If you buy meat or chicken in bulk or from your local CSA, you might find yourself with a large quantity of raw meat on your kitchen counter and no clue what to do with it. Have no fear! Domestic CEO has 3 tips to quickly handle any fowl that comes your way.
If you’ve jumped on the Community Support Agriculture, or CSA, bandwagon you are probably experiencing the highs and lows of this philosophy. The highs include having your food come from local farmers, which means you are supporting the community while enjoying food that hasn’t been on a long road trip across the country to get to your supermarket shelves. The meat and veggies you get through your CSA probably have much more flavor than the store-bought variety and they’re grown without hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and any of those other nasty things that Nutrition Diva warns us about.
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However, as excited as you are for this yummy, locally-raised food, it can also be a challenge to deal with the CSA food if it gets delivered in bulk.
See also: How to Save Money on Groceries
A few times a year, I order natural chicken breasts from a local CSA. Admittedly, the first time I had a box of 40 pounds of chicken breasts on my kitchen counter, I was a bit overwhelmed. Even if you don’t buy from a CSA and you simply stock up on meat when it’s on sale at your local supermarket, today’s episode is for you. I’ll be sharing a few tips on how to efficiently manage any large quantity of meat you might find in your kitchen. Vegetarians, don’t worry, you will want to keep an eye out for my next episode on what to do with 60 pounds of produce.
Step #1: Set Up the Space
Dealing with mass amounts of meat is not for the faint of heart. It takes a decent chunk of time, and at least a little space to spread out. If you are picking up a large package of meat from a CSA, unless it says specifically that the meat is individually packaged, you are going to want to make sure to clear off your calendar. I have found that it takes about an hour and a half to get through 40 pounds of chicken breasts, but you may need slightly more or less depending on what you order.
After you’ve cleared your calendar, it’s time to clear space for the meat. If you have a large island in your kitchen, move all the papers, cookbooks, dishes, and any other paper clutter piling up on it to another counter so you have at least a 4-foot square to work in. After you clear off the counter, take a peek in your freezer. If you aren’t throwing a massive dinner party for all your friends and family, you are going to need to freeze a bunch of meat. Trust me when I tell you that rearranging your freezer is the last thing you are going to want to do after spending an hour and a half cutting up meat. Take a few minutes to clear out a shelf or two so it’s ready for your meat pile.
Finally, grab your supplies. I use the biggest cutting board I own, 2 giant mixing bowls, 2 smaller mixing bowls, and a 5” kitchen knife. I also make sure to have about 45 quart-size freezer baggies and a permanent marker ready. Once I have all this set up, I’m ready to tackle the fowl (or beef).
Step #2: Process the Meat
It’s likely that your bulk meat order shows up in some very large pieces. When I order the chicken breasts, they arrive still attached in the middle, with all the rib meat still hanging on. Other meats, like ground beef, may show up in 10 pound tubes. If you are lucky, your meat may come already packaged into individual meal-size wrappings, but if they don’t, you are going to need to spend a little time chopping it up.
I grab a pair of breasts one at a time and trim all the fat off, tossing the fat into one of the small mixing bowls. It could go straight into the trash, but by keeping a bowl on the counter, you can move a little faster. I also cut off all the rib meat, which is the doppelganger of fat and meat that hangs off the otherwise clean-looking breast meat. From the fat and the rib meat, I cut out all the chunks of usable meat and toss them into the other small bowl. I don’t like to waste meat, and these little chunks start to add up. By the end, it’s likely that you will have a pound or two of meat just from these small pieces, so hold on to them and we’ll package them to use for stir-fries, casseroles, and any other dish that calls for 1” cubes of meat.
After I get the fat and the little pieces of extra meat trimmed, I like to cut the breasts up into individual-sized pieces. When we eat chicken, my husband will eat a much larger portion than I do, so I start putting man-size pieces into one of the giant mixing bowls, and my-size pieces in the other. If you have kids, you may want to have another bowl to toss the kid-size servings into. If you aren’t as OCD as I am, you can cut them all the same size. It’s totally up to you.
If you use a lot of recipes that call for small pieces of chicken, I would advise taking this opportunity to cut up a bunch of the chicken into bite-size pieces. Why get your hands all slimy and messy again if you can take a few extra minutes and have pre-cut chicken now? I like to make at least 6 or so bags of chicken chunks. This way I can just thaw the baggie of chunks in the fridge overnight, and then toss them into my stir-fry or other recipe the next day.
Step #3: Package and Freeze the Meat
Once you have all the chicken cut up how you want, it’s time to start bagging it. I like to put enough meat in each bag for one meal. In my home, that means one big piece for my husband and one small piece for me. When it comes to the chicken chunks, I usually put about 2 handfuls in each bag. That seems to work for the recipes we make, but you may want to put slightly more in each baggie if you prefer more meaty meals. Like I mentioned before, I use quart-size freezer bags because they can hold about 2 pounds of meat. If you have more than 5 people in your family, you may want to use gallon-size bags so you can have enough meat for one meal in the same bag. I recommend my awesomely tasty and easy Crock-Pot Chicken recipe. It’s a guaranteed hit for the whole family!
I put all the meat into baggies at the same time so I don’t have to wash my hands 20 times. I use one hand to handle the baggies and one hand to handle the chicken so the outside of the bags don’t get all gooey and sticky. Once all the meat is distributed, I seal up each container and write what’s inside on the front of the bag using my permanent marker. Whenever you are putting baggies of meat into your freezer, make sure to label each baggie with what type of meat it is (chicken and pork look very similar when frozen, as do steak and lamb), how much (either weight or quantity of pieces), and the date you stuck it in the freezer. This way, when you go into your freezer 2 months from now, you will know exactly what you are grabbing. Plus, you don’t want to risk using a bag of meat that has been sitting in your freezer since before Facebook was a thing.
Even though processing and packaging large quantities of meat can be a drag, I have come to love buying meat from our CSA. It tastes amazing and the time it takes me to get it ready for the freezer actually makes me feel a little bit of pride. I know I didn’t raise (or butcher) the chickens myself, but I had to spend hours cutting and packaging them so it makes me feel a bit closer to the land and more in control of what my family eats.
Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.