Have you ever looked at a recipe you planned on making for dinner at about 5pm? Just to realize that you should have thawed out your frozen chicken several hours ago. I have done this more times than I can count, it puts me up the creek without a paddle. Or dinner.
After this happened to me about eight times, I decided to start doing things differently. Now, when I buy meat at the grocery store, (in bulk) I bring it home, put it in the crockpot with some water and seasonings for a few hours, then drain, separate, and bag it for the freezer. One afternoon of work will save me a lot of time over the next couple of weeks, and I am gonna show you exactly how!
Let’s start with chicken.
One thing everyone should know about cooking chicken in the crockpot, is that the longer it cooks, the tougher it becomes. Unlike other meats, chicken doesn’t have the same tendons that soften over a long period of cooking. So remember to cook it long enough that there’s no pink, and not much more than that. Crock pot times vary, but with mine, frozen chicken is ready in about four hours and fresh chicken is done in about two.
I just bought this chicken at Kroger. It is ready for some cookin!
Lay the breasts in the bottom of your crock pot.
Fill up a glass of water and pour over the chicken so the bottom of the pot is covered with water. If you want more chicken broth, fill the cup again and pour in.
Next, pick out some seasonings if you would like. I always use garlic powder, onion powder, and season all, but you could do any combo that strikes your fancy. I season the chicken for two reasons. 1) I hate the smell of plain chicken. 2) I save the broth and want it to have some flavor for when I cook with it later.
Then put the lid on, and turn the pot on high. My highest setting is four hours, but the chicken will be done before then.
About two hours later, the house is smellin’ good and I check on the chicken. When there is no pink in the middle, they’re done!
After the chicken cools a bit, or whenever I have a minute, I shred the chicken on a cutting board and put it inside a quart sized freezer bag. Usually about 2-3 breasts per bag.
It’s not a bad idea to label the bag with something like, “cooked/shredded August 2012” in case the bag gets lost in freezer never-land.
When it’s time to use it, the chicken thaws much faster than whole breasts. Since you are going to be cooking with it anyway, it can still be a little cold when you are putting together enchiladas, pot pie, or pretty much whatever you will be baking.
As for the broth that’s in the bottom of your crock pot, pour it into a couple of glass jars. (spaghetti jars are great) Make sure you leave a little room in the top of the jar due to the liquid expansion when frozen. Close the lid on tight, label with a sharpie and put in the freezer.
I do the same thing for ground beef or turkey. Except for saving the broth. Gross. That gets poured into jars and thrown in the garbage. Here’s a look at the meat as its cooking.
When it’s done, spoon it into a strainer to drain the grease, then spoon into freezer bags.
I love to eliminate the step in my recipe that says, “first, cook meat and drain”. With that part out of the way, it’s time to just throw it all together and make a meal!
What helps you get dinner together?