I love the challenge of taking a bargain priced meat and really making the most of it, like dealing with a large Pork Roast or Boston Butt. Even better for me is finding a healthier meat that’s often considered to be a “premium” meat, Bone-In Chicken Breast, and making the most of it. Not only by finding it a great price, but using it to its full advantage. I’ll almost always choose them over boneless and I’ll buy a lot…when it’s the right price. I find them much more versatile to use and a better value than the boneless.
- They tend to be larger
- They stay moist and flavorful when roasted or braised
- I can make use of the bones for stock
- I can trim them carefully and end up with a quality and uniform chicken breast when I want to use boneless.
Recently I bought four packages of bone in breasts at $1.29 a pound (although I really look for a 99 cent price!) – there were 12 breasts total, three in each package – total cost: $14.84. For some families of four, that would be three meals, dividing the packages up. Other families might make two meals out of them, cooking six for each meal, allowing for seconds, or perhaps having some for leftovers. Me, I make multiple meals out of the 12 breasts! I’m figuring that this chicken will make about 12 meals. That makes my protein average $1.23 per meal.
Here’s what I did with my chicken this week:
These 12 breasts made 4 Chicken Cordon Bleus, two packages of 4 boneless breasts ready for whatever flavor profile I choose to use, six packages of chicken tenders and trimmings, which I will use in stir fries, my own chicken nuggets, casseroles, etc., three cups of shredded, cooked chicken that came of the bone as I made the broth, some of which will be in chicken noodle or rice soup, and the rest in a casserole. Oh, don’t forget the broth, which I condensed way down - I’ll use part of it for the soup, and will have some leftover for another recipe. (It is still layered in a coating of fat, which I’ll remove when I bag it to freeze. It’s a little green because I threw my spinach stems in the mix along with a few herbs. Some people cook with this fat…I prefer olive oil. I may try using some at some point for latkes - I recently saw the Barefoot Contessa do that. I can’t imagine it would be a regular undertaking, however, just a one-time deal to see what it tastes like!)
The first undertaking was making Chicken Cordon Bleu - here’s the recipe and instructions for cutting and rolling the little bundles of happiness…
Next, I dealt with the other 8 breasts. I removed the breast portion from the bone. I pull the skin off, and make a small incision at the bottom of the breast (the pointy part) so I can put a finger in there and determine where the tenderloin is. I like to keep them intact. I start to gently slice, pulling the flap of chicken up from the bone.
I keep slicing the breast back, removing as much of the meat as I can. Eventually, I get to the top of the breast, where there is a small bone that extends into the breast area.
The last thing I do is weigh and portion the meat. I trim each breast to between 5 to 6 ounces, and bag, label and freeze the chicken.
I like to put the number of breasts I’ll use for a meal in one package, and place the trimmings and tenderloins into packages of about 8 ounces each. To me, that’s a great size for stir fries, nuggets or casseroles.
As the soup cooks, I’ll remove the breasts, strip them of their meat, then toss the bones back in to simmer for a couple of hours. There is always enough meat to get a casserole and chicken for soup out of it, and enough broth to make two soups (or a double portion of one.)
When I first started cooking on my own, I was a bit squeemish about all this, so sometimes I would roast the chicken first, then remove it from the bone – I still sometimes roast the bones or the chicken for flavor – it makes a great stock. It all depends on whether or not I want precooked chicken or raw chicken for future recipes.