Dear Home Ec 101,
I’m moving to Virginia in about a month, and in my visits I discovered a wonderful little farm nearby that sells free-range, organic chickens. But, the only way to buy them is whole and frozen. Generally, that’s wonderful! I love cooking with whole chicken. But, there are only going to be two of us to cook for, so I’d really like to be able to save pieces that I might want to use again later to cook with (for example, the tenderloins for frying). I’d need to go through a few chickens before I had enough to cook with, but I know that thawing and then re-freezing is a big no no. Is there any way to get around this rule, or am I truly required to eat all of that chicken within a short time frame?
You’re right, thawing and refreezing raw meat is a bad idea. The more bacteria hanging around, the higher your chance of cross-contaminating, it’s just a food safety mess you don’t want to be involved in.
Have you ever heard of once a month or batch cooking?
What you’re looking at is spending one afternoon making several meals, but once you’re done, you’ve got a few dinners ready to go.
If I were in your position, where 3 or 4 chickens could make quite a few meals, I’d make as much room in the freezer as possible and block out a Sunday (or other free) afternoon once the weather is cooler and get a few meals going. Unless you have a vacuum sealer already, grab a few of those foil pans and a roll of heavy duty aluminum foil. They stack nicely.
Make sure you have a bag or two of ice to avoid overwhelming your freezer with hot foods.
Start out by cutting up your whole chickens and separating them by parts.
Filleting the chicken breasts is just a matter of cutting the breast meat away from the ribs, which you can then use to make chicken stock (along with any other bones and the necks, gizzard, and hearts).
If you need recipes for dark meat, try one of these:
or how about?
And then all of the miscellaneous parts can be used in chicken bog.
Cook, cool, wrap, label, and freeze. Take the meal out of the freezer the night before and heat through in the oven or toaster oven that evening.
Good luck and let me know how your first session goes.
Send your domestic questions to email@example.com.