I can’t declare loudly enough how much I love pre-cooking chicken and ground beef. If you really want to cook regularly, but feel overwhelmed at the thought, cooking some basic meats ahead of time will change your life.
That’s kind of dramatic-sounding, but true.
Think about it. The biggest time-factor in preparing most meals (even the easiest ones) is the meat. Thawing it, trimming it, cooking it, draining it, cleaning up the mess.
There are definitely some meals that need the meat to NOT be pre-cooked, but so many recipes work great! And as life gets busier as the kids get older (ummm, out of town basketball games??), I pre-cook more and more of my 40 lbs. of Zaycon chicken because that’s what I turn to again and again for super-fast home-cooked meals.
I made a video. If you can’t see it, watch it on youtube here.
How I Cook a Who’ Lotta Chicken at Once to Freeze (And Shred It Super-Fast Without Carpal Tunnel Pain)
After I trim all the nastiness off of the boneless skinless chicken breasts, I place them straight into my CrockPot(s). I salt and pepper each layer.
I cook the chicken on low for 5-6 hours or until cooked through and falling apart easily.
Then, I shred them. All twenty-five pounds or so. In, like, less than ten minutes.
I’ve mentioned this before, but thought it deserved its own post (and video) because it’s just so stinking cool. I saw the trick mentioned on CouponingtoDisney.com. She uses a stand mixer. But my stand mixer is inconveniently placed and I’m not hauling 25 hot chickens across the kitchen to use it.
Oops. I meant 25 pounds of hot chicken.
Anyway, I use my hand mixer.
Remove the chicken from the hot liquid of the CrockPot. I don’t intentionally add liquid when cooking the chicken. With the water from the just-rinsed chicken and natural juices, it just happens. The liquid is the reason you can’t shred the chicken inside the slow cooker. Hot chicken juice flies everywhere and will burn you.
Trust me. I know this.
While the chicken is still hot, press the handmixer’s beaters onto one of the boneless skinless chicken breasts and turn on the lowest setting. You’ll have to hold on to the bowl so the handmixer doesn’t get away from you (and to keep chicken from flying everywhere), but just keep moving to an unshredded piece until you’re satisfied with the Level of Shred.
Warning: Know that this goes crazy fast. It’s fun, so there’s a real temptation to keep on shreddin’, but you’ll end up with chicken dust if you’re not careful.
Once the chicken is completely cooled (you may need to spread it out on a cookie sheet to help it cool faster), put it in freezer bags. This last time, I had the brilliant idea to fill quart sized bags with shredded chicken and then fill up the remaining space with the broth from the crockpots. While this has kept the chicken moist, it has made breaking apart the frozen chicken more difficult. (MUCH more difficult.) Next time, I’ll either try that again with significantly less chicken in a bag so the frozen chunks are flatter and easier to break, or only put one meal’s worth in a bag so I don’t have to break it apart at all.
So how do I use such a huge amount of pre-cooked, frozen chicken? Lots of ways! I use it in my chicken fried rice, chicken salad, tortilla soup, chicken and bacon sub sandwiches, creamy chicken and spinach enchiladas, chicken and black bean burritos, faux alfredo, white chicken chili and more.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll share three unbelievably easy and quick meals using this shredded chicken. These are meals my family loves and requests regularly. Sign up as an email subscriber (it’s free) to be sure you don’t miss them.
Also see my tutorial and video where I explain where I get 40 pounds of boneless/skinless chicken breast and how I deal with ALL THAT CHICKEN!! Or just go straight to Zaycon chicken through my referral link.
And here’s how I pre-cook ground beef!
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.
Love this idea. My stand mixer has a detachable bowl so I will plan to just carry the bowl to the slow cooker, fill it with the chickens, and carry it back to the stand to shred. 🙂
Dana White says
Well now, that’s a good idea!!!
If you happen to have a KitchenAid stand mixer, the paddle attachment is FABULOUS at shredding the chicken in no time, and you can do 3 or 4 breasts at once. Nice to know that a hand mixer will work too, thanks! There are times when hauling out that huge heavy thing seems not worth it for a small batch.
I tried this with my stand mixer and could not believe how perfectly, and how fast, it shredded!
I actually have never been a fan of frozen meat, until I started cooking it first, then freezing! I think it does better that way.
And the frozen cooked chicken was even good in chicken salad!
This has nothing to do with chicken, just a general statement but…
I LOVE YOUR BLOG AND PODCASTS!
I know you’ve heard it all before, but I think we share the same cleaning brain. I have made unbelievable progress in my home in very little time since finding you about a month ago. I even have a stranger coming over for a home inspection in about a week, and I’m not even worried. That is huge for me. I never thought I’d see the day.
Thank you for being brave enough to share your journey with us.
Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore says
LOVE THIS POST! And I like how you linked to lots of the different recipes you use. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I have precooked chicken and shredded it in a stand mixer before. I freeze it first in muffin tins, and then I move them to a large plastic bag. Each “chicken puck” is about one serving of chicken. M husband loves this because he likes making pasta for himself and it is simple to get the right amount. One of my girls likes the meat plain and the other likes quesadillas. We all eat different things so it really helps.
Dana White says
Oh my word, chicken pucks!!! What an awesome idea!!!!
I think this post and this comment just changed my life…
Ditta Sarah’s comment. I’ve never thought to use a mixer to shred chicken. Brilliant. And love the individual serving “chicken puck” idea. Again, brilliant! I’m SO doing this and have no doubt it will change my life.
Yep. Life changed. Made some awesome mashed potatoes and gravy. Not really that awesome, but a chicken puck added to every cup or two of gravy made it seem so much nicer than it was. Also, my favorite white chili recipe turned out better than ever using my frozen shredded chicken. We love eating chicken, but I only knew of an overly complicated way to cook and shred chicken that really did not work well. All my favorite chicken dishes are now back on the menu. My husband thanks you both!
Do you line the muffin tin with anything? I’m thinkin saran wrap or maybe you spray it with cooking oil. I’m just wondering if you have to do anything to prevent it from sticking to the muffin tin when it freezes.
I like your idea! I have been using a large potato masher to shred meat (chicken, beef, or pork) when it has been cooked until very tender. I may continue to do that just because of the easier cleanup (just one tool to clean), but it’s good to have another option 🙂
Would it be possible for you to put this on your list of recipes? I couldn’t find it so I resorted to Google searching…
Love your site!
How many crock pots does it take to cook the 25 lbs of chicken?
Dana White says
I use two, one is normal sized and one is the 7 qt I think. Both are filled full.
I’m curious to know a couple things:
1. Do you thaw the breasts before putting them in the crockpot?
2. Do you add any liquid in the crockpot with the chicken breasts?
3. Once you freeze it, how to you get it ready to eat plain? (how to warm it)
Dana White says
1. The Zaycon chicken breasts are not frozen.
2. I do not add liquid.
3. The key is to not re-cook. I usually put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds at a time on ten percent power just until I can break it apart. Most things that I put it with (you can search chicken to find them), I just add it to the recipe either completely frozen (in soups and such) or when just break-apart-able.
Hope that helps!
Amy Samida says
I can’t wait to try this! It will make life so much easier.
I have long been a fan of cooking ahead, though, and I use the quart bags. I fill them and then lay them flat on a sheet pan. Stick the sheet pan in the freezer and once frozen, you have nice thin slabs that thaw fast and are easy to break apart. They’re also easy to tuck in between other things if your freezer has a tendency to get crazy full, like mine might. 🙂
Julie Evans says
You can use this same mixer shredding technique with pork! I cooked some pork roast in the crock pot, then used the mixer to shred it. Great for barbecued pork, pork for stir fry or tacos, etc. Froze some. Love your healthy and FAST ideas.
Julie Evans says
Your method also works with pork roast. I put it in the crock pot frozen, added a half cup water and sprinkled over it some salt, pepper and (optional) herbs (thyme, rosemary and marjoram). Then cooked it on low for 8 hours. Then I cut it in about one inch “slices” and put some in my big mixer and let the beaters shred it. Hint: Do not put in too much at one time. Turn it on low.
I saw your comment about Zaycon. Have you tried Savory Butcher? I switched to them after getting screwed out of 2 cases of chicken by Zaycon (thank goodness I at least got my money back!), but I have really liked them! I’m not affiliated with them, but thought I’d share to another Zaycon fan.
Dana White says
I haven’t tried them yet. I’m a little hesitant. I was sooooo sad when Zaycon shut down and felt terrible for having recommended them, even though we’d used them for years and loved them.