pre-cooking chicken for easy, healthy meals! {food on friday}

Last week we talked about keeping our salads healthy, and to continue that, this week I want to show you how to batch cook and freeze your chicken for quick and easy meals. I love chicken breast because it's healthy- low in fat, and high in protein! It's one of my favorite foods.   

I love to cook with it. You can use chicken in pretty much anything- toppings on salads, fajitas, tacos, quick skillet meals, chicken lasagnas, light pastas, soups, sandwiches, and using the batch cooking method you'll have so many options for easy meals!

You see, the problem I've always had with cooking was the time it takes to thaw my meats- if I forgot to do it early in the day, it would set me back at least 20 minutes when it came time to cook dinner. And I really despise microwave thawing- it's like watching water boil or something. Not to mention it ends up all rubbery on the corners- eww!

So instead of stocking up on small portions of frozen meats, I started buying my chicken in bulk at Sam's or Wal-Mart, and cooking it all at once. It's been a huge time saver, and it actually tastes good too!

Let's get started with our chicken, shall we? 

Last week I was fortunate to find this chicken marked down for $1.39 per lb.! If you buy a lot of chicken breast like I do, you know that's an pretty amazing price. I usually cook my chicken within a day of buying it at the store because it's already thawed. If it's frozen, I will let it sit in the fridge overnight to thaw. :)

Tip: I've found that the quality of bagged individually frozen chicken is not as good as the chicken in fresh trays. And the trayed store brand at Sam's is better than the Wal-Mart brand family pack.
 (oh, and I really like this Tyson- it's been great!)

Heat your oven to 425 degrees.

Here comes the prep work! 
Pull out the cookie sheets and fajita (or your favorite) seasoning.
You're almost done! :)

 Tip: If you don't have aluminum cookie sheets/ Nordic Ware, if you can afford to do it, go find some at Sam's or Costco asap. They are amazing! They cook so evenly! And clean easily too! You will love them! They run about $10-$13 each at Sam's. Mine are years old now, and they still cook perfectly.

Spread out your chicken on the pans and sprinkle on a generous amount of the fajita seasoning.
 If you can, let the chicken sit for a while with the seasoning on it. 
The meat tenderizer in it takes a little time to work it's magic.

Stick it in the oven for about 22-28 minutes. I'm giving it a range because a) it depends on how thawed your meats really are b) ovens vary so much in how they cook, and you know your oven and c) because you should cook it to your preference of doneness.

Now, my official advice of course is to use your meat thermometer and check to see if the center reaches 165 before removing the chicken from the oven. 


{whatever bureaucratic agency that may regulate mommy blog cooking advice can stop reading now}

Now, BH officially recommends cooking to full temperature, but just between you and me- I don't measure my meat temperature.  My test for doneness consists of how it looks and cuts- if it's pretty much white and has enough ummph to hold up to a serrated knife without being hard to cut, it's probably done enough for me. I personally love my chicken this way. That's just my experience, and you may do whatever you wish with it. :)  I will say my husband is a little more cautious than I am, and let's me do the taste testing when we grill out. :P

And now we return to the official how to batch cook chicken blog post...

Pull it out when it's still a tad pink and measure the temperature, and do it frequently until the center gets to 165. Take it out as soon as it gets there and not a minute more, keeping a note of how long it took to get there in your oven for next time. 

When chicken is overdone, it's terrible- dry, stringy, and you need a glass of water just to chew it. But done right, chicken can be so tender and juicy you'd think you were eating a steak. You'll love it! 
Just don't overcook it.

aahh...yummy chicken!

Let it cool on the stove, and once it's not burning hot, put it in the freezer in the same pan, or in a smaller container with all of the meat in a single layer. If you just put it in the bags unfrozen, it will all freeze together and you'll have to play beat the frozen bag of chicken on the counter for a very long time.

Freezing the meat also makes it taste better- if you leave it in the refrigerator, it will start to taste gamey after a day or two. Somehow freezing it keeps it from that.

Tip: I cut my chicken into 3-4 oz portions- pretty much in half- to pre-portion for my lunch salads.

When it's frozen, pull it out and place it in ziploc bags.

Pull out pieces as needed and heat in a microwave-safe bowl with a 1/4 inch of water for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, until it's warm through the center. The water keeps the edges moist as you cook it. You can also slice and heat a little more if needed. 

and there you have it! 

Yummy, healthy chicken breast in just 3 minutes!

 How could you use it? I'd love to hear your favorite easy chicken recipe if you have one! :)

Linking up at Tasty Tuesday!