How to Meal Prep Chicken: A Helpful Guide

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chicken and vegetables on a pan

When I decided to start making my meals in advance, one of the first questions I had was how to meal prep chicken. It’s one of the most versatile and affordable protein options, so I knew I wanted to take advantage of it.

Chicken is easy to prepare, and it fits well into a number of different diets. This lean meat offers a distinctive and delicate flavor that enhances herbs and spices without overpowering them.

So, whether you’re low-carb, low-fat, kosher, halāl, or simply on a tight food budget, you’ll want to learn how to meal prep chicken.

Why Learn How to Meal Prep Chicken?

Chicken isn’t just an easy to make and delicious choice for meal prep. It’s also nutritious, economical, and perfect if you’re watching your weight.

Nutrition

A roasted chicken breast packs a lot of nutritional punch. You can enjoy a 3-ounce portion for only 170 calories and 7 grams of fat. And you’ll get 25 grams of complete protein.

A 2015 article in the Journal of Food & Nutrition Research found that poultry, in general, provided excellent and adequate protein that serves particularly well for weight control.

Cost

baked chicken on tray

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Best of all, chicken can help you stretch your grocery dollars in delicious ways. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, boneless chicken breasts, the favorite cut of food preppers everywhere, averaged around $2.93 per pound.

In the same month, a boneless ham wore an average price tag of $4.44 per pound. Beef chuck roast averaged at $5.30 per pound. And most surprising of all, ground beef -- supposedly the most economical option -- average at $4.21 a pound!


How to Prep Your Chicken for Meal Prep Cooking

Whether you’re losing weight, gaining muscle, or just eating clean, chicken makes an excellent source of protein for your meal prep.

Choose wisely

raw chicken breast fillet

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When buying chicken breast, it’s a good idea to look for organic options, especially if you’re trying to eat clean. It’s against the regulations of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to use hormones in raising chickens. However, you may want to look for poultry products without antibiotics and those that haven’t been pre-marinated in a saline solution.

Other options to look for are birds raised on all-vegetable diets or those that were raised “free-range.” In most cases, free-range means they had access to the outdoors during the day, but many people see this as an ethical choice rather than a nutritional one.

Keep it clean

A critical aspect of learning how to meal prep chicken is understanding safe food handling guidelines. Unlike beef, for example, raw chicken is particularly dangerous.

According to the USDA, foodborne organisms on raw chicken appear between the temperatures of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. So, it’s essential to keep it cold until ready to cook. Then, make sure you cook it to an adequate temperature.

Food safety tips

a person washing her hands

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Follow the rules when working with raw chicken:

  • Wash your hands and surfaces thoroughly and often
  • Keep raw poultry away from other foods
  • Cook to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Refrigerate or freeze immediately

Exceptions

While you want to keep your hands, surfaces, and utensils sanitary, you don’t want to wash your uncooked chicken. Even if you marinate it before cooking, don’t soak or rinse your chicken breasts in water.

Let It Go

You may have decided to buy frozen chicken breasts. Oftentimes, it’s the best option for a tight food budget. However, you want to defrost it properly before cooking, and that requires patience.


The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends defrosting chicken one of three ways:

In the refrigerator in its packaging

It may take several days, but it is the safest method. Best of all, you can keep it in the fridge another day or two after thawing. You can even put it back in the freezer for later.

Immersed in cold water in airtight packaging

Change the water every 30 minutes, so it remains cold while thawing and cook immediately. 

In the microwave

a microwave on a cabinet

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Microwave ovens often feature defrosting options but note that you will need to cook it immediately afterward. Microwaved food, even on low power, usually has hot spots.


Two Ways How to Meal Prep Chicken

To offer some variety to your prepped meals, here are two great ways to cook chicken breast for meal prep.

Method one

chicken breast fillet on baking sheet

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This recipe features a softer result that remains tender after cooking. Its texture and mild flavor make it more versatile for a wide variety of dishes. Because it’s flavor profile is neutral, it won’t upstage other ingredients.

It’s perfect for adding to more delicately flavored dishes, like chicken salads, chicken alfredo, or soups.

Instructions

  1. 1
    Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. 2
    Cut chicken breasts in serving-size portions
  3. 3
    Find a baking dish that has a rim of at least 1 inch and layer the chicken inside
  4. 4
    Brush olive oil over each portion and then season with salt and pepper
  5. 5
    Then, pour chicken stock into the pan until it’s about a half-inch deep. The chicken will simmer and steam in the broth, which is what makes it so tender
  6. 6
    Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, turning the chicken over at the midpoint

Method two

chicken and vegetables on baking tray

Image Source: Pixabay.com

This method results in a more robust flavor and firmer texture for your chicken. When using this cooking method, you’ll get a well-seasoned chicken breast that can stand up to bolder ingredients.

It’s also flavorful enough to eat by itself as a snack. Toss it on a salad or add it to a protein plate with cheese and crunchy vegetables.

This method works by steaming your chicken on top of delicious roasted veggies, so you get a great two-in-one deal. Choose vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and summer squash for a bonus side dish already prepped for a meal or two.

Instructions

  1. 1
    Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. 2
    Cut chicken into serving-size pieces
  3. 3
    Clean and cut your vegetables into bite-sized pieces
  4. 4
    Rub both the chicken and vegetables with olive oil
  5. 5
    Season well with salt and pepper
  6. 6
    Lay the vegetables out on a baking sheet in a single layer
  7. 7
    Lay the chicken pieces on top
  8. 8
    Squeeze a fresh lemon over the chicken
  9. 9
    Bake for about half an hour, or until the chicken reaches 160 degrees
  10. 10
    Allow to cool and then store

Get Packing

a colorful lunch box

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Now that you know how to meal prep chicken, your lunch options are endless and so much healthier than another burger. Make sure you get a meal prep bag with airtight containers to keep your chicken as fresh and tasty as it was you cooked it.

What’s your favorite way to use chicken when you meal prep? Have you ever tried “crack chicken”? Tell us your favorite combos in the comments.


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