I recently went shopping at my local discount grocery store and found an incredible deal. Family size packages of boneless, skinless chicken thighs for under a dollar per pound. That’s half price for boneless thighs and roughly the price for bone-in chicken thighs. There was only one catch. The packages were already frozen. When I got home, it was time to batch cook chicken.
Normally, you buy meat out of refrigerated coolers. Sure, you can buy the bag of frozen chicken breasts or cutlets, but they can be as much as 50% more expensive than refrigerated breasts. I’m not willing to pay that big of a surcharge for the convenience of not separating my own meat. And they don’t sell frozen thighs. Because of America’s infatuation with white meat over dark, over 55% of chicken sold in the US is white meat. That drives up the price and makes dark meat cheaper by comparison. At my local King Soopers, skinless, boneless breasts cost $2.79 and boneless, skinless thighs cost $1.99. By switching to dark meat, we’re saving nearly 30% on chicken!
So normally I get refrigerated meat, separate it into individual servings, wrap it up and stick it in the freezer. But this meat was already frozen. I don’t know if the cooler got too cold or if it was done on purpose to extend the life of the meat. This was a discount grocery, after all.
Can you Re-freeze meat?
You can’t thaw out meat and refreeze it. That was what I was told growing up. Turns out that this advice is wrong. Or, at least, it’s not right. You can defrost and refreeze meat, but it affects the quality and does increase the risk of spoilage. So you can, but you probably shouldn’t.
One way around this is to cook the meat before freezing it again. That’s been how my family has dealt with the refreezing meat issue for as long as I can remember. But how the heck to you cook 10lbs of raw chicken?
You can batch cook chicken a variety of ways to cook it all at once and then wrap up individual servings to freeze.
Batch cook chicken on the grill
One way to cook chicken in bulk is on the grill. Batch cooking chicken on the grill is straight-forward and you’ve probably done something similar in the past without even realizing it.
Have you ever had a summer barbeque where you cooked chicken? Maybe it was BBQ chicken leg quarters, grilling wings for Buffalo wings, or chicken kabobs. If you’ve done this, then you’ve already used your grill to batch cook chicken. You were just planning on using it all at once instead of over several meals.
Now, if you have a lot of meat to cook and a small grill, you may have to do this in batches. Place as much chicken on the hot grill as will fit without crowding. If you have more raw chicken to cook, put it back in the refrigerator, covered, until you are done with the first batch.
Cook the chicken for 5-10 minutes per side, depending on the meat thickness and grill temperature. Flip, cook for additional 5-10 minutes and remove from heat.
Batch cook chicken by baking
Another popular method to cook chicken, and especially to batch cook chicken is by baking it. Personally, I’m not a fan. Baking meat tends to dry it out, especially meats that are lower in fat, like chicken. Normally, baked chicken breasts are smothered in a sauce. But when batch cooking chicken, you are probably going to use it for a variety of different meals and want to give it different flavors.
If you do decide to go this route, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken in a baking pan, leaving at least 1″ spacing between the pieces of meat. If you have multiple baking pans, you can fit as many as you can in the oven as long as the pans aren’t touching. Cook for 20-30 minutes.
Batch cook chicken by poaching
This is how I batch cooked my chicken. Poaching chicken gets a bad rap. Many people claim that poached chicken has no flavor. This reminds me of the people who say that they only like broccoli when it is covered in cheese sauce. They don’t like broccoli, they like cheese! Poached chicken tastes like chicken. A marinated, grilled chicken breast or a sauteed thigh doesn’t taste like chicken; it taste like the liquid it was cooked in.
Besides, the neutral flavor of poached chicken is perfect for batch cooking. After it is cooked, you can season the meat any way you need for a particular recipe.
To batch cook chicken by poaching, you are going to need a large pot. A really large pot. I used a large stock pot to cook my 10lbs of meat. And I needed it. If you are only cooking one family size package of meat, you can get away with a smaller pan. For a single breast, you can poach in a large saucepan.
Add 1 can of chicken broth, 1 gallon of water, a quarter cup of garlic powder, a tablespoon of salt, and a tablespoon of ground pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil. Depending on the power of your stove, this could take a while. It took nearly half an hour for my poaching liquid to come to a rolling boil.
Once the water is boiling, add your chicken. Use a spoon to stir it around to make sure the chicken isn’t sticking to each other too much. When the water comes to a boil again, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and drain the water in a large colander. Depending on how much chicken you cooked, you may have to dump some out, transfer the drained chicken to a large bowl, and dump more into the colander.
A note on freezing batch cooked chicken and other foods
Don’t transfer your freshly cooked food to the freezer immediately. If you put hot food in the freezer, it will raise the temperature inside the freezer. Not only does this make the freezer work harder and use more power, but it can also thaw out food that is nearby. I’ve already discussed the issue of defrosting and refreezing meat, but ice cream that has thawed and refrozen isn’t pleasant to eat either.
Instead, cover the chicken and put it in the refrigerator over night. The next day, you can take it out and wrap it into individual servings and freeze.
Do you batch cook chicken? What is the largest amount you have cooked at once?