So it turns out there was a very nice bogo* sale on family packs of chicken breasts at the store. Naturally, I now have a lot of chicken. Whats the best way to freeze this? Cook it first, or leave it raw?
Any issues with freezing cooked chicken? Preferred methods to do so?
For breasts, I’d freeze them raw. Not because there’s any issues to freezing cooked chicken, but because I’d want maximum versatility in using them later. If it’s cool enough where you live, you might roast some and freeze them after they’re cooked.
Generally, I wrap the breasts in individual packets in freezer paper, and them stick them all in one huge zipseal bag in the freezer. This is so that I can easily identify them.
No harm at all in freezing them raw. If you have the urge and the spare time, you could cook and freeze some now so you’ll have quick main dishes ready to thaw and heat (or eat cold) on busy days. Chicken takes freezing and thawing very well, so it won’t make a difference to the quality no matter which way you choose.
Freeze 'em raw. If you flash-freeze them*, then you can pile all of them in one or two large zip-lock freezer bags and they won’t freeze together in big glob of chicken. Go ahead and trim them up first, that way they’ll be all ready to go when you pull them out of the freezer.
To flash-freeze them, set three or four (or however many will fit) of them out on a board at a time, slide the board in the freezer and leave them for an hour. No wrapping, but be careful not to cross-contaminate your other freezer items with raw chicken. After the hour or so, put 'em all in a big freezer bag. As noted above, this way they’ll freeze individually, not stuck together, but you don’t have to wrap each one separately. Don’t leave them too long on the board though, or you’ll freeze them to it. The point is to firm them up (especially the outside), not to freeze them absolutely solid. They’ll freeze solid in the ziplock bag. And do put them in the ziplock bag, otherwise you’ll freezer-burn and ruin them.
Another option is to portion them out in smaller bags (2 whole / 4 half per bag) with marinade. I’ve got a few bagsful of those. When I want to use them, I thaw 'em in the fridge for 24ish hours then they’re ready to toss on the grill or in a baking pan.
The 30 day freezer gourmet website (http://www.30daygourmet.com/) has a lot of good ideas - some recipes you have to be a paid subscriber to access but others are free for everyone. One of our faves is sesame chicken.
If you’re dieting, it’s quite helpful to cook ahead a few chicken breasts and freeze them. I like to slice them in two flatwise, brush them with olive oil and some sort of vibrant seasoning (to make up for their dull leanness), and grill them on a grill pan. Freeze them up in serving-size batches and you’ve always got a ready-made lean protein to grab out of the freezer, and this convenience will help you battle junk-food convenience.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t freeze raw ones, too, for future versatility in dinner prep.
I like freezing them in ones or twos with a marinade, like Mama Zappa. So you essentially have ready-to-go entrees - they cook up wonderfully flavorful and moist. I just toss them in a pan in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes or until a thermometer reads done - thaw in the fridge, or if you forget, you can thaw by running a thin stream of cold water on them in maybe 20 minutes.
I’m all in favor of “flash-freezing” them (as described above) then putting them all in one large bag. That way, if you need lunch for just you, you can get out one chicken breast. If you need dinner for the family, you can get out several. Etc.
I’ve been freezing skinless boneless chicken breasts for years. I started out wrapping them in wax paper, but they stuck together. I settled on sandwich size Ziploc® bags. (The house brand let me down big time once, so I stick with the brand name.)
Here’s the important part! Put all the bags inside something else, either a Tuppy-thing or a gallon-size Ziploc. That keeps the mysteries of the freezer from giving you freezer burn and such problems. I put the weight on each little bag, and the date on the outer box. That way you’ll know how big the portion is, and which box is oldest.
A sandwich-size bag will hold a cup of homemade broth or stock. It’s also the right size for a pound of pulled pork. If you freeze 'em flat, they’ll stack.
Slight hijack but a tip on how to fill bags with liquid or messy solids such as pulled pork: set the bag inside a container (measuriing cup, drinking glass, etc.) and fold down the edge of the bag over the rim of the cup. That holds it open nicely for filling.
And if you’re using the sandwich size for freezing, consider double-bagging or putting it in a larger bag with other stuff, as the sandwich-size are thinner plastic than those designed for freezing. Therefore they’re easier to tear accidentally, with predictable and messy results upon thawing. Similarly with larger gallon-size bags that are just “storage” vs “freezer” (the boxes are labelled as such).