The Frozen Free Range Chicken Dilemma

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?

Signed,

Pieces Parts

Heather says:

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:

Stewed Chicken: Comfort Food ClassicStewed chicken

or how about?

Garlic, Honey, and Soy Chicken Thighs

Chicken, Peppers, and Mushrooms

Chicken with Caramelized Garlic and Brown Sugar

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 helpme@home-ec101.com.



6 Comments

  1. Keter Magick on September 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    My husband and I can't eat a whole chicken, either, but what I do is similar to Milehimama…roast the bird whole or cut it up and use the part we can eat for the meal, and then either bake or stew the rest. Pick the meat off the bones to use in other recipes, throw the bones and skin into a pot with water and a little apple cider vinegar and cook on low until the carcass falls apart, and voila, chicken stock for yet another recipe. Both cooked chicken and stock can safely go back into the freezer because you've killed the germs. One chicken = 3 meals.

  2. Amy at CreativeSpace on September 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Thanks for the chicken "breakdown," Heather. I'm a resident of VA too and am lucky enough to be able to purchase organic, free range chicken in pieces at a local market. They have whole frozen roasters that I've been eyeballing, but until reading this, I was too intimidated to tackle the entire chicken. Now I can't wait!

  3. Milehimama on September 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Now this cracks me UP because I cook two chickens for a regular old meal!

    I'd cook up all the extra parts and have roast chicken for dinner. Cut the meat off/pick the chick, then have chicken salad for lunch the next day (add grapes and chopped pecans – delish!).

    Other second day chicken dishes my family loves – these all use chopped/shredded cooked chicken. You can't refreeze RAW chicken, but if you cook it you CAN freeze it even if the original chicken was also frozen.

    So cook the extra, pick the chick, then freeze the meat in Ziplocs. Later, use it for:

    Chicken spaghetti (make a white sauce, add garlic and parmesan)
    Chicken rice casserole (a classic. Make your own cream of mushroom soup.)
    Chicken pot pie
    Enchiladas Totally freezable (just sub chicken for the lentils and rice)
    Pasta Salad
    Make rice a roni – get vermicelli and break into small pieces, and rice. Sautee in oil with some onion, add chicken stock (twice as much stock and vermicelli/rice), chopped chicken, misc. chopped veggies.
    Make chicken fried rice.

    OR

    Make some chicken soup, and freeze it so you have healthy, homemade, MSG free soup when you are sick.
    Make chicken stock, freeze. I freeze it in my muffin tin because each muffin cup holds 1/2 c. of liquid, so measuring stock out later for recipes is easy.

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  5. Stephanie on September 17, 2010 at 7:37 am

    I'd ask your local farmer what day they are processing the chickens. If you can pick them up that day, you likely can pick them up fresh instead of frozen.

    • HeatherSolos on September 17, 2010 at 10:09 am

      If the farm is convenient to her, that is a great idea. Thank you for the suggestion.If it's anything like my experience, it always seems like the best things (CSA_ and such) are far away and the most inconvenient times possible. No one plans it that away, it's just a consequence of where we live and our odd schedule.

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