Are you tired of spending too much on groceries every month? Bulk chicken can help! Not only is it a great way to save money, but it’s also a healthy and convenient option. Here’s how to process and prep bulk chicken so that you can make the most of this affordable, tasty protein source.
How to Process and Prep Bulk Chicken
We frequently purchase meat and poultry by the case. It’s considerably less expensive, often as much as 50% off or more. However, there are a few caveats to purchasing in bulk.
1 You’ll need plenty of room in your refrigerator (and/or freezer too!)
2 It can take an hour or two of your time to package the meat into appropriate portions for your family size.
3 You’ve got to follow and understand sales cycles to get the best deals possible.
We buy chicken in bulk about twice per year, on average. I usually purchase two cases at a time, depending on the distributor. Some distributors package chicken in forty-pound cases, others in eighty-pound cases, although this is a rarity these days.
Processing the Chicken
To begin, I always sanitize my sink and countertops using hot water and bleach. I’ve worked in restaurants for years, and I’m a big fan of adhering to food safety protocols. There’s nothing thrifty or budget-friendly about having a case of food poisoning!
Cases of raw chicken come in several different ways. Sometimes you may have whole breasts with the tenders attached, or you may have purchased miscuts. In this case, a wing or skin could be intact, or tiny slivers of bone where it wasn’t cut properly.
Prepare the Work Area
I generally set up a large cutting board inside of a full-size sheet pan, which I then set on a dampened towel on the countertop to prevent the tray from sliding.
The sheet pan works wonderfully to catch any juice from running onto the countertop or floor. It helps to contain the mess and makes cleanup a breeze. I also prefer to wear food service gloves, but this is entirely optional.
Prepare the bags you’ll be using ahead of time. For example, if you’re using vacuum seal bags, you’ll want to fold the tops over, leaving about an inch an half from the top.
Folding the bag over prevents them from getting wet or slimy when you put the chicken in and ensures a tighter seal. Of course, if you have a kitchen helper, all the better!
Grab a breast and get to work! Start by trimming off any excess fat on all sides of the poultry. Then, if you’d like, you can save for use in other recipes, such as homemade stock or broth, to avoid waste.
Most bulk chicken has minimal fat, so this part doesn’t take very long.
Tenders are the thin strips of meat that are loosely attached to the underside of chicken breasts. While they taste exactly like breast meat, when cooked properly, they are juicy and quite tender.
Typically, you can gently tug to remove the tenders, but these are miscuts. While I was able to purchase them for just $1.10 per pound, they were not cut properly. Once separated from the breast, place the tenders in a large bowl.Preparing the Chicken for Storage
Place the chicken breasts in the bags as you go, ensuring that the bags are standing up. If they’re lying down, the juice will run out, making it more challenging to achieve a decent seal.
I bag the chicken breasts and tenders separately, using a kitchen scale to bag the chicken tenders by weight, usually in 1 1/2 to 2-pound packages.
✔️ At this point, if you want “ready for recipe” meats that have been marinated, you can add the marinade now. We’ve done this with our Sesame chicken recipe, Key west grilled chicken, and greek chicken.
✔️ You can also season the chicken if you plan to cook with a Sous vide. That way, you can simply thaw a bag in the fridge overnight and place it in the Sous vide cooker the next day, fully prepped!
If you have a kitchen helper, one person can stuff the bags while the other unrolls the tops and then seals them. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, use freezer bags. Here’s a helpful yet brief tutorial on how to vacuum seal without a sealer.
I prefer to use a vacuum sealer rather than freezer bags for long-term storage. I’ve had success freezing items for up to twenty-four months with zero loss of quality or taste.
Seal and label the bags of chicken breast, working quickly. Place the meat in flat layers on a tray and place in the freezer to freeze. Once frozen, transfer to the organization bins in your freezer.
At this point, your chicken is now in handy, ready-to-use serving sizes for all of your favorite recipes.
FAQ about Processing and Prep Bulk Chicken
You may be wondering, how many bags should I prepare? The number of bags you need to process a 40lb case of bulk raw chicken depends on how much chicken you need for your family per meal.
We would use two pounds of chicken per bag with teenage boys at home, labeling them accordingly. Nowadays, we package a single breast per package if the breasts are relatively large.
It also depends on the sizes of your bags. I generally prefer to use premade bags for bulk meat and poultry purchases now, as I found that constantly sealing bulk bags was wearing my machines out too quickly!
1 Pint Bags– perfect for single breasts
2 Quart Bags– Perfect for 2-3 breasts
3 Combo of pint & quart: if you have varying sizes, maybe you usually can get away with cooking one breast, but the kids have their friends over a couple of times a week.
4 Alternatively, you can purchase rolls and make your own bags in the sizes that work best for your family’s needs.
Maybe you have to feed the kids’ sports team, or you have a particular recipe your family loves, and you have to make two or three batches of it every single time!
If you have several ingredients but don’t necessarily want them all sealed together, you can prepare meal kits with your vacuum sealer.
What if I don’t have freezer space? If you don’t have a lot of freezer space, you can still take advantage of bulk chicken prices and sales by splitting the case with one or more friends.
Should I cook the chicken first? Whether or not to cook the chicken before packaging depends on personal preference. I don’t use precooked chicken in very many recipes. I do use it for things like chicken salad and the occasional casserole.
However, I’ve found that breast meat is not the best choice for precooking because it tends to dry out. For the best flavor and texture, I prefer to cook chicken breast as I go.
If you’d like to bulk cook chicken, I recommend using whole chickens and roasting them as they retain some of the fat and the juice, ensuring the chicken remains moist and flavorful.
How Bulk Chicken Can Save You Money
If you have a strict budget or a bigger family, you may want to specifically look for packing plants that sell miscuts. In this case, I have been able to purchase whole chicken breasts for as little as $1.00 per pound in 2022.
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Prepare the Work Area
Wash and sanitize your countertop and sink area thoroughly, according to the directions on the manufacturer's label.
Place a dampened kitchen towel on the countertop. Then place the baking sheet on top of the dampened towel. Place the cutting board inside of the baking sheet. The damp towel prevents the baking sheet from sliding, whilst the baking sheet prevents raw chicken juice from dripping down your counters and spreading around your kitchen.
Prepare the bags by rolling down the tops, then set aside until needed.
Prepare the Poultry
Place a breast on the prepared tray, trim off the fat. Separate the breasts.
If you're preparing whole breasts, you'll need to remove the tenders from the breast. Grasp the tender and gently tug to separate. Else, cut the tender away using a knife.
Place the breast in one of the prepared bags. Place the tenders in a large bowl.
Once all of the chicken breasts have been processed, label and seal the breasts.
Weigh the Tenders
Seperate the tenders into bags by weight.
Label and seal the bags.
Place the sealed bags on a large baking sheet, in flat layers to ensure they freeze evenly, place in freezer.
Once frozen, transfer to storage bins.
Equipment & Materials
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