(Bags of sliced and chopped chicken ready for the freezer)
These days I purchase a lot of organic ingredients. I don’t know if it’ll make a difference in our health in the long run, but it’s one area of our finances I’m not willing to cut back on. I typically purchase meat and poultry from antibiotic-free, growth-hormone free animals that have been fed a vegetarian diet. At our local grocery store these items cost $2 to $3 more per pound than the alternative.
In order to save a little money I typically stock up on meat and poultry whenever they are on sale. This often means purchasing 10 to 12 packs of chicken and storing it in our upright freezer in the basement.
Of course, we don’t eat 10 to 12 packs of chicken quickly. I can often stretch one pack out for two meals and we don’t eat poultry every night for dinner. That means some of the chicken sits in the freezer for a bit and from time to time I’ve noticed that the edges begin to suffer from freezer burn.
In an effort to save our chicken from damage I decided to pull out my trusty FoodSaver. A device my mom every so kindly purchased for me for Christmas a few years ago. At first I just planned to transfer the contents of each package into a freezer bag, but then I realized it would be easier in the long run if I cut off any excess skin and sliced or chopped the chicken.
On a good day my husband will help me cut, bag and seal and in a little over 30 minutes we can process all of the chicken. The best part of this upfront preparation is that the chicken is all ready to go when I make dinner.
If the chicken is chopped I can easily throw it into the pan to make curry, tikka masala, orange chicken or any number of other recipes that I typically make and serve over rice. If the chicken is sliced I can use it to make chicken sandwiches, throw in a quick marinade or make any number of other meals that require a full chicken breast. The best part of pre-slicing, is that the chicken takes a lot less time to cook, which means my son and I can spend more time at the playground and less time in the kitchen.
I’m always looking for ways to speed up meal preparation. While my little guy is an exceptionally well behaved child, (I credit genetics more than parenting), it’s still hard to cook a meal with him underfoot. One of the toughest parts of cooking is keeping my hands clean so I can help him when the need arises. Of course, he inevitably seems to need me every time I begin the process of cutting up chicken. With this new technique I don’t have to cut up chicken on the night I prepare it.
Freezing this way also diminishes the overall time for thawing. After we seal the bags with the FoodSaver we flatten the contents. The thinner the bag the less time it takes to thaw, which is an added bonus of cutting it up so far in advance.
Over the years I’ve learned quite a few techniques to help speed up the process of making dinner, but I think this new technique may well be my favorite. I hate the smell of raw chicken and I love the idea of cutting it well in advance of cooking it.
Do you have any tricks for making meal preparation faster or easier?