Chicken is one of the most common proteins that we use in our foods these days. I make chicken at least twice a week for my family. I’ve been working with Sanderson Farms for a few months now (disclosure – I am compensated via OM Media on behalf of Sanderson Farms for sharing) to share different recipes like Grilled Beer Can Chicken, Coq au Vin, Chicken Piccata, and Chicken Bento boxes for lunches. Today instead of a recipe I’m sharing some of my tips on buying, cooking, storing and handling chicken.
- Use Plastic Bags at Store
Most meat departments in grocery stores now have rolls of plastic bags available. When you buy chicken use these bags to help protect the rest of your purchases from any leaks from the chicken packages.
- Check the Sales
Most stores have at least some cut of chicken on sale each week. Before you hit the store be sure to check the ad and try to think of ways to use the chicken cuts that are on sale that week in your menu.
- Stock Up
When chicken is a really good price, stock up to save money. I use my FoodSaver to repackage chicken that I will be freezing. Be sure to freeze right away when you get home to maintain maximum freshness.
- Mix and Match
In my home I prefer white meat, hubby prefers dark meat, and Caitlan likes both. I repackage pieces of chicken to fit our likes. For example I may put 2 chicken breasts, 6 chicken legs, 4 chicken thighs, etc. into one FoodSaver bag for freezing. This way no matter what I cook with chicken I have cuts that everyone enjoys.
- Check the Label
Reading the labels and understanding the meanings is important! Look for the USDA inspection shield or seal first. Then also check for any tears in the packaging and then the sell by or use by date.
- Use Cooler Bags or Cooler
On the way home be sure to use the cooler bags or an actual cooler to help keep chicken and other perishables fresh and safe. Refrigerate or freeze as soon as you get home.
- Convenience When You Need It
Sometimes we just don’t have time to cut up whole chickens for recipes. Don’t worry, Sanderson Farms has plenty of chicken pieces that are bone-in, bone-out, cut into pieces, thin cuts, etc. to make preparing a home cooked meal easier for you.
- Know Your Temperatures
Chicken should reach 165° F before eating. However, dark meat generally takes longer than white meat and meat on the bone takes longer as well. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the different cuts to make sure they have reached 165° F before serving. Meat thermometers are available in many stores and can be found for just a few dollars each.
- Frozen Chicken
Yes, you can freeze chicken and then cook without thawing. This will be different for each recipe, some work better than others, but it is possible.
- Don’t Reuse Marinades
If you are marinating your chicken you do not want to reuse that marinade. Take the chicken out and discard. If you want the same flavors as a sauce or to baste just make more. An easy tip is to make extra marinade when preparing and divide it, use some with the raw chicken and refrigerate the rest of the marinade to use as a sauce or basting liquid when cooking.
- Maximum Savings With Whole Chickens
If you are comfortable cutting up whole chickens this can save you quite a bit of money. Whole chickens are generally less expensive by weight than precut pieces.
Safe Chicken Storage & Handling
- Wash Your Hands
Definitely wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after handling raw chicken.
- Prevent Cross Contamination
When using knives, cutting boards, towels, cooking utensils, etc. in dealing with raw chicken, do not use again for other foods unless they are thoroughly washed first. Also be sure to clean counter tops, sink handles, etc. carefully if the raw chicken or your
- Put Cooked Chicken Away within Two Hours
I know people like to think fried chicken especially can stay out, but it really should not. Put all leftovers away within two hours after cooking.
- Know Storage Times
Most raw chicken will be good for just 1-2 days in your refrigerator and 9 months to a year in the freezer. Cooked chicken is good for about 3-4 days in the fridge and about 4 months in the freezer. Ground chicken and giblets have shorter life span for both raw and cooked.
- Thaw in Refrigerator
Never thaw out chicken on the counter top. The temperature is too warm and will cause bacteria to grow rapidly. If you are in a hurry you can also thaw wrapped chicken in cold water, but change the water every 30 minutes of so.
Chicken Meal Ideas
- Use Thighs
You can find boneless, skinless thighs easily these days. Even if you are normally a white meat person, using thighs in dishes that slow cook or that are cooked in a sauce is less expensive and will actually have more flavor and are not as prone to dry out when cooking.
- Use the Carcass to Make Chicken Stock
If you make a whole chicken don’t just throw away the carcass after you eat. Throw it in a large pot (or slow cooker even on high) and cover with water plus an inch or so. Add in carrots, onions, garlic, herbs, celery, or whatever aromatics you like. Cook for at least two hours and then strain through fine mess sieve. You can keep the stock in the fridge for a few days or freeze. If you use ice-cube trays you can freeze in portions that are easy to grab when you just need smaller amounts of chicken stock.
- Cook Extra Chicken
When you do something like roasting or poaching chicken, cook extra. This can be used to put in other quick meals in the next few days instead of buying precooked chicken at the store.
- Brown Chicken Parts First
If you are planning to use chicken in a braised dish or slow cooker, consider browning the chicken parts first. You can do this in a skillet or in a high heat oven for just a bit. This adds color and flavor before the longer cooking process.
- Sanderson Farms Recipes
The Sanderson Farms website has lots of great chicken recipes available for free. I’ve found several recipes there myself that I have used.
Did you find any of today’s tips helpful or do you have any of your own to add to the list?