Freezing chicken is a detail?
Ummmm, yeah . . . it’s a detail. A detail that stinks like nothing you’ve ever smelled if you don’t tackle it when it needs to be tackled.
Last weekend, while I was off gallivanting with college theatre pals, a friend picked up my Zaycon chicken and then hubby stuck it in the fridge. I had warned him to NOT put it in the freezer. The last thing I needed was a forty-pound block of frozen chicken.
Soooo, Monday . . . I had to get the chicken prepped and packaged and frozen in meal-sized portions.
Before it was too late and the sixty dollars I paid for forty pounds of chicken became sixty dollars paid for forty pounds of schtank.
For years, I have purchased chicken in bulk when it’s on sale. (Typically, I purchase 20 lbs at a time when it’s 2.00/lb or less for boneless skinless, chicken breasts.) Over time, I have perfected my system of dividing it up. I can live with making one big nasty chicken mess since my daily supper prep goes more smoothly. I’ve shared my method before, but thought I’d do a webisode and step-by-step tutorial.
Here’s my system:
1. Clean your kitchen. (Easier said than done, I know.) This is essential so you will have plenty of room to work and you will be able to easily clean and disinfect your area when you are done.
2. Set up an assembly line of supplies. In the left portion of my sink, I put my scrap-pot and the chicken. In the right-side sink, I put a large colander. On the right side of the sink, I place multiple plastic zipper bags, already opened and layered on a cookie sheet.
3. Trim the chicken. I pull the chicken out of the package and trim all the nasties directly over the scrap-pot. Then I place the trimmed chicken into the colander.
4. Rinse the chicken. Once the colander is full of trimmed chicken, I rinse it and place a meal’s worth of chicken into each bag.
5. Flatten the bags of chicken on a cookie sheet/tray. It’s important to flatten the chicken as much as possible, in a single layer, so that it is easier to thaw. A big glob of frozen chicken takes forever to defrost.
6. Freeze the chicken. You can stack the trays on top of one another if you have enough room in your freezer. If your freezer-space is limited, try freezing one sheet/tray at a time, balanced on top of other items, while the waiting-to-be-frozen bags are in your fridge. Frozen bags are easy to distribute throughout the freezer. Just be sure to remember to keep freezing more bags, so your chicken doesn’t go bad.
7. Cook the scraps in the scrap pot. After they’re cooked, I feed them to my dog. We don’t love the fat and such, but she does.
That was a LOT of work. I couldn’t believe that it took almost two and a half hours! I’m glad I did it though, because now I have so many correctly portioned bags of chicken that have already been trimmed and can be cooked quickly.
It might take you slightly less time if you’re not shooting a webisode. If you’re an email subscriber, you’ll have to click through to the post to watch the webisode. Which will be totally worth it!
Now for our menu plan:
Monday – Fun Halloween Foods! (Mummies, spiders and fingers!)
Tuesday – Stew (Using leftover NOT-a-disaster-for-once roast from last week.)
Wednesday – Grilled Chicken Breasts, whole wheat pasta.
Thursday – Chicken Fried Rice
Friday – Pizza
Saturday – Out to Eat
Sunday – Home Groups
My experience with buying chicken in bulk from Zaycon Foods was great! And 1.49/lb is a fantastic price! If you want to be notified of when they are coming to your area, you can sign up (for free) on their site here. (That’s my referral link!)
I am so sorry to say that it seems Zaycon has gone out of business. I say “seems” because the information I’ve seen says they’ve “suspended” operations and I don’t fully understand what is happening. I’m so so sad about this since this will change how our family keeps our freezer stocked with meat. We’ve been ordering almost all of our chicken, bacon, and shrimp for them for more than five years. If you had ordered recently, I recommend that you call your credit card company or bank (for debit cards) to see what can be done. I’ve heard many people have had success doing this.
I’ll be linking this up to Orgjunkie.com.
Just wondering what the “D” on your apron stands for?
Thanks for sharing! I will be getting my first order from them next week and just thinking about packaging that much meat at once is a bit overwhelming! I will definitely follow your tried & true system!!
i want to see the halloween food… and recipes!!!
Here’s a post with the basics, but no pictures. It was from when I first started blogging. I’m planning to take pictures tonight and maybe . . . possibly remember to write a post about it next Halloween!
TyKes Mom says
This is a great post! I always buy chicken in bulk, or I tend to buy whole chickens and use every inch of them (http://the-north-forty.com/once-a-month-cooking/chicken-week/). Since meat is so expensive, it truly pays to buy a lot at a great price and freeze it. You can also spend a day chopping it up, cooking it and freezing pre-cooked chickens to easily throw into meals!
Jenn @ I Am Not Superwoman says
Funny blog. I keep meaning to get on the bulk chicken wagon with Zaycon. I hear about it all the time. Newest follower from MPM. Hope you stop by my blog and follow back. http://www.imnotsuperwoman.com Have a Happy Halloween!
meg c says
well great minds think alike… 🙂 or it was just a natural progression of events. haha My mom and I decided to split a box of chicken from Zaycon after reading about it on your blog. I was just checking in today to try and contact you and see if you had any tips/ideas for packing it for freezing. I show up and you have a webisode all ready to go. Perfect!!! I am excited to get the chicken and to start recommending this great bargain to others!!
I get my chicken on Friday so this was perfect timing! Question: how much chicken do you put in each bag?
ENough for one meal for your family. That used to be three normal sized breasts, but now I need 4-5!
Thanks for the link…I signed up 😀
This is so cool! I am picking up my Zaycon chicken on Friday, so PERFECT timing! 🙂 And you reminded me that I need to buy Ziploc bags, so thank you very much.
I was like why is her chicken SO Much cheaper than what I have paid?!!? Then I saw this was from 2011. I have ordered before as has my sister, but if you do the math, you can get the frozen stuff from Costco for about the same price with out all the work. Not worth it. And then I don’t have to shell out SO much cash at once. It makes a difference when you don’t have that much money to spend on chicken all at once.
Dana White says
It was 1.84/lb for me this time, which I could MAYBE beat, so I did debate. But ultimately I decided that since I STINK at shopping the sales lately I would go for it. I also don’t love the individually frozen ones because I cut off SO much of the icky stuff and so when I used to buy those I would thaw and trim them for each meal. This way all that is at once.
But I am definitely dreading the process. I don’t know how people do 120 lbs at a time!
Can I just tell you that you have now officially rocked my world? How have I NEVER before thought of using kitchen shears to trim/cut chicken? This is revolutionary, I tell you. I will no longer dread chicken dishes again. Finding a clean cutting board, finding room for it. Oh the horror! And a sharp knife? that is clean? That would be heaven. But this, this I can do. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am learning that I have slob vision. I always suspected but never knew what to do about it. Your blog is helping. A lot. 🙂
I’m wondering how many chicken breasts are in 40 lbs. I just cannot visualize that much chicken!
I started following your method awhile back with chicken from the grocery store. I used to buy the pre-frozen, but I noticed that they just shrunk down to nothing after being cooked.
Your idea of using the electric knife is genius! I find that the thinner pieces absorb marinade better and grill up much juicier. My husband and kids were thrilled with the improved taste. He does get really nervous when I’m cutting, though. 🙂
Julie Hamilton says
Your method is exactly the same as mine. I even have the same scissors! Several years ago, a local store had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.38, so I bought 100 pounds. I stood at the sink and processed and processed and processed until I thought I could not take the grossness of it all. But, by golly, we had chicken for quite a long while. Nowadays I buy twenty or thirty pounds at a time and pressure can it. It’s so easy and really yummy.
Dana White says
I would love to know more about pressure canning!
Julie Hamilton says
It’s really easy. I prepare the chicken breasts the same way I do when I freeze it. Cut it in chunks or however you like it. Fill clean pint jars with the raw chicken to 1″ of headspace. Run a non-metal spatula or a chopstick or something like that around the insides of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, wet cloth (I use vinegar on mine) to remove any fat or gunk that might prevent a seal. Place your new lid on the jar and add a ring, finger tight, not super he-man tight. Follow directions for your pressure canner and your altitude. I can my pints at 10# pressure for 75 minutes, and do quarts for 90 minutes.
No liquid is necessary in the jars. The chicken cooks and makes its own broth. This makes the richest tasting, most flavorful chicken ever. We love it in chicken salad and in soups and casseroles, too. You can get about a pound in a pint jar.
There are loads of tutorials on YouTube. Here’s a good one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fINnsFJGyKU
I am getting my first Zaycon chicken order on Thursday. I signed up through your referral link :). I just realized I accidentally scheduled an insurance claims adjuster to come during the naptime of the day I was going to process the chicken. Boo.
How nasty are the nasties? Could I just separate into baggies and deal with that later? I am also planning on throwing 10 pounds in the CrockPot for shredded chicken. I guess there’s no way I could process it all in 30-45 mins??
Dana White says
Honestly, most people don’t trim to the extent that I do. The nasties are the same as with any chicken breasts you get anywhere. Just the fatty, cartilage-ey stuff. So yes, you can totally do it quicker. I just like to do it all at once so I don’t have to touch it again with individual meals.
Thanks so much for the quick response!
To deal with any block-frozen meat, make room in the fridge, make sure it’s on a tray or in a tub/bowl to control runaway drips, and check every few hours for pieces that will come away! Tend to them while the next layer thaws; the whole process may take days if it’s a big package, but you also have no need to hurry through it!
Dana White says
Also, if you clear a shelf in your fridge, the box should fit. I’ve been doing Zaycon long enough that i’ve had two different fridges, and the box fit “tightly” in both. So you can wait a day if you need to before you deal with it. Just not longer than that!
Brenda Willimann says
This is an awesome idea! Question about the scraps, do you make stock with them? We don’t have a dog and I was thinking this might be a good way to use them without waste.
Dana White says
I haven’t done that, but I’m sure it would work!
This is the closest thing to what my question was how to break up a huge frozen bag of chicken. The youngest nephew had brought this bag home and stuck it in the freezer months ago. Today, his oldest brothers girlfriend found it and wanted to dump it because it was not broken down to more reasonable size. For not being a well off set of humans, they are very wasteful like this. I need to know is there a way to break it down now and freeze the chicken?
Six years too late, but yes, you can thaw meat a little bit, enough to pull it apart and refreeze in smaller packages or you can just cook it and refreeze it in smaller packages like Dana does. The first answer is from the Ag people who were asked if you have to throw out/immediately use anything that started thawing during a power outage. The answer was that if the meat is still partially frozen and has ice crystals, you can put it right back in the freezer. On that basis I conclude that you could thaw it a bit, separate it and put it right back in the freezer.
Personally, I would probably go ahead and boil it, take it off the bone and use some of the broth and chicken for soup. Or, casserole alert, I sometimes make Chicken Tetrazzini and freeze half of that for another meal or make chicken pot pie. The pot pie is unlikely to freeze well, so if I couldn’t make one immediately, I would freeze broth and chicken until I was ready to make it.