before my family starts to revolt in hunger.
Another reason why I like to prep all my bulk chicken ahead of time is because I absolutely hate raw meat – especially raw chicken. Every time I handle raw chicken I always feel like I need to douse my counters with bleach. And because I know that isn’t any healthier I try to deal with raw chicken as little as possible. Prepping all my chicken ahead of time means I only need to handle raw slimy chicken a couple times of month. That makes me happy.
There are many different ways to freeze chicken and it will depend on what you purchase and what you want use it for.
Below are ways that I prep a large package of chicken breasts for the freezer. Keep in mind that it will be helpful to have all of this planned out before you get home with the chicken just in case there are other ingredients you need to purchase.
Throwing chicken breasts into a freezer bag with a marinade is one of the easiest ways to get chicken prepped and in the freezer quick. I have used all kinds of marinades -including barbecue sauce and salad dressing- and have had luck every time. The only trick is you need to remember to take it out of the freezer 1-2 days before hand so it has enough time to thaw. This post gives a list of marinades I use regularly.
This means cooking the chicken as part of a complete meal prior to going into the freezer. When you are ready the meal only needs to be heated up in the oven, microwave, or on the stove. I try to thaw my meals at least a little ahead of time because it reduces the cooking time. However, if you forget no problem because most of time they can go straight from freezer to oven or stove. Some of my favorite complete chicken freezer meals are chicken curry and chicken parmesan.
Whether it be basic shredded chicken or Mexican shredded chicken I always have portioned out packages of this versatile meal starter in my freezer. Shredded chicken freezes great and reheats quickly to be use in a variety of recipes. I use shredded chicken in soups, wraps, sandwiches, and casseroles. Along with marinades this is my go to way to prep chicken if I don’t have specific recipes in mind.
Breaded raw chicken
If you want other options of prepping your chicken ahead of time but not necessarily cooking it then breading and freezing raw chicken might work for you. It can be cooked in the oven, straight from the freezer, and used in a variety of recipes. Cooking it this way does take about an hour so I usually try to thaw overnight in the fridge. I would say this is my least favorite way to freeze chicken. Not because I don’t find it helpful it just takes more time to cook than I would like during the week.
Cooked breaded or grilled chicken
If you would like cooked chicken (other than shredded) available for wraps, salads, and other quick recipes then having cooked breaded chicken in your freezer will be helpful. It thaws quickly and warms up nice in the microwave. Some people have asked me about it drying out but I never had that experience – it always tasted great to me.
Separated raw chicken
If all else fails then at the very least trim and freeze the chicken in portions. Then all you have to do is take out what you need for the recipe without having to chisel apart the hunk of chicken. This little step will save you tons of time and frustration – believe me I know.
The thing to remember is that chicken should never go into your freezer without having a future purpose. The last thing you want to do on a busy night is take out a package of frozen unprepared chicken. Trust me, having it prepared ahead of time will make your week nights go much smoother. So next time you pick up a bulk package of chicken take some time to get it all prepped before throwing in the freezer. You will thank me later.
How do you prep chicken ahead of time?