Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

I am not naturally gifted with home meal planning. And I don't just LOVE to cook. Put these two things together, with several mouths that are dependent upon me, and it makes for a rather humorous recipe. My answer? Tuesdays' Tip.

How to freeze portions into useable dinner batches, with a faster thaw time for those of us not gifted with tomorrow night's menu already planned. I am only going to address chicken, and hamburger in this post since our family's budget does not allow us to utilize many other cuts of meat on a regular enough basis for me to include. In other words, when steak is for sale, we eat it fresh! 

Chicken: I was amazed at the price difference between whole chickens, and boneless skinless chicken breast. But how do you really utilize a whole chicken in a practical manner? If you poach your chicken, and then shred the meat, you can freeze the already cooked meat into portions useable in your recipes. The shredded meat is incredibly moist, easily used in all your casserole/ rice/ fajita recipes, and costs soooo much less then breasts. Here's how you do it:
-wash your chicken in cool water, and discard any giblets included
-place breast side down in a large (4qt or bigger) stock pot
-fill pot with enough cold water to come half-way up chicken (cold water is better)
-cover, turn on high heat to bring to a boil
-turn down heat, and simmer for an hour+ (depending on size of your chicken)
-turn off heat, let sit for another hour with lid ajar
-dump entire pot into a large strainer (this allows water to drain, and you don't loose any chicken bits - if you are really savvy you can save this water for the beginnings of homemade chicken broth)
-put on a pair of disposable gloves (this part gets messy, and using disposable gloves make clean-up much easier! Plus, you can whisk them off if a child needs you in a hurry.)
-pull chicken meat off of bone, discarding skin, or undesirable pieces
-separate shredded chicken into two piles
-place each pile into a freezer ziplock bag in a single flat layer, and freeze flat for faster defrost/ thaw time

Hamburger: Whether you buy your hamburger in bulk, or in the smaller 1 pound packages, transferring your meat to freezer ziplock bags (I used a food-saver for years, and unless you are storing meat for over a month it doesn't make a noticeable difference) helps in a couple key areas! Once you have transferred your meat squish it into a flat sheet, taking up the entire square of baggie. Freezing your meat this way does two things: economizes the room in your freezer (they stack very easily both horizontally, or standing up vertically); and cuts down significantly on you defrost/ thaw time. It also seems to lessen the formation of icicles on the meat.

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